The Joys and Challenges of Remote Onboarding: Advice for Employees and Employers
In the 18 months since the world shut down in March 2020, millions of Americans lost their jobs. I have read varying reports, but the count is somewhere in the ballpark of 30 million (give or take 10 million or so). That is 30 million people that have likely experienced job hunting, interviewing, and onboarding while being 100% remote. I am one of them. I started not one, but two new jobs since being laid off in early April 2020, and I have learned a few things along the way!
Tips for Employees:
Embrace video conferencing.
Pre-COVID, I worked for a company that didn’t allow employees to work from home. All of our team collaboration was done in the office via meetings. When COVID first started, video conferencing was scary! I wanted to keep my camera off, my microphone muted, and pretend I wasn’t there. I learned very quickly while onboarding remotely that video conferencing was my best friend. It was so much easier to ask a question or collaborate with my coworkers on a video call than through a long email chain or chat message.
With remote onboarding, you don't usually have the option to shadow someone or pop into their office to ask a question. This can be challenging for a new employee who wants to excel in their new role. Don’t suffer in silence! I have found that all my peers have been more than willing to help when I needed an explanation or a quick tutorial.
Ask for the equipment you need.
I function best with the largest monitor I can get my hands on – preferably two! After 2 weeks working exclusively on a 13” laptop, I reached out to IT to request a large monitor. In both of my positions, IT was more than happy to accommodate my request, and I was a happy camper!
Tips for Employers:
Offer social activities.
It is hard to feel like part of the team when you’ve never met most of your colleagues in person or discussed anything outside of work. Offering a virtual happy hour, a Halloween costume contest, a monthly book club, etc. will provide opportunities to be social and interact on a personal level.
Check in on your new hires.
A simple check-in via Slack, email, or video call will go a long way in helping your new hires feel supported.
Ask for feedback.
It is likely that remote onboarding is just as new to you as it is to your employee. Ask them for feedback! What worked, what didn’t work, what areas could be improved for the next hire?
You do you:
At the end of the day, do what makes you comfortable. Use those trusty, old-school earbuds if you prefer them to air pods (me!), write down your meeting notes instead of typing them (me!), have a separate notebook just for your to-do list (also me!). Being remote doesn’t mean you have to be 100% online or paperless. Set up a workspace and systems that allow you to be your best “remote” self.
Have you experienced virtual onboarding over the past several months? What helped you make the transition, and what do you wish had gone differently?