Before the emergence of COVID-19, only 7% of employees in the United States worked remotely full-time. That number suddenly skyrocketed when many states implemented stay-at-home orders. Now, even with workplaces reopening, about 35% of employees are still working entirely remote.
If you haven’t figured out how to efficiently and effectively onboard employees remotely, there is no time to waste.
The need for remote onboarding is not going anywhere. It should be a part of your regular hiring process for new hires who are working from a secondary location.
Are you ready to create a better process for remote onboarding?
What is remote employee onboarding?
Onboarding is a key part of talent acquisition. It gets your new hires acquainted with everything from the expectations of their specific job role to the company policies to their part in company culture.
Unlike orientation, which tends to last one day, onboarding may take weeks or even months to complete. During orientation your employee will fill out training paperwork, get set up with payroll, and sign non-disclosure documents.
During their onboarding process, your newest team member will be made familiar with role-specific processes and relationships. Onboarding is a more personalised process than orientation and has less to do with logistics and more to do with integrating your new hire into the company in meaningful ways.
Remote onboarding is simply the process of getting your new hire on board from afar. You will need to meet the same objectives using differing tools. Completing onboarding remotely requires a careful timeline and lots of communication check-ins.
How is Remote onboarding different than in-person onboarding?
The goal of onboarding is always to take qualified candidates and turn them into successful employees. Onboarding a copyeditor may include things like introducing them to their team of writers, walking them through the CMS system, setting 90 day goals and completing an initial content brainstorm session.
As you can imagine, these tasks look a bit different when you can’t reserve a conference room. But you can still make an employee feel like an important new addition without flying them to headquarters. You just need the right gameplan.
A few ways onboarding your staff remotely may be different from in-person onboarding include:
- Using virtual signing software. Since you can’t hand your new hire a piece of paper to sign in person, you will need access to a secure document signing software and a new set of protocols.
- Meeting over video conference. You still need to give your new employee some face time with their supervisor and other key colleagues. Instead of in-person meetings, you’ll implement a video meeting.
- Setting up a chatbot. Telling your newbies to email the HR department with every question may not be a sustainable plan. Implementing a chatbot to answer common departmental and company questions gives new hires access to instant help around the clock.
- Creating a survey system. You can’t pop your head into a new employee’s office at the end of their first week for a check-in. Instead, find a way to include a way to survey your new hires as a part of the remote onboarding process. You may want to automatically send a survey to new hires at the end of their first four weeks.
Tips for Onboarding Remote Employees
A lack of mentorship, structure and expectations can tank any onboarding process. When you’re working remotely, following some best practices can increase your chances of creating a lasting relationship with your new talen.
Here are some tips for learning to successfully onboard an employee who is not working in the office.
Start First Thing in the Morning
Structure is key to making remote work successful. We all get a little nervous the day of a new job. It’s hard to sleep the night before and someone may try on five shirts before they settle on one. Give your new employees a great first day by starting promptly with an activity that puts them at ease.
Remote onboarding activities like a face-to-face with the new hire’s supervisor or a meet-and-greet with their peers are a good way to start the day. Offer clarity about the day’s schedule, emailing an itinerary the week before.
Starting first thing in the morning injects structure (and confidence) into the process from the beginning.
Assign New Employees an Onboarding Liaison
Many companies assign a mentor or other buddy during the onboarding period. That doesn’t have to change just because you’re onboarding remotely. In addition to utilizing technology like a chatbot, you can assign a liaison to new employees.
This person may help your new hire with any questions and concerns they have about their new role. Assign a person other than the employee’s manager. A liaison should be a person that the new hire can feel comfortable asking questions to about anything–including management.
Consider Sending New Employees Care Packages
You want your new employees to feel right at home! That’s a bit harder when you can’t offer a welcome lunch trip or a box of goodies at their desk. Send some swag to their remote office or home address before their first day. Company gear, food, or a self-care kit will be much appreciated.
Get Technology Set Up Prior to the Start Date
You don’t want to waste the first day of onboarding fighting with an email snafu. And if your new hires receive company equipment, you want them to be ready to go on the first day. To that end, you want to get all the necessary tech set up before your employee starts.
Do you have the following ready to go on your employee’s first day?
- Email address – Can your new staff member log in on day one and receive a welcome email? Their credentials should be good to go on the first morning. This is the most important thing to set up because you’ll probably need to send communication about other tech via this channel.
- Database access – Can your newest team member access the data sources and spreadsheets they need? Send login info to their email address before they start. If you use channels like Slack to brainstorm and chat throughout the day, make sure your new hire has invites waiting in their inbox.
- Computer programs – Can your employee open their laptop and access the software programs they need? If you’re sending a computer, upload all necessary programs for your employee. If they are supplying their own equipment, make sure they have what they need to install their programs.
- Hardware equipment – Can your employee plug in their hardware on their first day? Make sure your new staff member has any equipment delivered to their address the week before they begin. Make sure you double check things like chargers and batteries, which can often present unnecessary obstacles to getting set up.
Be Clear and Explicit About Company Culture and Processes
Remote onboarding should not overlook typical orientation. Company rules and regulations, sexual harassment training, and company hierarchy should be clearly communicated.
Make sure you are downloading your new hires on things like:
- Day-to-day expectations. What time do they need to log in every morning? Are there weekly all-hands meetings? Set up your new hire for success by setting basic ground rules right away.
- Explain company hierarchy. If your new employee has a suggestion, who should they communicate it to? You also want them to know where to lodge a grievance or ask a sensitive question. If there is something they could do that would be considered “going over someone’s head” — let them know that, too.
- Go over general culture. Every company has a different level of formality and informality. Is it alright to post funny GIFs in the company-wide slack? Should they be in formal attire during video conferences? Set boundaries early.
- Discuss client communication. Most companies have some client or customer facing roles. Onboarding should discuss your new hire’s expectations in that department. Should they ever email a client directly? Go over the level of formality required when dealing with outside vendors or clients.
Connect Individual Contributions to the Broader Company Mission
You want your new hire to be excited about their contributions to the overall company goal! Use remote onboarding to inspire. You may want to present recent projects that were well received by the client, or discuss award-winning work done by the department. Go over how their individual role will help the larger goals be achieved.
Remotely onboarding your new hires can be as successful as in-person onboarding. That is, as long as you plan ahead. And just when you think you’re done: Plan some more! Preparation is key to any successful onboarding process. That is twice as true when you must work remotely and communicate largely through text.
It costs about $1,200 on average to train a new employee, so invest your time and energy well. And don’t be afraid to enlist some help where you need it. An expert recruiter gives you access to the top talent in your field and sets you up for a successful remote onboarding process.
While Anna cut her corporate teeth on the product team at Airbnb, it was her early-stage startup experience that really introduced her to the world of recruiting. While she was growing the team there, she realized how painful, arduous, and challenging recruiting really is. That is, until you find a stellar recruiting team. Today, she leverages her deep recruiting experience as Betterleap’s co-founder and visionary.