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Icebreakers play a crucial role in helping connect new hires with teammates and organizations.

The information below is an excerpt from today's webinar with Ten Spot’s co-founder and Chief Brand Officer, Sammy Courtright on the best virtual icebreakers to use for new-hire orientations that work. Watch the entire recording here or keep reading below.

From enhancing communication tools you’re already using today to the most successful icebreakers, attendees walked away with fresh ideas on how to recreate a lot of what we do in-person to get better acquainted with new hires virtually.

Looking for a fresh and unique virtual experience to show your team you care? Partner with Ten Spot to create a custom virtual holiday party package to surprise and delight them.

Many of us are hiring, onboarding and training employees that we haven’t met or might not meet in person for a long time.

Let’s face it, it is awkward for both the new hire and the employer.

There is a need to recreate a way for employees to truly connect in a virtual world. When you begin to work for a company, you typically are introduced to a team, have the opportunity to share interests, join town halls and all-hands meetings. When you’re fully remote, you do not have that option.

So how do we go about creating these connections?

How do we recreate a lot of what we do when we are physically together, now virtually?

Many of the interactions that help you get to know the team and specific individuals come on a micro level such as chats by the coffee machine, elevator chatter, happy hours. One of the best ways to recreate this digitally is to enhance tools that employees are already using.

Think about all the interactions you have when you’re in person. How can we recreate those moments virtually?

The No. 1 thing to remember is that you're building a foundation for the new hire to have new relationships in the workplace and helping them to have a voice, which is even more important when they are remote. Are you helping to create micro-moments of belonging? Are you helping to create empowering environments that allow employees to stay connected and collaborate?

Icebreakers by definition are ‘things said or done that helps people relax and begin talking in a social situation’. In addition to asking thoughtful and engaging questions, there are other icebreaker activities that you can use which are more creative.

User Guides

Think of this as your operating manual. Have new hires answer 3-5 questions that tell you something about them - specifically how they work. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Favorite sports team? How do you prefer to communicate? Slack, email, phone? Favorite book? Hometown?

Share other team member’s completed user guides so they can get inspiration and once the new hire’s guide is completed, share it with the team and have them add comments.

Try to avoid any yes/no questions. Some user guides will be 2 paragraphs long, others might be two pages. Do not limit the creative juices. The more you know, the better!

TIP: Get leadership involved. Send an email with the new hire’s user guide and encourage them to leave a comment. It shows that this is a company wide initiative not just a department or team initiative.

So now you’ve got user guides. Now it is time to do some pairing.

Peer Pairing

There is no better way to break the ice than to pair a new hire with a current employee. This can either be from a job shadowing perspective to get the new hire acclimated quickly or it can be with colleague from a completely different department who shares common interests.

In that case, it is like a buddy system. Perhaps based on their user guides you see that they both are from the same hometown. Or they both enjoy Chinese food.

We have seen success with rotating peer pairing. Week one can be with someone in their department or team, week 2 can be with a different department and so on. Having a holistic view of the company will quickly get the new hire up to speed and it prevents tunnel vision.

We all know that when employees enjoy where they work, they want their friends to work there too. Referrals are a great way to increase your talent pool. Creating a culture that people want to be a part of and stay a part of reduces employees running after the next best offer. Friendships in the workplace are an important part of the equation.

TIP: Keep the pairing conversations short and sweet. We encourage the new hire to do some research before meeting with their peer. Have them read their user guide, their role responsibilities and come prepared to the meeting with two to three questions.

Company-wide virtual experience

This can be a virtual trivia night, a cocktail crafting class, a virtual scavenger hunt - whatever it might be, make sure your new hire feels included and engaged. I did host another webinar on the top 5 best team building activities so if you want to listen, we can post a link to the recording.

Ideally, these are non-work related events or experiences which means try to reduce the work specific chatter and encourage dialogue that will get people chatting.

TIP: Please encourage all attendees to turn their cameras on. The best way to connect with someone is when you can see their face and make eye contact. And encourage people to introduce themselves with their name and department.

If you’re looking for a fun virtual team building event, do not hesitate to reach out. Ten Spot is hosting over 500 virtual holiday parties this year and we already have experiences scheduled for Valentines Day and March Madness in 2021. As we all know, the key to a successful team-wide event is consistency - employees must have something to look forward to that is non-work related.

Virtual Office Hours

Naturally, you are connecting with the new hire religiously during their first couple of weeks at the company. But what happens after week 2. Studies show that employee enthusiasm for work peaks at the start of a new job but wanes by 22 percent shortly thereafter. Does the new hire feel connected?

Remember when people used to walk by your desk and chat? Or knock on your office door with an idea or a question?

To mimic this virtually, try Virtual Office Hours. Block one hour of time each week where new hires can come to you with questions centered around the idea of: what do they need to know in order to be successful at their job? While I know the joys of being together physically enabled more spontaneous interactions - scheduling these allows you to be consistent.

You can also use this time to gather feedback from the employee - how is it going? How was the onboarding process, really? This can also be done via a survey.

Ideally, these office hours remain on your calendar weekly. So once the new hires are acclimated, three months later they still have the opportunity to check in. It is the virtual open door policy.

TIP: We do recommend these being held on the same day and time week over week. It creates habit and people will look forward to those social connections.

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