Why is remote onboarding important?
Onboarding is one of the most important experiences when integrating a new employee into the company.
Making your new starter feel welcome from the offset is crucial, especially during the onboarding process. Research has demonstrated that around 69% of employees will stay with a company for a longer-term if they had a positive onboarding experience.
Training and onboarding your new staff is key to maintaining productivity and performance, which is highlighted in research showing that organisations with an onboarding process experience 50% greater new-hire productivity.
How to successfully remotely onboard new employees
In this article, we look at best practice for remote onboarding to help you to ensure a smooth transition into the new role for both your new starter and your team. Whether you’re a remote-first company or have adopted a new dynamic working policy due to the pandemic, you can incorporate this best practice guidance into your remote onboarding strategy to help your new starters hit the ground running.
1. Pre-boarding remote employees
Whether you’re onboarding new-starters remotely or in person, you need to start strong before day 1 with pre-boarding. Otherwise know as orientation, pre-boarding is a great opportunity to get new employees excited about joining your company.
It is important new-starters are provided with essential information to help them understand the company, their role and their benefits. This may include access to the company portal or HR management system, so they can access relevant training, an onboarding agenda and contact information.
Further to this, they will need help with creating a comfortable workspace and setting up their new equipment. This may include providing equipment such as an office chair, a laptop, keyboard and mouse, and a laptop stand. You should also support your new-starter with testing the equipment and accessing relevant software, setting up accounts, etc.
2. Welcoming remote employees on Day 1
A great onboarding programme will be collaborative, engaging, and tailored to the needs and expectations of each new starter, that were made clear during the recruitment process.
Help new employees feel part of the team from the off-set by:
- Sending them a welcome back, to include fun things such as a work from home care package.
- Introduce them to their new colleagues via a welcome video or video call.
- Invite them to make an introduction via video or message in your work chat channel.
- Send out invitations to join and be part of upcoming events so they have things to look forward to.
Integrate new staff with their management, team and support network:
- Managers should stay available, scheduling in a meeting with their new starters at least once in the morning and at the end of their first day.
- Provide a virtual office tour if possible.
- Introduce new staff to their buddy or mentor who will support them over the coming weeks and months.
- Schedule in at least one meeting with the entire team to ensure everyone gets the chance to meet. This could include a fun activity such as a ‘get to know’ quiz.
Inspire your new starters to do their best by:
- Spotlighting company leaders to tell their stories and share experiences.
- Provide information about opportunities for training, growth and professional development in their role and the organisation.
- Provide insightful and engaging resources such as videos, web pages, or other documentation that details your company’s mission, core values, vision, and more.
Go through your employees’ goals and what’s expected of them:
- Walk them through their onboarding check list or task board so they know the schedule for the coming weeks and what they need to complete.
- Make sure they have a list of regular tasks, meetings, deadlines and key performance indicators.
- Invite them to set goals that are meaningful to them and get them excited about their role.
- Answer any questions they may have.
3. Onboarding and orienting remote employees in the first weeks
Help new employees build relationships:
- Ensure regular check-ins with their line manager.
- Look at introducing a random coffee meeting each month, pairing up staff at random to encourage networking between people from different teams.
- Schedule a virtual team building game each month.
- Be sure your new hire’s tasks and goals require collaboration across multiple teams.
Immerse your new starters in important work:
- Ask managers to bring new employees into urgent projects and other problem-solving meetings so they can be involved from the offset.
- Offer lots of constructive feedback and recognition for completed tasks and accomplished goals.
4. Ongoing best practice for supporting remote employees
Check in regularly:
- Checking in regularly with a new starter allows you to assess how they are getting on with your onboarding process as well as making sure that the employee is progressing as expected.
- Consider using milestones as part of the onboarding strategy to assess the employee’s performance and address any potential issues as soon as possible.
- It’s important that it’s not just the line manager that’s checking in with the new employee, but also a representative from HR should check in, as well as a Head of Department or CEO, if your company can support this.
Make team building a permanent part of your company culture:
- Commit to an ongoing rotation of remote team-building activities.
- Create a volunteer remote team-building committee to make sure plenty of fun and engaging events happen.
Use checklists and nudges to keep new employees engaged:
- It can be easy for new hires to get distracted from their onboarding and training, especially when people are learning remotely.
- To help keep people focused and engaged, use checklists of onboarding activities, and don’t be afraid to give people the occasional nudge.
- This can be as simple as setting up onboarding reminders or using your project management tool.
Measure remote employee happiness and satisfaction:
- Seek regular feedback and refine the process as you go:
- Check in with your new starters about their onboarding experience, to trying to understand what’s working and areas they may need more support.
- Use a remote onboarding checklist to ensure you and your team have covered all the essential steps.
- Create an employee feedback survey, and consider using a mix of specific and open questions so it’s easy for new starters to give detailed and constructive feedback on their experience.
- Respond to feedback early, using it to identify any issues or shortfalls in the onboarding process and incorporate them into your onboarding and team-building programmes.
Celebrate the completion of onboarding:
- Decide what the end of onboarding looks like at your company. For example, is the new employee “fully onboarded” after 6 months, when they have completed 3 high-level projects or when they complete an exam?
- Celebrate their completion in a way that suits your company style. For example, a gift package to their house, a remote happy hour, or an in-person event.
Measure your success with clear onboarding metrics:
- Ensure your remote onboarding process includes clear and specific metrics for learner progress.
- This helps new starters be clear on what is expected of them, which is especially important when working from home. It also helps you to monitor the performance of your onboarding process overall and to track how this has impacted your new starter.
- We would recommend a combination of function-specific metrics and general metrics. These should be specific, measurable and time-bound.
- You could also consider using metrics for the remote onboarding process itself, including satisfaction ratings from new starters.
Remote onboarding can be challenging to get right
Onboarding new starters a key part of building and maintaining business performance, and is one of the most important factors when integrating a new employee to the company.
To give your new starters the best possible experience with remote onboarding, remember our four key steps:
- Start before day 1 with pre-boarding remote employees – providing essential information to help your new starter with understanding the company, their role and benefits; access to relevant training, onboarding agenda and contact information; and identify required equipment to ensure a comfortable workspace.
- Welcome remote employees on day 1 – including collaboration during the onboarding process; send the new employees a welcome pack; introduce them to their new colleagues; provide other essential information such as their schedule for the coming weeks and opportunities for training and professional development.
- Onboard and orienting remote employees in the first weeks – by helping them to continually build relationships; and immerse your new starters in important work.
- Ensure ongoing best practice by supporting remote employees – check in regularly; make team building part of your company culture; use checklists and nudges to keep new employees engaged; Seek regular feedback and refine the process as you go; celebrate the competition of onboarding; and measure your success with clear onboarding metrics.
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