Onboarding new employees can be a challenge at the best of times.

Most of us remember the first-day nerves of starting for a new company – getting used to unfamiliar faces and surroundings while trying to absorb information at 100 miles an hour.

While that traditional approach was already a potentially overwhelming experience, it’s no wonder remote onboarding feels even more daunting.

Why ‘getting it right’ matters

Onboarding is among the most influential factors when it comes to employee experience.

Research has shown that 69% of employees will stay with a company for a longer term if they have had a good onboarding experience.

Prioritise planning

Like many other processes in remote working, onboarding needs a detailed plan.

This plan should cover all aspects of the onboarding process, to include training and development activities and milestones that can be used to measure how an employee is progressing.

You should list out each step of the process and make sure the new employee does not get bombarded with too much information at once. You should also help them to identify the best channels for asking questions and getting help, so that they do not feel isolated.

Another challenge is to build an emotional connection with your new employee. You must remember that the new hire may never have met you in person, so does not know how you work, your personality or what ‘good’ looks like to you.

Create a structure to encourage informal moments to build rapport with the team.

Ultimately these little things are what create a strong culture, and the new employee has a sense of belonging.

The wonder of a welcome pack

Consider creating a welcome pack to be sent out to the new employee before their first onboarding session.

The welcome pack should be used to provide the new employee with general information that they may find useful in their first days and months at the company.

It could include their employee handbook, log-in details, and telephone numbers and email addresses of colleagues that the employee will be collaborating with.

Try making a video; it should be informal, engaging and reflective of the culture of the business, with the aim of welcoming the new employee to the company and their colleagues.

Back to basics

New employees need to access a multitude of online accounts to effectively do their job. Make this as easy as possible by ensuring that their log-in credentials and tools can be accessed and shared as a key priority.

By familiarising new remote employees with business-critical tools swiftly, they will become self-dependent and begin adding value.

Instructional videos are also great ways of upskilling team members on navigating systems and processes – these are especially useful during the onboarding process, as this way the employee can always refer to it at a later date and review it at their own pace.

Using software to protect your passwords is essential. Doing so allows you to distribute credentials easily, securely, and quickly to new employees without compromising your security.

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Preventing isolation

Around 19% of remote workers struggle with isolation, and this tends to be new employees, as they have not built relationships and are not familiar with the company and its culture.

Try to invite colleagues to engage with the new employee by providing a platform of communication to build stronger relationships with the team. This encourages a sense of belonging, which is important as employees will be working from a remote location and may not have face-to-face interaction.

Implementing a buddy system – someone that the new recruit can go to with those minor yet still important questions – to regularly check in and catch up on an informal basis will help new team members feel at ease and part of the team.

Try to have at least one off-site gathering to enable new employees to meet their colleagues face to face. This will create stronger relationships and can make a difference between higher or lower employee turnover rate.

Check in and chat regularly

To continually assess how effective your onboarding is, you should check in regularly with your new employee to make sure they’re progressing as expected.

You can use the milestones created in your onboarding plan to assess their performance and address any concerns as soon as possible.

Checking in with your new employee also provides you with a platform for gaining valuable feedback on the onboarding process.

Don’t leave it until the end of the onboarding process, as useful insights can be forgotten or overlooked through the euphoria of actually “getting through it!”

Touching base with your employee can take the form of a simple email, but when you can, make time for a video call as this is more personal.

Management training matters

Many managers will be unfamiliar with the remote methods of managing team members.

Training managers on how to manage their team using communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Office 365 is essential.

Since remote working culture is based on having good communication, knowing how to use these platforms effectively is key to your managers’ success.

Equally, effective communication, training, and dealing with difficult conversations are skills in themselves, and not ones which come naturally or easily to many managers.

Don’t overlook quality training in these areas; if your managers don’t have the right tools for the job, how are they going to ensure they achieve the desired outcomes?

10 key tips for onboarding

  1. Start day one with a welcome pack for new employees.
  2. Go through an induction checklist, cover off ‘new starter’ paperwork/health & safety/terms & conditions/cultures & values/data protection and security/your customers or services and a general overview of the company.
  3. Discuss their job profile.
  4. Ask them to write a bio to share with the team and share the team’s with them.
  5. Arrange one to one meeting with other team members to facilitate team bonding.
  6. Share important articles, announcements and other company information you may have in your knowledge base.
  7. Give them a “remote buddy” so they can set up calls and get to support one another.
  8. Encourage new starters to set up working hours on their calendar (Outlook or Google calendar) and enable them to have access to other team members’ calendars so they can see who is free and when to set up meetings. This is particularly important for those organisations with flexible working hours.
  9. Ensure that you regularly review the new employee’s progress.
  10. Give regular feedback to new employees; this is a new environment to them, and they want to do well and impress you.

For your company to be successful in the onboarding process, it is critical that investments are made to create a remote friendly workplace that makes everyone feel included and valued.

If you do not get your remote onboarding right, employees will feel isolated, frustrated, and disengaged.

This will then affect their productivity as well as their experience of the work environment and could lead to you having to restart the recruitment process from scratch.

MAD-HR has extensive experience of supporting our clients with developing and delivering successful remote recruitment and selection processes, as well as remote onboarding processes. If you would like some assistance in these areas, please contact a member of the team today.