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Welcome Onboard Written for Forum Magazine

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Onboarding Virtually

Your business has transformed significantly over the last 18 months. You have accomplished what you may have thought was impossible. The biggest challenge was and continues to be the changing environment, from week-to-week, in order to run your business safely - while also trying to run it efficiently. You’ve had to remain flexible, adaptable, available and open-minded. You’ve had to manage your business in new ways whether it be the client experience, client acquisition, team management, etc.

What about new team members? The fundamentals of onboarding have basically remained the same, but the process has become more challenging in the pandemic.

Click Boarding, an onboarding company, recently published a playbook, How Do “I” Onboard in Today’s World?” They defined onboarding as the process of introducing your employees to the expectations, skills, knowledge and culture of your company. It’s the pivotal moment that not only can but will make or break the employee’s experience and long-term potential.

The stakes are high enough when you can see, interact and train your hire in a “normal” way. So, how have advisors been effectively onboarding over the past 18 months?

We spoke to some advisor clients we supported through the hiring process. Here is what they said worked for them:

Onboarding Saadia - L&A Financial Group

The virtual world was new to all of us. The challenges, for me, were not being immediately available to answer questions when not in the office. As a team, we completed the first two weeks of Saadia’s training in the office with a 2-person office limit. Once the stay-at-home order started, the training went entirely virtual. Then, when we were allowed to have one person in the office, Saadia did virtual and the trainer came to the office. She met some team members in person and others virtually. Because Saadia was already well-versed in the virtual world and she already knew much of the basics, the training went quickly. Because it was virtual and therefore independence was necessary, the learning curve was achieved more quickly than entirely in-house training. Developing a personal connection is harder so it was important that our team and Saadia listened and asked a lot of questions to get to know one another.

Idea Summary:

  • Being fully organized and prepared is vital. You may not know what the set-up will be, (100% virtual, 50/50 virtual/in-person) depending on regulations. Be prepared for any option by continually reviewing potential scenarios and their remedies.

  • If in-person is feasible, make sure you have masks and hand sanitizer at the office and are able to space out. Ask them how they are doing and how you might ease any anxieties. Making your new hire comfortable is imperative.

  • Spending time talking to and learning about your new hire is important so you can give them a sense of the company culture. Have lunch with your new hire. Order lunch to the office or your home offices and set aside time for a casual conversation, whether together or virtually.

Onboarding Abisola – Generations Financial Solutions

For the first 3 weeks, Abisola and I were together in the office in-person. This was challenging because we had to follow health procedures – wear masks and maintain a 6-foot distance. The remainder of training was done virtually at our home offices. We have two monitors and do video calls to share our screens and see one another which is more productive than over the phone. To start, we did an introduction video call where everyone came on and shared a little about themselves. We had flowers and a welcome card sent to Abisola’s home. We ordered lunch to each of our home offices and had a virtual social. Day one was mostly getting her set up. We had a training task list we worked through and Abisola set up virtual meetings with each team member to review how she would be supporting them individually. When at home working, we would touch base daily in the first week and moved that to weekly afterwards. Overall, the training we did virtually worked really well!

Idea Summary:

  • Follow an onboarding checklist that you have prepared well in advance to make sure everything is covered. Adjust it when required and keep it handy for future hires.

  • Do training with each team member individually. This helps to encourage relationship building and a deeper understanding of the company culture.

  • Personal touches in a virtual world can make a world of difference – flowers, card, lunch - show that you truly appreciate your new hire.

Onboarding Jenny - Sean Peach Financial Services Inc.

100% of our training was through video calls with Jenny. She has only been in the office a few times. We set up a 3-month onboarding process, prioritizing each item by week. We spent 1.5 hours every day addressing each item. Jenny met everyone separately as well. Myself in person and virtually with the rest of the team. We set up daily check-ins to review progress and resolve any concerns. It’s harder to train online as it can be much more difficult to “read” someone and build trust. One way we encourage personal connections is by pulling a question from the Talking Cents card deck each week in our team meeting, that all respond to. You can really get to know people that way.

Idea Summary:

  • If you aren’t sure if the hire is understanding and absorbing all of the training, set up post training check-in meetings as an opportunity for the new hire to ask questions.

  • If working closely with a head office, have them provide some of the training.

  • Taking time to have some fun is beneficial for the entire team – not just the new hire. Your hire will acclimatize better and the team will become more comfortable.

Onboarding Abby - Coutts Financial Services Inc.

We met Abby over wine and oysters, virtually, before her start date as part of an event a supplier was holding for us. We sent flowers to her home day one and took her out for lunch as soon as the patios opened again and she started coming into the office. The first month of training was 100% virtual, dropping down to 80% for the following 2 months and now we are down to 20%. In the first two weeks, we had Abby join in on our client appointments. Not only was this convenient with Zoom, but being new to the industry, this really helped her to see what we do. One person was responsible for the onboarding checklist but the whole team pitched in to teach, shadow and explain their roles and our operations. There is time in each of these meetings for some social interaction. We believe the hardest part of virtual onboarding is not being able to see and hear the workflow process in-person, even observing how one speaks with clients on the phone.

Idea Summary:

  • Getting your new hire to listen in on client appointments is a great way to get them engaged and aware of how you communicate with clients so they can adopt a similar style.

  • Have one person accountable for the onboarding process so the new hire has clear, consistent responses to questions and concerns.

  • Make sure the entire team is engaged in onboarding to meet the new hire and participate in training in their area of responsibility. Allow for some social time to get to know them better.

Even if face-to-face training was not possible and the training was entirely virtual, the same principles and ideas apply in order to be successful.

Regardless of how you choose to do your virtual onboarding, thorough preparation is essential, with all team members participating at some point including a strong focus on building personal connections.

And, if you are looking for a checklist for training, consider the following basic topics and then tailor them according to your unique processes:

  • Administration set up

  • Business overview

  • Compliance

  • Brand/marketing materials

  • Internal communication/external

  • Workplace procedures

  • Individuals tasks

  • IT and software

We have also recently seen clients do onboarding booklets for new hires which have proven to be helpful. They can include an overview of all administrative tasks related to wealth management, insurance etc. Written guidelines refine the learning process and enhance productivity.


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