COVID-19 has pushed most of the world to make a lot of changes over the past couple of months. But while we’re all itching to get back to “normal,” one thing is unlikely to change completely––going back to the office.
Post-pandemic, almost three-quarters of companies intend to shift at least part of their workforce to permanent remote work. This is on top of the thousands of companies who already have fully remote teams.
And while some of us might be headed back to the office eventually, many more organizations are realizing just how effective working remotely can be. Many companies are promising to stay remote even after the lockdowns have been lifted, or introduce a hybrid work-from-home plan that allows employees to come into the office just a few days a week.
But what does this remote lifestyle mean for onboarding new hires?
Bringing on new team members when your entire organization isn’t in the office can pose some risks. It’s just not possible to follow the same steps as you would for onboarding a new hire in person. However, that doesn’t mean that remote onboarding is not possible or can’t be done effectively.
Here are our nine best tips for getting your new hires properly onboarded, helping them become productive fast and making sure they feel welcome.
- Start with pre-boarding
- Share important documents and information
- Get their setup ready
- Provide a personalized onboarding plan
- Have a training plan ready
- Set onboarding goals and expectations
- Introduce them to the team
- Schedule frequent check-ins
- Make onboarding materials always accessible
1. Start with pre-boarding
The first day of a new job can be scary and exciting. You don’t know you your coworkers will be or even where the bathroom is, but you’re still looking forward to the things you’ll learn or the opportunities you’ll have.
But when working remotely, you don’t usually have the same stresses-–but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy process. When you’re starting off remotely, you can feel disconnected from the team, even if you’re using the proper communication tools.
One way to help new hires feel welcomed and less overwhelmed is to send them a pre-onboarding package. This might include everything from a welcome email to some company swag. Let them know who their team members are, who they will be reporting to, and who they should reach out to if they have any questions.
Giving them this information before they get started can keep the onboarding process running smoothly. They’ll know what is expected of them over the first few days and who they should turn to if they’re feeling lost.
After a fully virtual recruiting process, new hires might feel even more uneasy if you aren’t proactively communicating with them before their first day. That’s why pre-boarding should be an essential part of your remote onboarding process.
2. Share important documents and information
Create digital versions of the common employee documents you might share with new hires on their first day, including employee handbooks, policies, documents with systems that your company uses, culture decks, or mission and vision statements.
Having these resources can help your new hire better understand the company and what is expected of them as employees. It can also help lay a foundation for fitting in with the rest of the team.
If you want to take it one step further, create onboarding videos to go along with each document. These might be explainers on what each item is, or even a video reading some of the content.
This can create a more personal connection with your new hire. When they’re able to get familiar with your team and your business, they can feel more connected to the work they’re doing––something that can feel challenging the first few days on a remote job.
3. Get their setup ready
If you’re going to need to order and deliver any equipment, make sure to do it as early as possible. While this can be a little complicated when dealing with remote hires because you’ll need to know where to get the items delivered, it should be one of the first things on your list.
Find out what exactly your new hire needs. Are you providing them just with a laptop, or do they also need a screen, keyboard, mouse, cables, and other equipment? Have a checklist ready to ensure that you don’t forget anything. If your new hire doesn’t have the appropriate equipment to start their job, it can delay their onboarding and created a frazzled start to their time with the company, and that is something that you need to avoid.
Also, give them thorough instructions on what apps they will need to download, what tools they should plan on using, and how they can learn each one. Create their email or other important business accounts and make sure they’re running properly before the new hire needs them.
Finally, make sure to add them to any email chains, mailing lists, or other communication channels so they never miss an important message.
Many organizations around the world were forced to digitize their onboarding process in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. And remote onboarding is here to stay.
4. Provide a personalized onboarding plan
It can be difficult to create a personal connection with a remote hire. If you’re not meeting that individual face-to-face, it can be hard for both you and the team to get to know that new individual. It can also leave your new hire feeling lost and uncomfortable in their new position.
To help them feel welcome and to ensure they’re getting the most of their onboarding experience, you want to develop a personalized onboarding plan for each new hire. While there might be some overlap, taking the time to individually plot out because persons’ onboarding process can create a personal touch that’s hard to get with remote teams.
Give your new team members a break down of exactly what their onboarding process is going to look like. What meetings will they have each day? Who will they be meeting with? What is the purpose of each call?
Schedule the meetings for them on their calendar. This can help them stay focused and reduce the stress of feeling like they might miss something.
HR onboarding should be one of the pillars of your remote onboarding process. Give your newbies insights into the company culture, especially things like internal communication. For example, explain what the specific Slack channels are used for and what communication styles are usually used. Should the new hires expect a business tone, formal style, or are the conversations more casual? You can go through the chats together and show examples of how your teams communicate.
5. Have a training plan ready
It’s easy to waste time when you’re working from home. When you have all your hobbies, entertainment, and sometimes even your family at home with you, staying on task can be a challenge. For new hires who might not know what they should be doing, it’s even easier.
Having a firm training plan ready to go can help new hires stay on task and ensure you’re not missing any important steps while onboarding. It also helps you stay on top of expectations so both you and your new hire can make sure you’re on the right path.
Your training plan should be job-specific. While there might be a lot of company-wide policies and documents to share, you want the training process to be as specific to the individual’s new job as possible.
When preparing a training plan, start with prioritizing what is important to learn for each hire. While someone might need to learn how to work with a specific software they will be using, another hire might require a deeper dive into the company’s product or service. Determining what the training priorities for each employee should be will help you get them up and running faster.
Work with your current team to develop specific training sessions for each job and employee. Make sure your new hires have access to resources or materials that can make those sessions easier to follow, understand, and refer back to.
First week of employment is critical to retaining your employees. A well-organized onboarding process engaging your new hires early on will help you do the trick.
6. Set onboarding goals and expectations
When you’re all working in an office, it’s easy to check in with a new hire to see how they’re doing. Likewise, it’s easy for them to ask if they’re meeting expectations or where they can improve. But when you’re working remotely, these opportunities are rare.
During the onboarding process, establish clear onboarding goals and expectations. What should be accomplished by the end of the first week? What about at the end of the first month? The first 90 days?
Try and make these expectations as defined as possible. If you cant, add numbers, qualifiers, or other measurable metrics that your new hire can use to see how on target they are or if they need to make improvements.
However, you also want to be sure you’re creating opportunities for feedback. See what your new hire might need from you to better perform their duties and give them tips on what they can do to more efficiently reach their expectations.
7. Introduce them to the team
Creating a strong company culture means giving your team opportunities to connect outside of a traditional work environment. In the office, this might mean catered lunches or company-wide happy hours or events.
Unfortunately, with everyone working remotely, these moments can be harder to come by. You often need to work a bit harder to get your team to connect––but it’s especially important when you have new hires.
Schedule some digital events that will allow the new hire to get to know the people they’re working with and vice versa. This could be a quick introductory call with different teams and departments or even a recurring happy hour or virtual watercooler channel in your communication app.
Encourage new hires to participate and make it easy for them to get involved. But also reach out to some existing team members to see if they’d be willing to take new hires under their wing. The first few days can be intimidating, so having someone to help them through can be a lot of weight off their shoulders. Working remotely makes it tough to socialize, that’s why you need to promote proactive behavior from all sides.
Don’t assume that company culture isn’t important if your new hires don’t work at your office. Just the opposite, you need to pay extra attention to conveying your culture throughout the remote onboarding process.
8. Schedule frequent check-ins
When working remotely, especially when just starting out, it’s better to overcommunicate than under-communicate. Scheduling frequent meetings and check-ins can feel a little unnecessary, but it prevents your new hires from feeling disconnected.
You should hold check-ins between new hires and their individual teams, managers, and HR. Also, look for opportunities to have new hires check in with their peers.
Before each meeting, let your employee know what they should expect. That way they can come prepared with their own questions, requests, and feedback. Give them an opportunity to speak in the meeting as well, not just respond to questions.
However, you want to find a balance between efficiently checking in with your new hire and avoiding micromanaging. If it seems like they’re doing well and you can do with fewer check-ins, tone them back.
In a remote setting, you need to make enough room for one-on-one time of the new hire with their direct managers to strengthen their relationship from the very start.
9. Make onboarding materials always accessible
When onboarding is over, your new hire might still have some questions or they may want to refer back to the materials they were given during the training process. To avoid them needing to hunt you down to get the resources they’re looking for, make sure they’re easily accessible.
You should always provide new hires with their own copies of all materials and resources. However, you can also put them in a shared folder or in a designated Slack channel where they can download them whenever they need it.
Also, make it clear that you’re available if there are ever any questions or concerns the new hire has. Let them know who they can turn to if they have a problem and make it easy for them to get in touch if they’re ever feeling lost.
Over to you
While your traditional on-site onboarding process might be strong, you’re most likely going to need to make some changes when transitioning to remote onboarding. But even so, with the right attention to detail, you can engage your new remote employees even before they start working for your company.
With good communication and strong connections, you can build a solid base for successful remote onboarding.