Remote Onboarding: Tips to Navigate this Current Necessity
I took a massive leap of faith when deciding to start a brand-new job in 2020. While I enjoyed the virtual interviews in my pajamas, I soon thought about how tough acclimating to a new job would be while working from home, and anxiously exclaimed, “I’ve never done this before!” to which I was reassured, “No one has ever done this before. No one has ever tried to hire, be hired, or onboard during a global pandemic before. We’re all figuring this out, together.” In March, companies had to quickly determine how to transition their current staff to a fully remote workforce – but hiring and training new employees remotely is another story.
After recently having a successful remote onboarding experience myself, here are some helpful tips for companies to navigate this current business necessity:
Lay the Groundwork
Provide your new hire with everything they might need for a successful start via cloud-based storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.). By creating a shared folder that contains important documents such as an employee handbook and agency templates, your new employee will have one central location to which they can refer throughout their onboarding process. It’s important to ensure that remote access to the company server and software is painless.
For paperwork and legal documents, companies can use secure methods, such as Google Forms, to safely request and receive personal information. Consider using an e-signature tool, like DocuSign, so that employees can add their signatures digitally.
Support, Train, and Transition
Despite the fact that your new employee is likely wearing their house slippers behind the screen, companies should strive to still make their initial experience feel structured and professional. Thoroughly plan out their first day by block-scheduling virtual meetings, allowing them to meet relevant staff members to learn more about their roles within the company and where their job responsibilities might intersect.
Designating a support person ensures your new hire will have someone to turn to for advice on tangible aspects of their job, as well as intangible aspects like typical workflow, team dynamics, and job-specific vernacular. This is especially important when working remotely to have a steady point of contact in lieu of the collective office environment. Scheduling a weekly one-on-one video chat to discuss current progress and resolve potential issues will help your new hire to feel supported. A recent study by LinkedIn found that 72% of employees said that one-on-one time with their manager was the most important part of any onboarding process.
Lastly, inform current clients that there will be a transfer of account/project management via introductory email or virtual meeting. Encourage your new employee to shadow for the first few weeks to gain the confidence of your clients and allow for a seamless transition.
Use Technology to Build Community
One challenge with remote work is how to make a new hire feel welcome, that they’re a part of the team, and to allow them to “meet” the staff in a meaningful way. “The human connection element is lost, there's no pretending otherwise,” says Alexander Wayman, Sales Training and Onboarding Manager. “The key is to focus on what you do to fill that gap.”
Virtual company-wide meetings allow other employees to meet the new addition and solidify a sense of company culture amidst remote work. The use of collaboration tools, shared docs and spreadsheets, and instant messaging software like Slack or Teams can also encourage community. If deemed safe, companies could even organize a socially-distanced, limited team meeting to allow them to further mingle.
In 2020, business is not as usual. With remote work for the foreseeable future, I’m grateful to have found a company that took the time to properly onboard and make me feel like part of the team. How can your company continue to adapt in this ever-evolving virtual work environment, and what are some other helpful remote onboarding tips?