Successfully onboarding a new employee is key to giving them the right start with your company. An effective onboarding process will help them feel valued, enable them to become productive faster, and improve employee engagement. Getting it right is especially important when bringing an employee on board who will be working remotely during the pandemic or even for their tenure with the company.

This is doubly true for people who are not seasoned mobile warriors or work-from-homers—they may feel disconnected and neglected in the absence of a friendly colleague showing them the ropes. The effect can be compounded if your business didn’t traditionally have remote work as part of its culture and is still learning about which practices and processes are needed to support remote workers.

There are many techniques and tools that you can use to make new remote working colleagues feel included and supported from the outset. A useful point of departure is to recognise that remote onboarding is not the same as onboarding a new hire in-person. Some of the steps and processes will need to change. Here are some ideas.

  1. Draw up an onboarding plan that is specific to the remote workforce

If you expect to hire remotely as part of a longer-term or permanent shift, it’s worth creating an onboarding checklist for remote workers. If you have an onboarding process and documentation, you can use them as a starting point. A post from SocialTalent suggests: “Some points will remain the same, others won’t be relevant, and some new ones will have to be created especially for a remote worker.”

It can be helpful to share two to three-week schedule with new hires including the key meetings and orientation sessions they will attend as well as a list of admin checkpoints and milestones they’ll need to complete. Be as detailed as possible about their contacts in the organisation, the processes they must follow and the tools they’ll use.

  1. Streamline the process as much as possible

The average new hire needs to dig through an avalanche of paperwork, training sessions and meetings during onboarding. While it’s important to tick the compliance boxes and help new recruits get up to speed with the culture, too many onboarding activities could hamper them from integrating with their team and learning the skills and processes in their jobs.

For remote workers, it makes sense to strike a careful balance between too much information and too little. Use tools like digital signatures and self-service learning to streamline some of the processes and help the employee manage them in their own time. As far as possible, it makes sense to keep intro and orientation meetings short and engaging to reduce Microsoft Teams burnout.

  1. Send them a welcome pack ahead of their first day

SocialTalent recommends sending a welcome pack to a new recruit, in addition to digital documents like the employee’s handbook or their contract. This might include their notebook or mobile device if you’re providing IT equipment, but also some company swag, like a branded mug or T-shirt, and perhaps even a small gift like some chocolates. This is a great way of adding a real-life, personal touch to a virtual engagement.

  1. Prepare the team for their arrival

Lestraundra Alfred on the HubSpot blog says that creating a dynamic where a new remote employee is welcomed and included in the team commences before their first day. “When you decide to make a new remote hire and have a start date set, communicate the necessary details to the rest of your team,” she writes.

“Tell them about their new colleague, what their statement of work will be, and share their start date. Assign a current member of your team to be their buddy or mentor who can serve as their go-to for questions and support so they don’t feel lost or unsure where to go for guidance.” It can also help to set up a video welcome meeting with the entire team, one where they can meet, greet and ask questions.

  1. Encourage one-on-one time with their team leaders

When a remote employee joins, regular one-on-one video meetings with their direct manager can help them to settle in faster. They’ll know they have a platform to ask questions and offer feedback.

Renato Profico, CEO of Doodle, cites research showing that 72% of employees said one-on-one time with their direct manager is the most important aspect of any pre-boarding or onboarding process. “It doesn’t even matter that these one-to-one meetings now have to occur virtually,” he writes. “The key is to use the right technology solutions to automate and optimise the process so one-to-one meetings can be set up quickly, the right people can participate, the right knowledge is shared, and necessary action items come out as a result.”

  1. Foster a sense of belonging

When people aren’t working together in the same physical space, organisations will need to make extra efforts to build a spirit of collaboration and camaraderie. Virtual teambuilding activities can help your team to bond when they’re working remotely—for instance, virtual coffee meetings, online games or arranging a virtual movie night.

When you do hold company events like team lunches or awards evenings in the real world again, try to include remote team members who work in the same city. And encourage users to leverage digital tools and social networks not only to collaborate but also to connect. For example, a ‘random’ channel on Microsoft Teams or Slack where some level of levity and chatter is tolerated can help employees to feel more connected to their co-workers.

First impressions matter

Global research shows that nearly 20% of employee turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment and that 90% of employees make the decision to stick around long-term within the first six months of employment. This highlights why each company should invest the effort in creating onboarding processes that create the right first impression for new employees-onsite and remote alike.

References:

https://www.socialtalent.com/blog/new-content/how-to-onboard-a-remote-worker

https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/onboarding-remote-employees

https://www.fastcompany.com/90480127/how-to-onboard-new-employees-when-youre-all-working-from-home

https://resources.workable.com/tutorial/new-hire-turnover-rate#:~:text=About%2020%25%20of%20employees%20leave,first%20year%20on%20the%20job.

https://www.greenhouse.io/blog/3-reasons-to-invest-in-new-hire-onboarding

[Photo by cottonbro from Pexels]