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How to Smoothly Onboard a Remote Worker

An onboarding process for remote employees can help your company retain and attract employees. Learn how to create an onboarding process in this article.

Starting a new job can be an exciting time for recent hires. Many go into the workplace with momentum and a desire to bring their A game to their new role.

However, a lackluster onboarding experience can impede an otherwise strong start. Consider that, in a survey of 1,500 American workers, 33 per cent said they quit a job within their first 90 days. Furthermore, 49 per cent of Canadian employees are “seriously considering leaving” their jobs. Onboarding is important for retaining those you’ve hired and attracting candidates looking at new jobs within your company.

In today’s increasingly remote working environment, a smooth onboarding experience is crucial. Additionally, the strong job market coupled with The Great Resignation have empowered employees like never before. Make sure your recruitment efforts — from personnel to time and money spent — are bolstered by proper onboarding and training on your organization’s part.

Here’s how you can implement a well-crafted onboarding experience for your out-of-the-office hires.

What is Remote Onboarding?

First thing’s first: Let’s define employee onboarding as a whole.

Onboarding is the process of introducing new employees to your workplace policies, procedures, and culture. Unlike orientation, which typically includes first-day essentials (think: a recent sales hire getting access to your CRM software), onboarding can take weeks or even months to complete. It usually involves periodic check-ins with team leads and ongoing analysis of how the new employee is handling the process.

Remote onboarding with your virtual workers shouldn’t be radically different from the onboarding you offer in-person team members. In fact, it’s a good opportunity for your organization to get the process in writing or on video to share with employees, no matter where they’re located. The goal remains the same: Integrate new hires with the existing team and help ensure all your employees have a similar, streamlined onboarding experience.

After all, good employee onboarding is important to the success of your operation. Some employers get it down to a fine science, even mapping out what their new hire’s first day will look like from one hour to the next. Some new employees have almost come to expect this level of detail.

10 Ways to Implement an Onboarding Process for Remote Workers

Statistics from Gallup show just how much onboarding can positively affect a company.

  • When a manager is actively involved in a new employee’s onboarding process, employees are 3.4 times as likely to feel like their onboarding process was successful.

  • When employees can strongly agree that their “onboarding process was exceptional,” they are nearly two times more likely to feel fully prepared to excel in their new role. They’re also 2.3 times more likely to say their job is as good or better than they expected it to be.

Well-strategized onboarding processes can result in better employee engagement and lower turnover. Here’s how you can create a standout approach.

Some onboarding essentials, in general, should include the following:

1. Determine who should be involved. Typically, onboarding belongs to the human resources department. If you don’t have a dedicated team, however, gather a couple of key leads, such as other managers or more senior-level employees, to help collaborate on a process. If you have a hands-on CEO, consider bringing them in to sign off on the policy.

2. Figure out your must-haves. Some items can be added down the line. However, you’ll want to have a few strong starting points in your procedures, such as essential company policies, including paid time off, any overtime requirements, expectations of video calls, and more.

3. Automate as much as possible. Support HR — and all of your teams — with software solutions that can help you stay on top of these processes. Build processes for both employee onboarding and offboarding, and then set them up to automatically deploy across different departments. This way, you can limit human error and increase efficiency.

Specific to remote workers, here are seven additional ways to improve onboarding for them.

4. Craft an onboarding video. Consider creating a standard or, if time permits, personalized welcome video for new hires to help them get to know the team. No need to hire an agency and rent a studio: a smartphone video will do in a pinch. You can also have team members record their own short videos and compile them into one. This can be a fun, personal way for the onboarding process to feel more human, whether or not you’re sharing the same office space.

5. Provide technology ahead of time. If you distribute laptops and other essential technology to employees, ensure your remote employees get what they need before their start date. Be clear with the new hire about where you will ship the technology and everything that will be included — headphones, a wireless mouse, and other tools — in your shipment.

6. Help them troubleshoot technology. Your remote worker won’t be able to walk down the hall and alert IT that they’re locked out of their company email. On top of making sure the computer hardware is functioning correctly, disseminate necessary login information and contact information for a manager, department colleague, a dedicated junior IT staffer, or another employee they can reach out to if problems arise.

7. Assign a virtual buddy. Along those lines, you can introduce your remote hire to a point person they can virtually go to with departmental questions. You can also set up video calls and virtual coffee meetings with other members of your department — essentially meet-and-greets — so everyone on the team can introduce themselves and get face time before working together.

8. Set up essential meetings and trainings. There are few things more frustrating and confusing than starting a new job and waiting around for guidance. Help your new hire get started by scheduling meetings with key figures in the company and putting any mandatory trainings on their calendar.

9. Send company swag. Don’t let “out of sight, out of mind” dominate your company culture for remote workers! Even if they don’t have a desk where you can drop off swag items, consider mailing a t-shirt, mug, or whatever other goodies you gift to new employees.

10. Keep it concise. Working from home is becoming the new normal. However, that also means your employee may be dealing with a spouse, roommate, partner, children, and even pets at home, all of them sharing a living and working space — and Wi-Fi. With that in mind, go against the in-person “norm” of traditional onboarding and be more direct and concise when bringing a new hire on board. If you normally have a week-long orientation for in-person new hires, see how you can curb that to fewer days for virtual employees, for example.

Be conscientious of employees and how much information they want to share, too. For example, a new employee might be comfortable emailing colleagues ahead of their start date but might not appreciate text messages from the team.

Also, identify any guidelines for technology. For the most part, company policies should be similar for both on-site and off-site employees. However, if remote employees are using company-issued technology or a virtual private network (VPN), you’ll want to lay out rules and expectations for them.

After you fine-tune your onboarding process, do a dry run and identify any gaps. You should also provide a safe space for new employees to give input on what worked well and any suggestions for improvement.

The Future of Onboarding Remote Employees

Remote work has been growing in popularity for years. In 2021, Statistics Canada shared that “80 per cent of new teleworkers indicated that they would like to work at least half of their hours from home once the pandemic is over.”

However, just like some people thrive in remote environments, others prefer in-person communication. Some new hires might be disappointed they couldn’t pick out a first-day outfit, have a group lunch with other new employees or decorate a new office space. By developing a well-thought-out onboarding plan, you can bridge the gap between those in and out of the office and help everyone feel more connected.

From there, you’ll help foster a culture that thrives, no matter where in the world your employees are working from.

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