The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped a number of fundamentals when it comes to how we do business. Before the prevalence of remote working, the concept of remotely onboarding staff members would have been something reserved for only the bravest organisations. Now, every organisation is faced with the challenge of how to onboard a remote employee, as it’s the reality of the new world we’re living in.
So, what is a remote onboarding process and how can you get the most out of it, inducting new individuals into your organisation remotely in a streamlined, yet supportive manner?
First thing first, we need to clearly establish what the organisation requires of that new employee, and what the employee requires of the organisation. It’s important to remember that while you might have high expectations for the person in that role, you also need to be realistic as starting a new job remotely can be a more challenging process for the candidate.
Remote employee onboarding can be difficult, even experienced, top performers require some time to adjust to a new role, so ensure the management team or hiring manager is accommodating of mistakes in the initial transition period, particularly if they’re onboarding remotely and don’t have the same support systems in place compared to working in a physical office.
It can also be hard for an organisation to gain an idea of whether or not the new remote employee is a good cultural fit for the business, as they are only interacting with them through the means of video calls instead of face-to-face interactions. This is why your organisation needs to have an in-depth onboarding plan or even a remote onboarding checklist to ensure that any new manager can be easily informed on what the onboarding process looks like.
– Personalise the welcome experience. Have a package arrive on the morning of their first day to their home. This may include some information about the company, a coffee mug or something with a company logo. It could also include something unique to that person that has been noted during their interviews. This could be as simple as a mention of their favourite type of tea, or 3pm snack preference. If you think about how you can personalise this ‘first impression’ package to make it unique to the person, they’re likely to feel significantly more surprised and welcomed into your team. It may reflect the company culture, values or mission, too, if you show them that you’re a family-oriented team.
A welcome email from the team at 8:30am and the new employee’s direct leader should personally phone or Google Meet Video Call in their first hour. The leader should – once again – impart the organisation’s core values and mission to inspire the new employee.
Make it clear that the first day of their duties should be directed more at understanding the organisation and the role’s duties, rather than getting straight to work. If the employee has more time to understand the organisation, and how their role contributes to the wider operations, their actions will be more pointed and impactful.
In order to be a fully functioning member of your team, the new employee must, first of all, learn as much as they can about your mission and your team, so they can gather a detailed picture of your day-to-day operations. Giving them your employee handbook is essential in the lead up to their start date, so they can research this ahead of time, but reiterating it is essential- particularly if it comes from a manager or the CEO.
Think about all aspects of wellbeing and candidate experience when onboarding remotely. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t assign them work, but you should ensure they aren’t swamped from their first day on your team. In a number of ways, if they invest their time early in the process to get a more intimate understanding of your organisation, they’re likely to produce better results. This is perhaps even more so when you’re onboarding them remotely.
Assign the new employee a ‘Buddy’ or ‘Business Engagement/Navigation Partner’. This buddy should proactively introduce this new person to all key stakeholders, team members via proactive shared Google Meet Intro Calls and attend them with the new employee. This will help ensure that the new employee has a comfortable onboarding experience.
The buddy’s role is to support the new employee to meet more people, help them understand the ‘go to’ people for tech support, Human Resources support etc., and help them understand the culture of the business. It’s important this buddy understands their role is critical to the success of the new employee, they must be proactive and check in regularly, particularly in the first month.
-If there’s a group of new employees starting together, connect them, organise a weekly group Google Meet video call, where they can connect and discuss how they are feeling, and share what they have learned. Leaders can ask how they are going, and what can we do better? As a leader, be prepared to be transparent, and make changes where necessary when a challenge arises. This ensures that the new employees feel like they’re getting to know each other even though they’re working remotely.
There are a few areas to be covered throughout an induction including wellbeing (emotional, social and physical), practicalities (such as compliance, business knowledge etc) and technology training. Ensure you’ve got a checklist and you’re working your way through this with the new employee in their first few weeks, ideally via a video conference call where you can share screens and show the individual exactly how it works. You can use a combination of live meetings, or any pre-recorded videos that you might have from previous training exercises.
Practicalities and compliance can be dry and these can be viewed via pre-recorded in the new employees own time. To make it more engaging, perhaps schedule one or two elements of this as a pre-recorded video with a live Q&A with the General Manager or Senior Stakeholder, to bring it up a notch and make it interactive.
Ensure the new employee has the tools and guidance that they need readily accessible, whether it’s a direct contact – their buddy – or a handbook that explains what to do when they’re facing a challenge. To help them gain momentum, give them a list of simple action items that they can tackle once the induction is finished, so they can familiarise themselves with the organisation’s preferred communication methods, etc.
An important additional part of onboarding is scheduling a ‘catch up’ session with remote workers when you’re one month from their start date, and give them enough time to prepare for the session ahead of time. This is important so the individual is able to note down exactly what they’re finding difficult, and the management team can implement ways to address these immediately.
Depending on the complexity of the role, at the four-week mark, the individual should be familiar with the role, its responsibilities with colleagues that they’re dealing with directly. You should also check-in with your existing employees to see if they can identify any major issues that should be raised in the catch-up session.
Proactively schedule fun and social aspects into their weeks. It is particularly important to finish the week with a positive feeling and a sense of belonging to their new ‘home’. Some examples of these activities can be a Friday afternoon drinks session via a video conference, casual lunch catch-ups, or video sessions with a quiz or activity directed at team and relationship building.
Ensure the management team is regularly communicating with the new employee’s buddy to identify any potential shortfalls or weaknesses in their skill set, so the organisation can provide them with the training they might need to complete the job to the high standard expected. Too often, organisations let the new employee off the leash too early, believing that they don’t want to be trained in such a hands-on way.
Whether it’s due to a lack of resources, patience, or a combination of both, this can often backfire when the employee feels as though they’ve been thrown in the deep end without an adequate support squad. Investing in a hands-on induction process, particularly when it comes to remote inductions, often proves the most effective means of preparing a new employee to enter your workforce with the momentum the organisation expects. Of course, depending on the temperament, skill set and experience of the employee, you can tailor this process to them.
The Remote Onboarding Checklist
The employee has a company handbook [ ]
The employee has all the technology necessary for their duties [ ]
The organisation has assigned them a buddy [ ]
The buddy or manager has explained the preferred methods of communication [ ]
The CEO/Manager has explained the organisation’s mission and vision [ ]
The employee has been given their ‘number’ or KPIs [ ]
The employee has agreed to their KPIs [ ]
The buddy (or manager) has introduced them to key stakeholders they need to know to effectively get their job done [ ]
Daily video calls with the employee in their first week [ ]
The employee has received IT training for cyber security & password management [ ]
The employer has given a clear expectation of their first month [ ]
One Week Check-in [ ]
Two Week Check-in [ ]
The employer has given a clear expectation of their first six months [ ]
One Month Check-in [ ]
Six Week Check-in [ ]
Two Month check-in [ ]
Six Month Check-in [ ]