Employee onboarding is an essential step to introducing the new hire to the company culture. Done well, it helps a newbie to adjust and find their own place at the table. Not only this, after successful employee onboarding newbies achieve their maximum productivity within less time and stay with the current employer for longer.

Unfortunately, only 12% of employees believe that their company has done a great job of onboarding. And things get critical when you hire remotely since you lack many opportunities that are available in an office environment.

Yet, with enough determination, it is still possible to smoothly integrate a new member into a remote team. As the saying goes, without further ado, let’s get down to the specifics of remote employee onboarding.

Some Words About Onboarding

Employee onboarding is basically the process of bringing a new employee into a company that follows the orientation (which is a one-time event). During the onboarding process, a manager introduces the new employee to their colleagues, gives a brief description of who does what.

This way, the person gets an idea of who to turn to with a certain kind of a problem they may run into in their work. As new hires get to know the team and learn the rituals and rules used inside the company, they begin to realize their role and start making connections to contribute to the company’s goals. 

From the employer’s point, this is an opportunity to help workers to reach their maximum productivity within the shortest time frame. So, it’s essential to conduct regular check-ins to see how engaged the new employee is to the company.

When it comes to onboarding practices, there are two approaches: formal and informal. You are free to choose the one that is more relevant to your business goals.

  • Informal employee onboarding implies giving the new hire the freedom to figure out their workspace on their own. After studying all the necessary documentation, the new employee has to make their own observations about the spoken and unspoken rules in their new workplace. Moreover, they may job shadow or get a supervisor they can ask questions whenever they feel the need to.
  • A formal onboarding process involves a standard series of steps. New employees get a set of tasks that are aimed to prepare them for assuming their work-related responsibilities. Usually, this is performed in the form of in-classroom training where newbies are separated from other employees for the time of training.

The Challenges of Remote Employee Onboarding

  • A remote worker can’t physically immerse in the processes 

That means they may be slow to grasp the company values, fall behind on what’s happening, and even lack the necessary equipment. To overcome this obstacle, your HR department should carefully choose remote team collaboration tools and create effective communication habits for remote work.

  • An abundance of information comes in an uncomfortable form

It’s not a secret that people prefer different learning styles. Remote workers get many work-related materials in the form of a text, or as a monologue (for instance, in audio and video recordings). Some may struggle to digest all the important information quickly. So, managers have to portion the information flow by creating and following a step-by-step plan. Also, timely personal guidance is required. 

  • A remote worker may feel isolated

In an office space, employees can chat with someone at the neighboring desk or catch up near the coffee machine. Remote workers cannot see each other and thus have less opportunity to develop a sense of camaraderie. To combat the feeling of isolation, come up with fun activities that encourage informal communication.

  • A remote worker has less access to company tech specialists

Remote employees are likely to use company-owned devices in public spaces, thus exposing corporate data to security risks. They are also less likely to ask for tech support in a timely manner. Besides, remote working has ethical aspects that touch the question of personal data safety when using corporate devices. All these matters should be discussed with an employee before providing them with corporate electronics.

A Go-to Checklist for Employee Onboarding 

Take Care of the Paperwork First

New employees tend not to raise questions regarding payment during their first months since they don’t want to provoke any conflict. However, delays or under-delivered information cause frustration and demolish the motivation to work in a recently hired worker.

It is your job to set up all the processes and ensure that your remote staff gets their payments on time. If you use several payment systems, be aware of the processing time of each. If there are extra fees, remember to bring it up even if this question has already been discussed with the employee during the job interview. 

Make sure all the papers are timely discussed and signed, so there are no unexpected delays on the side of the finance team. Unless physical document verification is required in your country, consider using legally binding services to sign the paperwork remotely.

Equip the New Hire Properly

If your company provides corporate devices to remote employees, make sure the new team member has all the necessary equipment to perform their duties by the time they begin. Choose a trustworthy shipping service and be aware of delivery times and holiday breaks. As soon as the worker receives their device, work with the IT team to configure it properly.

Next, you have to supply a remote staff member with company policies, guides, corporate culture, and values articles. This helps to cut annoying moments in terms of information.

However, instead of flooding a person’s email box with the many separate files, it’s much handier to send them a link to your company internal knowledge base. Provided it has all the features needed to easily manage your knowledge database, you ensure nothing is ever lost, and a new employee gets more confidence.

Source: Freepik.com

Introduce New Hire to the Team

It’s important to help the new employee feel settled quickly. Thus, it’s a good idea to create a welcome channel or thread in the corporate messenger and invite the rest of the team to give a welcome message. What is more, your HR managers can use a contact information finder to retrieve social media accounts so that your team can send friend requests, too.

After that, you may tell about the company rituals and ceremonies that require active communication and encourage the new worker to join while they undergo their employee onboarding. A good idea is to create a chit-chat channel where employees share personal news.

To kick things off and make newbies participate, an HR manager or a team leader can start talking about their own concerns. Video coffee breaks are also a wonderful way to build team spirit and encourage employees to get to know each other.

Source: Bailey Mariner at The Balance

Ration Responsibilities

To avoid excessive stress, provide a new remote worker with some structure to get through their first days. It may be a checklist of things to study, people to reach out to, and a few tasks they can showcase their skills on. As soon as your latest team member has completed their first milestone, raise the bar toward a more ambitious result. 

At the early stage of the employee onboarding process, it is tempting for a manager to monitor closely every action of the employee. However, in order to make them feel trusted and motivated to strive for a better result, it is important to reduce the control at a certain point. Great help here is to have a consistent remote work policy that clearly defines one’s goals and responsibilities. 

There are some more things you can do to build confidence in your new hire:

  • Provide the employee with the contact list of everyone working on the same project.
  • Give a handbook or samples of similar projects that were successfully completed.
  • Announce clear criteria of the expected quality level.
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Ask for Feedback

Check-in every now and then to learn how the new employee is doing. Regular conversations serve the purpose of creating a positive environment while they haven’t yet made friends with colleagues. For the same reason, don’t limit your conversations to solely work-related information. Apart from that, you’ll want to know:

  • If the new team member gets enough support. The ILO report shows that remote workers tend to feel stressed twice as often as those who work in the office. The report links this to the feelings of isolation and burnout. To help, let the employees know that your door is always open.
  • If any more educational materials needed. Recent research states that the opportunity to learn at the workplace encourages employees to work harder.
  • If the latest employee would like to see more team-building activities. Well-designed games are a great way to improve employees’ soft skills.
  • If they see any ways to improve the process of running a remote team. Here you may ask to compare the employee’s experience with your company to one at their previous workplace. If there is any negative comment, be careful not to take it personally. Instead, use it to improve the onboarding processes in your organization.

To Sum Up

With remote employee onboarding processes not well-established enough, many employees experience frustration during their first days at work. Often it has to do with insufficient guidance when mastering new technology, feeling isolated, lacking the resources, and such. A great onboarding program, on the other hand, can do wonders in creating an environment where talents will thrive.

Lidia Bondarenko

Lidia is a PR and outreach specialist at HelpCrunch, an all-in-one customer communication platform. Her professional experience encompasses customer service improvement, social media marketing, and SEO. Her free time she spends searching for new marketing trends and tv shows, and practicing yoga. Follow her on Twitter.

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