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Remote Onboarding Isn’t Just for Remote Employees

With the challenges companies have faced during these past two years, many have had to rethink their onboarding processes. The challenge of managing the logistics of compliance and required onboarding paperwork virtually has become an issue.

Many companies have recognized the cost and time saving benefits of being equipped to onboard ALL employees both virtual and non-virtual remotely, having everything completed BEFORE their start date. There are many solutions out there to consider. Remote onboarding for both remote and on-site new hires is becoming more and more the rule rather than the exception.

An effective and thorough onboarding process is always important. The process provides new employees with the access they need to hit the ground running, and to literally do their jobs. Without a good onboarding process, it is easy to feel lost, unproductive and can potentially even lead to employee turnover.

But in an age with more remote workers than ever, an effective and thorough onboarding process can be even more important. Work from home employees miss the opportunity to learn their new roles from seasoned workers. They do not have the opportunity to walk over to the tech department to help navigate computer issues or network with coworkers at the shared office kitchen.

A virtual onboarding process must go beyond what you may already have planned, so that remote employees can thrive, not flounder. Here are some best practices for onboarding new employees virtually:

1. Give employees the tech and tools they need before their first day. From the employee handbook to a list of contacts, to a computer, work from home employees need the tools to do their jobs before their first day. Waiting for these types of tools will isolate the remote employee and disengage the new hire. By sending an employee their computer, tablet or mobile device ahead of their start date, they can set up and troubleshoot problems before they begin.

2. Define concrete short-term outcomes. A crucial component to an employee’s success is mastering an early understanding of the goals and responsibilities of the position. Virtual employees lack the ability to shadow coworkers with the same or similar jobs. Take a more intentional approach by defining three to five key outcomes. Some of those goals should revolve around socializing, as in having a minimum number of phone calls or video coffee chats with co-workers. At the end of maybe a 90-day period meet with the employee to see how they fared in these outcomes; your feedback will help them improve and stay connected. Continue to set goals as they go forward in their position. Setting measurable goals during the onboarding process is important because it gives the employee clear guidelines as to what the expectations are and helps them set their priorities.

3. Make all necessary introductions to key contacts over a video conference call. In office workers can meet co-workers in person, both in formal settings such as a meeting or informal ones, such as running into a teammate in the hallway or going to lunch with a coworker. Work from home employees don’t have the same opportunities to meet and build relationships with coworkers, but it is no less important for them to do so.

Ensure that a formal introduction of the employee takes place over a video call. It should include their team members and their internal partners, external partners and key customers. This helps establish a clear understanding of the importance of this team member and their responsibilities and allows others to ask questions to get to know them better.

4. Support knowledge retention because one of the hardest things about onboarding in a virtual setting is that retaining digital information without a physical or social context is especially challenging. That is why you should make it a practice of checking in with new employees at the end of every day for a few minutes. Inform the employee of this intention so that they can be prepared.

5. Even before the rise of remote work socializing with a new group of people was a challenge. It has only gotten more intimidating. That is why in addition to introductory video calls you start the new hire off on the right foot by setting up three to five coffee chats for them in their first week. Include team members and ask each person to make a point of introducing the new employee to other team members.

6. Empower your new employee to ask questions by providing them with a complete list of names, phone numbers and email addresses of your HR, IT and other teams. This is important because it avoids having the employee searching for the information during a time of need.

Continue to remember that we are in a total “new norm” and the above tips are outlined to help navigate the new territories of welcoming new hires whether they are onsite or virtual. With regard to remote onboarding, the best remote onboarding ideas introduce employees to colleagues and facilitate team bonding. Good virtual onboarding ideas include new hire survival kits, brand new buddy calls, and remote welcome team lunches.

Virtual onboarding can also be used for onsite new hires in order to save time and money on the first day of hire. Consider all the above to increase efficiency and provide support for your new hires as they enter into what you hope to be a good and lasting relationship. It all starts from day one and the impression you make while onboarding.


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