Onboarding Remote Employees: How to get it right

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The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has necessitated the honing of various remote activities — including the hiring of new employees. Business leaders have been forced to find new ways to source the best talent, and put together steadfast onboarding processes that are designed to properly support recruits. This can be a difficult road to navigate, so we’ve put together this short list of tips to help you get it right.

1. Ensure all the required digital systems are set up and ready for use. While this is always likely to appear on the list of important procedures during the onboarding process, it’s even more important when the employee is working remotely. In an office, if there is waiting time while systems are set up, the new recruit can spend it familiarizing themselves with the environment. When employees are working from home, on the other hand, they simply have to wait. When a new member of staff is expected, make a list of all the systems they will need and get these set up and ready to go at least a few days before their start date.

2. Host regular video conference calls. One of the most important aspects of onboarding is to make sure the new team member feels welcomed and supported. When dealing with remote workers, one of the main ways to achieve this is to host video calls during which employees can see and speak to one another. On their first day, the new recruit should be invited to several video calls, not only for communication and reassurance from their manager, but to also virtually meet their teammates.

3. Facilitate and encourage online chats between staff. As with the video calls, an accessible chat tool will vastly help the onboarding process for remote workers. Throughout their first day they are likely to have many questions, many of which may not warrant a phone call, such as “where is this saved,” or “what time is this meeting?” An ongoing digital chat tool, which can be used by all staff, will be hugely beneficial for these questions. It will also give staff a further opportunity to converse and get to know each other.

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4. Use a remote worker buddy system. It’s also useful to put into place a buddy system, so that the new member of staff has a point of contact to go to for those seemingly trivial questions. It’s likely that the recruit will not want to bother their manager for every little thing, so having someone else to speak to as and when required is helpful. This person should be someone who is friendly and approachable, and who knows the company and its policies well.

5. Email or send links to all necessary policies, and share details of their location. On an employee’s first day, it is common to share with them all the company policies and the staff handbook. When it comes to remote workers, these need to be sent across digitally. Make a list of all the necessary paperwork they need to see, and send it in an email that has been clearly labelled, for future reference. It’s possible to use software to create digital signatures for forms, otherwise these should be posted to the new team member, along with a prepaid envelope for return. It’s also a good idea to inform the recruit of the saved location of the policies, to enable them to easily find them later.

6. Arrange role-specific, remote training. One difficult aspect of bringing onboard a new employee remotely is ensuring they receive adequate training. Managers will need to do some homework in order to find the most effective tools, but some good advice is to:

  • Make sure each training session includes a question and answer period at the end, to make sure participants have the opportunity to clarify any necessary aspects
  • Record demonstrations wherever possible/relevant, so that visual learners can clearly see and understand what they are being taught
  • Find (or create) interactive courses that include quizzes and games, requiring the participants to get involved and engaged. These should be as user-friendly as possible.

A good onboarding process is vital in order to help you retain staff. According to research carried out by consultancy firm Gallup, only 12% of employees believe that their company does a great job of onboarding. This means 88% believe that there is room for improvement. Focusing efforts on a quality onboarding process will help ensure your new, remote staff feel welcomed and valued, and hopefully inspired to do the job they were hired to at the highest standard.