While some companies were already transitioning to remote work prior to the pandemic, this is new territory for most organizations. Leading and managing a remote, dispersed workforce and operations is accompanied by a unique set of challenges – and opportunities. First and foremost among them: onboarding remote employees.
The good news is that onboarding remotely doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the onboarding wheel. You just need to adapt the in-person experience to meet the needs of newly hired remote employees. Easier said than done, right? Not to worry – with our vetted list of tips and best practices, you’re going to be fine.
How to Onboard Remote Employees
Here’s a remote onboarding process that is straightforward, easy to follow, and effective.
Deploy Remote Training Platform
Remote onboarding requires shared documentation. Whatever you do, make sure you’ve got the systems and tools in place to pave the way for an efficient onboarding of your remote employees.
To help facilitate this, many companies are digitizing their remote onboarding process, so it’s available online and via mobile devices. One popular option is a learning management system(LMS), a central repository of digitized training courses and content that can be easily accessed by remote employees and/or those working in satellite offices. With an LMS in place, HR can easily administer the entire process using one user-friendly, web-based interface.
Get Paperwork Done Early
From a paperwork perspective, once a candidate has verbally accepted an offer, it’s incredibly important to start paperwork as soon as possible and get that contract signed.
With an LMS, human resources can expedite the new hire and onboarding process. A secure candidate portal can send new hires a digitized contract that can be “inked” with an e-signature. Incoming team members are able to look through their job offers and verify their personal data from a mobile device of their choosing. Everyone receives a copy of the documentation and you’re one step closer to critical work, not still stuck in paperwork and extended signing processes.
Reach Out Before Day 1
The time before formal onboarding begins is an opportunity to make your new hires feel part of the team. Why not arrange a coffee meeting with the CEO and send them food or drink voucher, perhaps accompanied by a handwritten card from the CEO and team members? Even just a friendly “check-in” email or phone call will go a long way. Give the candidate that reassurance and security that they’re joining a company that has its act together!
Begin Onboarding Process
Onboarding can be easily delivered from within your online training portal. Because the virtual paperwork was previously completed, you are able to cut to the chase.
One of the most important items on the “day one agenda” is introducing new employees.
You want them to feel like they are a member of the team, to have all the information and equipment they need to fulfill the requirements of the job, and to clearly grasp what’s expected of them.
After completing the onboarding process, send out a survey to your new hires to get feedback on the remote onboarding process. Make any changes that are necessary and follow up so they know their feedback was taken seriously. Also, make sure to survey new hires periodically to evaluate their skills and determine their training needs. You can easily create and distribute surveys from within an LMS.
Remote Onboarding Best Practices
While executing the onboarding process, remember these best practices that will help you and your new hires stay connected even across distance.
Less is Not Always More
It’s important to take your time and be thoughtful. When it comes to onboarding remote employees, the onboarding period should not be seen as cursory training that’s limited to the first week. Develop an onboarding plan covering the employee’s first 90 days. The plan should have objectives, clear deliverables that will be achieved after 30 days, 60 days, and finally, 90 days.
Some organizations may operate under the view that if you’re working from home, you’re not as productive. This leads to conversations around micromanaging, trust, and transparency. These issues can be mitigated by clearly defining expectations upfront and having measurable goals and objectives that your employees are working towards. It may also be time to reconsider what “productivity” means to you, and if this view still applies, given a year of huge shifts to remote working. Is it relationship-building and collaboration that actually matter here, and if so, what accountabilities can your company put in place to achieve this?
Culture is King
Making your employees feel they belong, facilitating collaboration and connection opportunities, and communicating the culture to your new hires is key. When it comes to onboarding new employees, HR managers are the company’s cultural ambassadors.
Defining culture is, of course, more difficult when you don’t share the same roof. In this new world, company swag, which may have once seemed frivolous, is a must-have. It may be a little more expensive, but if you can ship tee-shirts and coffee mugs directly to their homes, that can be a simple way to build community and culture.
Schedule town halls or drop-in office hours with different teams/leaders, and don’t forget to find other ways to connect a remote team around fun activities. Is it time for a virtual water cooler or happy hour? Or introducing monthly learning lunches, with trivia and quizzes, is the way to go. Whatever you choose, make it engaging, and proactively include new hires as part of their onboarding so they can directly interact with your culture.
Provide Ongoing Support
After the initial onboarding training is completed, maintain ongoing contact and support with new employees. Some will require technical support and assistance developing their workstations. Keep in mind that not everyone needs the same amount, or same kind, of support.
It depends on who you hire and their level of experience. A junior-level position will require more support, whereas someone who did a similar job for 10 years can ramp up more quickly.
After you finish the formal onboarding period, HR’s role shifts to supporting the managers; making sure they have the tools and information for their own teams. Said another way, HR plays a lead role in company-level onboarding and a supportive role with team-level onboarding. HR must also ensure there’s an effective, ongoing employee training and coaching program in place.
Deliver on Promises
One of the main reasons new employees leave within a 90-day period is because they don’t receive what was promised to them in the interview. It falls on HR to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
If your company can afford it, provide an expense budget for your remote employees, so they feel empowered to get everything they need to do their job. Some companies set their remote employees up with a laptop and monitor at their home office, along with a one-time budget, such as $1,000, to cover necessities like desks, chairs, cords, and headphones. Beyond that, they give them an ongoing monthly budget – in the ballpark of $250 to $500 – to cover upgrades to equipment, their favorite coffee, and snacks.
A silver lining of the pandemic is that it has pushed companies to really lean into this idea of optimizing for remote work, and it all starts with onboarding.