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Onboarding remote employees

Feb 16, 2022
Onboarding remote employees

Hybrid work is the norm for our industry now. As surprised as we might have been if you told us this two years ago, it’s a whole new world.

That also means that as businesses grow, they’re taking on a whole new kind of employee: The remote worker. The luxury of having plenty of face time in the office with every new starter is something we perhaps took for granted. As we continue to reap the numerous benefits of diversifying our ways of working across hybrid and remote models, it’s always handy to check in with some best-practice tactics for onboarding those remote employees.

See our top tips below.

Set expectations

The recruitment process is the beginning of the onboarding experience for the candidate, especially for remote employees, so it’s important that expectations are set during the interview process. Be aware of the common struggles of remote employees and share your ideas for solutions to these. Managing workloads, ill-defined hours of work, and lack of accountability are always amongst remote employees’ negative feedback. Be transparent and honest about workload, hours of work, and any key performance goals for their role. Defining these at an early stage will help you avoid confusion or conflict further down the line. 

Also, remember that with the candidates not actually stepping foot in your office for an interview, they’ll be relying on your social media and website to measure your culture and vibe. Make sure these tools authentically portray your employee experience as well as they convey your customer experience. Ensure your “Meet the team” page is up-to-date and accurate and don’t be afraid to post internal fun (albeit over video chat or instant messaging at the moment) on your social media, it doesn’t have to all be about the product or service on some social channels!

Have a specialised process

Take some time to create a remote onboarding checklist. There’s a good chance you have a checklist in existence already for new hires, but maybe not specific to remote hires. Some points will remain the same, others won’t be relevant, and some new ones will have to be created especially. You want them to feel comfortable and able to crack on with work as soon as possible, so think about what tools and information they’ll need to get up to speed. Consider your tech stack – who needs to set your employee up on what platforms? Be as detailed as possible. If your office manager, or the employee themselves are responsible for fulfilling a checkpoint, they should know exactly what they need to do. Being clear about this from the start means your employee will be up and running sooner rather than later. They’ll also have a much better experience as a new starter.

Send a welcome pack (if possible)

While some things like your company handbook, offer letter and contract, can be sent digitally, some things need a little bit of advanced planning. This is a great opportunity to also send a welcome package in the mail. If you’re unable to get the items you would normally gift in a welcome pack, branded hoodies, notepads, pens etc. due to this isolation period, then have a think of something else you could send instead. Even if it is not company branded, your new starter would still appreciate some new pens and a notepad to use in their new role. You could send them a pamper package to relax after their first week on the job. Just something to say, ‘Welcome – you’re part of the team!’ and to let them know you’re excited for them to join the gang, even though it’s not face-to-face.

Introduce the team

Helping your new employee meet their colleagues is easy when they’re in the office, you waltz them round the office, introducing them to everyone and explaining roles and team structures. Sure, they might forget some names for the first few days, but nothing beats a friendly, in-person chat, welcoming smile and lunch break catch-ups. This is a little trickier with remote employees, but don’t let that be a reason to not do it. 

It’s best to do this over video so the new hire can still ‘put faces to names’. This will also help curb the feelings of isolation and nervousness about reaching out to people with tasks or questions and fast-track their grasp of the company’s culture.

Make sure you put time aside to introduce them to the team and don’t let it get put off. Not feeling properly part of the business can be really disheartening for a new start, which in turn is likely to hinder their performance. Also, make sure they know the social calendar, you don’t want them missing out on Friday pints, even if it is just on a video platform. It’s nice to get to know about your colleagues’ lives outside of work.  

Ask what works for them, accommodate and adapt 

We’ve so far spoken about setting boundaries and expectations from your perspective. However, take the time to ask about their preferences for things you are prepared to be flexible on. Hearing how your new employee would prefer to hear feedback, take meetings, or be issued tasks can make all the difference. Taking the time to hear their thoughts gives them confidence that you’re prepared to listen to them and that you’re considering their specific needs. Why not create a ‘How I work’ document and ask your new employee to fill it out? Set a time to revisit this too as their preferences may change as they settle in, and processes may need to be revised. 

Always be learning

Since remote onboarding is looking like it will be becoming more ‘normal’ in the current climate, you want to make sure you did your job well. So, ask your new starts for feedback, how they found the onboarding process and if they have any suggestions on how to improve for future remote employees. 

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