The primary goals of an onboarding process is to help new hires prepare for the social and professional expectations of their new workplace so they have the best chance of performing in their new role.
The challenge when onboarding remote employees is to do this from afar.
When onboarding in person, it’s easy to answer questions, meet colleagues and respond to nonverbal cues. During remote onboarding, new hires loose these organic opportunities to ask questions and build relationships, particularly outside of their immediate team. It also hard for their manager to notice if they’re struggling and need support.
Whilst the principals of onboarding remain the same, creating an effective onboarding experience for remote employees requires more careful planning and intentional action.
Below we’ve highlighted 3 important tips based on what we’ve learnt helping our customers adapt to hiring and onboarding remotely.
Make it as simple as possible (document and automate as much as you can)
Starting a new job comes with a lot of uncertainty.
You therefore want to avoid putting new hires in situations where they’re unsure what they’re supposed to be doing next, or have to ask questions that make them feel ‘silly’ purely because something hasn’t been communicated to them clearly.
In a remote setting these problems are compounded as people are physically on their own as well as feeling like the ‘newbie’. They can’t lean over to their desk buddy to ask a quick question or clarify they’re doing the right thing.
The solution to this is planning and documenting on-boarding in granular detail, then using software to create a step-by-step process which is shared with everyone involved. Each step should show the required task, any information they need to perform that task and also the right POC to speak to should they have any questions.
Most popular HR/People software tools have a solution for approaching on-boarding this way. If you don’t have access to such a tool then Trello can work just as well – see this template for employee onboarding as a good starting point.
This approach allows for useful levels of automation and empowers new employees to take control of their own onboarding at their own pace. Furthermore, anyone involved; from HR to tech support to their line manager, can be notified of their progress and see a real time view of how they’ve progressed. This can save lots of time, remove uncertainty for everyone and make it easy to notice if a new hire needs extra support.
Build important relationships quickly
Relationships are key to the success of anyone in your organisation.
Creating these remotely is challenging as you lose the organic opportunities for people to be introduced that you often find in an office.
To address this you need to be intentional about forming these relationships. From the people and teams new hires will collaborate with closely in their day-to-day work, to members of the leadership team who can communicate the company’s vision most effectively, you need to think ahead.
Before a new hire starts, pre-book meet and greets with all important contacts and add this to their calendars. Make sure everyone understands the importance of these introductions and what needs to be achieved to deem them successful.
‘Jump in’ as quickly as possible
This applies equally whether you’re onboarding remotely or in person.
People want to add value. Providing them an opportunity to do so quickly is a sure-fire way to make them feel part of the team.
For each new hire, make a point of finding a task they can complete in their first week. Make it something they can tackle without requiring too much unique domain knowledge but has a tangible result that adds value to the team and company.
When onboarding software engineers, a good example of such a task is a simple bug fix. Not only does this add value to the end user and therefore company, but it also offers them immediate recognition from their new peers.
Small things like this can go a long way to making new hires feel like a valued part of the team and, in turn, improve their onboarding experience.