Seed World

Onboarding New Employees During a Pandemic

Gro Alliance

A third-generation seedsman, Jim Schweigert grew up in the family seed business and was exposed to industry issues at an early age. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for corporate public relations firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta before joining the family business full time in 2003. He has since been active in the American Seed Trade Association, the Independent Professional Seed Association and earned his master’s in seed technology and business from Iowa State University. As president, Schweigert manages client contracts and crop planning, as well as business development and new market opportunities. His unique background and experience make him one of the seed industry’s leaders in innovation. As such, he was honored as Seed World’s 2009 Future Giant and currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Seed Programs International.

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When it’s said, “Our business is all about relationships,” it’s typically used to describe the interaction between a business and its customers. The best companies, however, also use it to describe their internal culture.

Many of Gro Alliance’s clients are served from more than one of our five seed production locations with a combination of seed corn, soybean and seed corn nursery activities. We maintain a consistent client approach by emphasizing frequent internal communication between our account managers across our entire network.

Our new-hire onboarding process had been designed around face-to-face meetings to build those internal relationships quickly and involves folks from multiple locations. This approach has not been possible during the Stay at Home orders in many states.

We’ve adjusted this process and others to sustain operational continuity while maintaining social distancing. Below are a few best-practices we’ve learned along the way.

Develop a Deliberate Video Meet-and-Greet Process

Our preference for face-to-face interactions meant we hadn’t utilized video calls for internal introductions. We are now able to introduce a new employee to every location in a matter of hours. We’ve found that one-on-one calls work best. We aim to keep each conversation to around 30 minutes. Keep the topics light and focus on learning about each other in the beginning. Layer in job knowledge transfer in subsequent calls. The new hire has a lot to absorb. Your first priority should be about building internal relationships.

Continued Follow Up is Key

There is much less personal inter-office interaction as multiple employees may be working remotely. Keep the video or phone call frequency high so the new employee and existing employees continue to build a relationship. Onboarding processes don’t end after the first interaction. It takes even more discipline to maintain that connection in the current environment. The new hire’s supervisor should establish a plan with 30, 60 and 90-day milestones to ensure the new employee and company stay on track.

It’s Still All About Relationships

Properly onboarding a new team member is just as important as hiring the right candidate. Making sure the new employees hired during this unprecedented time feel a real connection to the company and their co-workers will ensure they fit with the same cohesion that those previously hired do.

Being physically distance doesn’t mean you can’t build relationships using technology and frequent communication. It will take extra effort, but the reward is maintaining a healthy and cohesive company culture!