How to Master Remote Onboarding for Employers
Remote work has grown dramatically; in the last 5 years alone, it’s shot up by 44%.
Studies show that over 50% of workers have a job that can at least be partially done from home. Corporations like Twitter and Apple have indicated that working remotely is here to stay. And, any companies embracing the work from home life will also have to master remote onboarding in their future plans.
As many of us have learned over the course of 2020, remote work is very different from working in the office. As such, remote workers have different needs.
Having the right communication and other remote working tools is key as you can no longer just walk over to a colleague’s desk and ask a question. Similarly, remote workers need to right home office setup to perform their job well from home.
When it comes to remote onboarding, this can prove slightly more challenging. Equipment will need to be posted, software and access will need to be set up virtually, and communication and meetings will need to be done via Zoom.
However, it is possible to onboard remote employees just as effectively as you would in an office. Here are our top tips to ensure remote hires are correctly set up and are as happy, and productive as possible.
Evaluate your current onboarding plan
The best place to start when looking at hiring someone remotely is to take a step back and look at what you already know. Forget daunting new technologies and long-distance communication for a moment, and simply strip it back to basics.
You’ve probably onboarded employees before. So you’re likely familiar with a few onboarding process best practices.
Write down everything you previously did to onboard an employee, whether this is setting up their laptop, or discussing the plan for the next few weeks. Start with the things that have worked in the past and work out how to make those things virtual.
Start before they start
This may seem like an obvious one, but one of the key things to remember when you are onboarding someone new is that you need a plan. To be fair, this is true not only for hiring…
The first day at a new job is usually rather nerve-wracking. Whilst employees won’t have to worry about awkward face-to-face meetings and learning where the bathroom is, they will have to meet their co-workers remotely (which can sometimes be even more awkward).
At first, they may feel a little disconnected from the team and it’s your job, as their employer, to eliminate that. If you have a remote onboarding checklist, making people feel welcome should be at the top of it.
A few ways of making employees feel welcome could include:
- Sending an onboarding package in the post with some company swag
- Putting together a welcome card signed by the team
- A simple welcome email detailing the plan for their first day and weeks
- Providing useful resources, such as links to the team introduction on your website or the LinkedIn profile of some of the teammates
- Preparing with some remote team games and icebreakers
Whether you go big or small, starting the onboarding process before the employee actually starts is a great way to keep things running smoothly.
Get the right technology
If you need to order any equipment, do this as soon as possible. Shipping delays are out of your control and can delay the remote onboarding process. Find out what your employee will need – a keyboard, mouse, laptop, or any other equipment – and order it in advance.
New hires will also need access to email, communication tools to stay in touch with the rest of the team, and perhaps even project management software or access to a VPN.
Write a checklist of all the remote software they need to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. You could also send them a list of things to download onto their machine prior to their first day, however, make sure not to overwhelm them with a long list of to-dos
Setting up all these in advance can save hours going over login details, connecting to their PC remotely, and setting up their workspace. Spending their first hours carrying out such tasks will probably not add up to the best onboarding experience or create the most memorable first day.
Find the balance between in-advance and on-the-day to-dos for the new starter to create an efficient and enjoyable flow.
Make sure they know who’s who
Remote employees don’t have the luxury of being able to meet their colleagues face-to-face or have a chatter by the coffee machine to get to know each other. One of the biggest challenges of remote work is loneliness. Lack of communication with the outside world can be difficult and sometimes lead to employee burnout.
As such, it’s vital to allow the employee to connect with their teammates.
Here at 10to8, we use Donut to ensure that everyone has at least one virtual coffee per week. Plus, part of our remote onboarding plan is to make sure we get together with everyone in the company for a 30-minute chat in our first month.
Of course, if you work in a larger company, it might make more sense to limit this to your immediate team rather than the entire company. However, you could use a recurring happy hour or virtual watercooler channel in your communication app to allow employees to jump in for a chat when they have time. You could also hold digital events like company-wide get-togethers or game nights.
Either way, talking to your colleagues is such an important part of any job and is one of the top onboarding process best practices.
Break up the meetings with fun activities
When you first join a company, it’s usually a lot of shadowing, get-started meetings, and lessons on how to do things. When you’re onboarding an employee remotely, this can quickly turn into hours of Zoom meetings which could send even the most attentive people to sleep.
To keep remote hires engaged and learning, it’s a good idea to use games and fun virtual activities to break up these sessions and keep things light and breezy.
There are a great number of virtual games for remote teams out there – here is a selection of our favorites.
You can also use virtual coffee chats to keep things interesting and encourage employees to get to know one another between meetings. Alternately, scheduling a group get-together is another fun way to socialize and have a laugh.
Optimize the remote onboarding plan for multiple learning methods
Everyone is unique and the way one person learns might be very different from another. To achieve the best onboarding experience, make the process personalized to each individual. This will help you get to know them better and make them feel welcome.
It’ll certainly be quicker and easier to give everyone the same first-day worksheet. However, whilst there are common things that each remote onboarding checklist should include, to really prepare people for their new job, you’ll need to offer customized learning paths. This should be tailored to people’s strengths and provide them with the information and support that they need.
The best way to show a new learner that you care, especially when working remotely, is to be flexible, understanding and give them time to learn at their own pace.
Set a clear communication plan
With virtual onboarding, communication is key. Yet, you can’t expect new hires to know the communication etiquette within your company right off the bat. They might need some time to learn and understand who they need to speak to and when to reach out to people if they have a problem.
For example, within 10to8 whilst salespeople will primarily report to the Head of Sales, if they have a technical question, they might need to ask the support team.
Don’t forget to present the most important company policies to new joiners (for example do you have a remote working policy, a rule where any overtime is added to an employee’s holiday count), and show them where to find the employee handbook with all your policies. Also make sure to let them know how to handle HR matters such as needing time off for medical appointments, how to book holidays and where they’ll find their payslips.
Communication is vital in any business and it’s even more important with remote employees.
Establish a mentor program for remote workers
Setting an employee up with a remote working buddy is a great way to help them settle in during their first few weeks or months.
A buddy or a mentor can teach them how things like IT support work, how to find their way around new software, and how other employees use remote working tools like Slack and Asana to communicate and collaborate.
You could also pair employees up with a different person each week. Maybe one week they work with someone from their own department and the next week they work with someone from a different department.
As long as it’s relevant to their role (such as the crossover between customer support and engineering, or between sales and marketing), then it’ll be a good experience for everyone.
The buddy system is part of the reason why some companies hire in twos or even numbers. If there’s another person to be a newbie with, it’s less overwhelming.
Familiarize employees with your company culture and policies
Every company has different ways of doing things. What are your company’s core values? Do you have any traditions that new hires should know about? Do you regularly hold meet-ups or game nights that are a little different from the usual workday?
You might have a flexible start and finish rule, or a pizza bribe to participate in compliance are training. Some companies also have fun traditions like a monthly virtual poker match, regular company-wide sessions where you learn what everybody else has been up to, get-togethers once a quarter for an in-person meal at a restaurant, or free lunch on Wednesdays.
But, whether this is a series of strict policies or open values and Friday beers, make sure familiarization of your company culture is a part of the remote onboarding process.
Use SMART goals to help you measure targets
During the remote onboarding process, make it clear what your expectations are for the employee’s first week, the first month, and even the first 6 months. Setting SMART goals is a great way to ensure the targets you set are both realistic and attainable.
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. This system allows you to set measurable goals and make these expectations as defined as possible. You can use timelines or other measurable metrics to check that the employee is on track or if they need to make improvements. It can also be a great way to check in with remote employees.
However, don’t push for too much too soon. The ‘Achieveable’ section of the acronym is there for a reason and you don’t want new employees to feel pressured. Set targets that match their pace of work and regularly ask for feedback to make sure things are going well.
Collect feedback from new hires
Feedback is always useful. Asking new hires how they found their onboarding not only shows you value their opinion but also allows you to learn from their experience.
You could send out a new hire survey or schedule a specific meeting in a month’s time to ask how they’ve found things so far. Asking this during weekly intervals is also a good way to refine your onboarding as you go along.
Try to understand how the process is helping them, what’s working, and what doesn’t. Asking a bunch of specific questions, (not just ‘How is it going’) will make it easier for remote employees to offer constructive feedback. You could even ask them to rate specific parts out of 10 which will help you provide the best onboarding experience possible.
For new hires, this helps them know that you’re paying attention and that you’re just as keen to learn from this as they are. It’ll help increase motivation, identify any issues, and keep information fresh and relevant. It’ll also allow you to check back in on their SMART goals and see if things are on track or need tweaking slightly.
Overall, remote onboarding can be slightly trickier than traditional onboarding and you’ll definitely need to make some changes. It requires more planning and when working remotely (especially when just starting out) it’s always better to overcommunicate than letting things slip through the cracks.
However, with the right tools, technology, and attitude, you can successfully bring remote hires into your company.
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