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The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote working and created some new challenges. To onboard remote employees successfully requires companies to embrace digital technology and to use different strategies and tools than they use for traditional onboarding.
Virtual communication can make it harder to pick up on non-verbal cues, and the lack of in-person interaction can result in remote hires feeling a little intimidated or overwhelmed at first. Here are some tips for facilitating the process.
1. Help remote hires with office setup
Companies may need to help remote workers set up the type of home office that increases their productivity. When providing laptops for them, they need to make sure they arrive before the first day. Remote employees may need a stipend to use towards the internet, electricity, supplies etc. Whether it’s furniture like an ergonomic chair, internet speed or available hardware, remote employees may need assistance in the form of stipends or loans.
Tools companies need to consider providing for remote employees include video conferencing software, e-signing tools, and helpdesk software. When companies leverage good HR software, it can facilitate the onboarding process. A lack of the right technology shouldn’t get in the way of an effective and meaningful relationship between remote employees and the company.
2. Create a buddy system for new remote employees
When new employees come into an office situation, they have numerous opportunities to get to know fellow workers. Remote workers, on the other hand, have limited ways of getting to know them. Creating a buddy system for new hires means there is someone responsible for checking in on how they are doing and making sure they connect with their team.
Preferably, a buddy should be a long-time team member who can help them with any questions or concerns. New hires should feel free to ask a buddy as many questions as they wish, no matter how simple they may seem. This can help them to get through their onboarding list quicker. Buddies can help new hires to learn things like how employees use Asana or Slack to communicate.
3. Share important documents and information
New remote hires will need access to important documents and information about the company. Companies should create a database that includes the company’s organizational structure and policies as well as resources, training materials etc.
Providing employees with an onboarding checklist helps to guide them through each step of the process. A digital employee handbook can also help them understand the company culture better. Using a cloud-based system means all the information remote employees need is available to them.
Providing new remote employees with technical documentation can help them to fix minor technical issues they may encounter. If they follow the tips, they won’t have to constantly contact the IT support team with every small request. They will gain confidence and have less downtime when they can fix simple issues themselves. For instance, if companies use Mac corporate hardware, guides on how to install corporate software on macOS, how to fix a slow-working laptop or how to deal with storage issues can be very helpful.
Visual content is a fundamental part of onboarding a remote team. Any company SOP (Standard Operating Procedures), tools, and files work much better if you use images. You can use an online background remover to ensure that any images used match your company branding and don’t include any distracting backgrounds or elements that might be out of place.
4. Take a proactive, personalized approach
Companies shouldn’t wait for new hires to make the first move. They should send them a welcoming email before they even start. Kicking off the first day with a virtual coffee meeting can be a good introduction to the company. A new hire’s manager could meet a new remote employee via Zoom for a coffee date. This would make them feel comfortable immediately and less afraid to ask for help when they need it.
New hires shouldn’t feel awkward at their first meeting. Companies need to let team members know via Slack or email that they have a new remote colleague and include a few sentences about the new hire. Some teams ask new remote employees to create a short introductory video. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, but it can help other team members to learn more about their background and their character.
5. Share important aspects of the company’s remote work policy
Reviewing the most important aspects of the company’s remote work policy during an onboarding interview can bring clarity for new remote hires. It helps to set clear expectations. This may include what hours they are expected to be available, their legal rights and certain best practices to follow. For example, there are more cybersecurity risks when working remotely, and remote workers need to know what precautions to take.
Most organizations require remote employees to be available during core working hours, but they usually allow some flexibility. Remote workers may be able to take certain hours off during the day if they make up for this after normal working hours.
6. Provide opportunities for team bonding with remote employees
A buddy shouldn’t have to do all the work of connecting new hires with a team. Various employee engagement activities can help. This may include everything from short ice-breakers to virtual team-building exercises and online company events. These activities can have many benefits, such as encouraging communication. Employees need to communicate to solve a problem or win a game. Team bonding activities help to build trust and foster relationships.
Starting a meeting off with a quick ice-breaker can immediately help a new remote employee to feel included. For example, each team member could share two true facts and a lie about themselves. The whole team has to guess what is false.
Playing trivia using information about the company and employees as the questions is another activity that encourages communication and helps new hires. Virtual company events such as a virtual live concert or virtual cocktail hour are other good ideas.
7. Ask new remote employees for feedback
It is important to collect feedback from remote employees about their onboarding experience while it is still fresh in their minds. Companies can conduct surveys to find out what they think.
The surveys can ask questions like “What improvements do you think we could make?” or “What part of the process did you enjoy most or least?”. Check whether there are any steps they would add to the process if they felt comfortable right from the start.
Finding out the strengths and weaknesses of the current system can help companies make tweaks and improve the process.
Remote employees have different needs than office workers, and this includes how the onboarding process works. Perfecting the onboarding process for remote workers is likely to take time as it is new territory for many companies. By learning from mistakes and incorporating new insights, companies will improve the process over time. This will result in a process that helps them to engage and retain remote talent.