Ever since COVID-19 hit, working from home has become the norm for millions of people across the globe. After experiencing the flexibility and lifestyle benefits of remote work, many employees are now looking forward to working remotely even after the pandemic subsides.
Remote work provides benefits to employers too, according to Stanford University, organizations can increase performance by 13% by supporting remote work. In this article, we discuss the importance of effective remote onboarding and how to conduct it successfully.
What Is Remote Onboarding?
Remote onboarding is a process that includes various activities designed to help new employees understand their team and employer’s processes, tools and goals. During this period employees learn about their new working environment and employers share information and resources essential for success.
Onboarding incorporates formal and informal processes. Formal onboarding includes training sessions, exercises, video calls, and workshops. Informal onboarding usually involves less structured activities such as new employees observing team members (“shadowing”) to understand the needs of various stakeholders, company culture, and expectations of their new role.
Onboarding differs from orientation, the former lasting anywhere from several weeks to a couple of months, while the latter is a one-time event. Onboarding may include orientation depending on the complexity of the employee’s role and your organization’s requirements.
Why Is Onboarding Important?
Effective onboarding can have the following long-term benefits:
Better employee retention: According to Harvard Business Review, employee retention increases when you extend the onboarding process.
Enhanced productivity: Companies can increase productivity by 25% from new employees through onboarding.
Reduced anxiety: Onboarding eases stress as it relies on anticipating the new hires' needs and enhancing the process through feedback.
Greater flexibility: Remote onboarding allows new employees to choose how to complete training and the program’s intensity. They can engage in screen share sessions and video calls or self-guided learning through readily available resources.
Employee empowerment: Encourage new hires to contribute to the learning and development of their team by taking an active role in improving onboarding resources and contributing new material based on their onboarding experience.
Effective onboarding has benefits for both employees and employers.
How To Onboard Remote Employees?
When onboarding remote employees, consider these 7 steps to ensure they can access everything they need for success in their new roles.
1. Start With Pre-Onboarding
Start the pre-onboarding process immediately after a candidate accepts your job offer. This is an excellent opportunity to maintain excitement, motivation, and connection to other team members before the actual work begins.
You can accomplish this step remotely by:
- Adding new hires to company communication channels.
- Sending documentation and forms in an onboarding packet.
- Recording a pre-onboarding podcast to inform new employees about their team, company culture, history and goals.
- Setting up remote meetups with key teammates.
- Sending invitations to virtual social events.
All these steps help the new employees mentally prepare for what to expect on day one.
2. Prepare A Remote Onboarding Plan
It’s critical to have a plan when onboarding new hires, especially when they are remote.
Set up (three or four) daily meetings with prepared agendas, call / conference links and any supporting resources. A structured onboarding process reduces potential anxiety new employees may experience if they feel they are “doing nothing” in their first weeks on the job.
Create a balance between work-based sessions and informal chats or icebreakers. For example, if several employees live in the same area, organize a meetup for coffee or brunch. If in-person meetups aren’t possible, have meals delivered to them and they can share lunch via video chat as they learn more about each other.
3. Have An Organizational Onboarding
While it’s tempting to focus solely the work they will be responsible for in their new roles, its equally important to orient new team members with your organization and answer some of the common questions they will have about being a part of your business such as:
- How can I access employee benefits?
- What tools and resources should I use?
- How can I receive assistance with daily tasks?
- Who do I go to if I am having difficulties?
- What is the correct process for requesting leave?
- How should I raise concerns about or suggest improvements to the way we work?
Preparing the answers to these questions and including them in your onboarding resources provides a scalable, repeatable way to orient your new hires within the wider business.
4. Set Up A Technical Onboarding
Technology is a critical part of almost every modern job. Encourage employees to start using the technologies your organisation has adopted as soon as they start working, even for small tasks. This ensures new hires build confidence and competence with those technologies early, so they are not a hindrance to their productivity later on.
A technical onboarding podcast series can be a great way to get new staff familiar with your tech stack. These can be delivered as either audio or video podcasts, broken up into a series of episodes that can be consumed as employees gain confidence with new systems.
Delivering this content as a secure, trackable podcast through a platform like Whooshkaa, allows you to monitor the progress of new hires and provides the flexibility for employees to learn at their own pace.
As a bonus, this content forms a library of internal “tech support” content that employees can return to as needed.
5. Don’t Skip Social Onboarding
Starting a new job can be overwhelming, especially when there’s no water cooler or lunch room to get to know your new colleagues. Social onboarding kickstarts working relationships and reduces first-day jitters. Effective social integration with the rest of the team anchors new employees and ensures they’re fully functional.
You can incorporate social onboarding in various ways, such as:
- Assigning onboarding buddies to introduce new hires to the rest of the team through video calls and chats.
- Introducing new employees through the company’s official channel or a group video call.
- Recording a welcome podcast episode for new hires to introduce themselves.
6. Assign First Tasks
In many ways the first tasks you assign new employees set the course for their future work. Setting the right first task will allow new employees to get acquainted with your company’s way of working, instill a sense of purpose and foster confidence – ensuring they settle quickly and efficiently into their roles.
Keep in mind, remote employees don’t enjoy the benefit of an experienced colleague or manager in the same office to look over their shoulder and provide feedback and advice. It is therefore important to ensure that opportunities for feedback and guidance are built into the first task process.
Communicate to new employees that you’re ready to offer assistance and facilitate their growth through an email or chat. Ensure they understand that the first task is not a test of their abilities, but an opportunity for them to learn how their new team works and ask any questions that might help them work more confidently as they begin their new role.
7. Ask For Feedback
No matter the amount of preparation that goes into onboarding remote employees, you can’t predict the needs or experiences of all new hires. Feedback helps the hiring managers unlock a better experience for employees, enhance performance and retention, and boost overall team engagement.
The specific questions to ask for accurate feedback depends on your situation, but you can consider the following:
- Can you describe your best experiences so far?
- Does this role match your expectations?
- What are the challenges you face, and how can I offer assistance?
- Do you have sufficient time to do your tasks?
- How can our organization help in your learning, improvement, and success?
- Can you access the information, resources, and tools vital to your job duties?
- How do you feel your job can support our organization’s mission?
- What are your suggestions for improving procedures, processes, and systems in our organization?
Allow new hires to ask questions and take action once you get honest feedback. Although it may be impossible to fulfill every request, you can show employees you value their input by acting on a few of their ideas.
Employee engagement can be simple when you have the right tools to help you align new hires with your company’s mission, vision, goals, and culture. If you’re looking for access to software that can enhance engagement during remote onboarding, feel free to learn more about the possibilities of Whooshkaa as an employee engagement tool.