The remote team onboarding process can be immensely more challenging than the onsight or in-person onboarding process. Most employers just settling into the new norm of remote working are beginning to realize the long-term impact a poor onboarding experience could have on their remote teams. For example, statistics show that about 66% of U.S. employees work remotely, at least part-time, and 68% prefer to be fully remote. However, since statistics prove that a more significant percentage of the population in the U.S. and around the world choose to work remotely, there's been a change in how companies onboard new employees. Moreover, since effective onboarding improves retention, many employees are rethinking the onboarding process to include remote workers. If you are a company or business looking to effectively onboard your remote team, you have come to the right place. This article will guide you through the remote team onboarding process.
READ MORE: 7 Best Practices for Managing a Remote Team
What Is the Remote Team Onboarding Process?
Remote onboarding refers to integrating a new employee (remote worker) into a company and introducing them to the company's culture and policies so that they can become effective and contributing team members through video calls, tech tools and other remote onboarding systems. The onboarding process is done remotely via technology without any face-to-face interactions. Onsight onboarding usually involves new employees getting to know their team and learning about the company's attitudes, methods, culture, policies, and tools. Remote onboarding usually follows the same process, but the only difference is that remote onboarding is done via video calls and other remote tools.
How long should remote onboarding take?
The onboarding process of a remote employee should be entirely up to the company. For example, it might be two weeks or three months, depending on how the employee adjusts to the company's culture and policies in addition, statistics suggest that companies should extend the remote employee onboarding process throughout their first year. This way, remote employees will become more productive, get to know their peers, feel comfortable in their work environment, learn who to call or chat with when they have questions, adapt to the company culture, and build better employee/employer work relationships.
Why is the Onboarding Process Important?
Integrating a new employee into the company's workforce is essential for the company and the employee. This ensures that the remote employee is fully aware of the culture, policies, guidelines, company staff, and other important information. On the other hand, most people often mistake onboarding for the same thing as orientation. On the one hand, orientation is an event introducing people to a particular item, whereas onboarding is a continuous process during a team member's first year.
Having an excellent remote team onboarding process can help in the following ways;
- Improves long-term job satisfaction
- Better team member retention
- Employees become more productive since they are carried along in the company's events and activities because they feel part of the company and enjoy the same privilege their onsight team enjoys.
- Reduces anxiety and remote work burnout: Since they are fully integrated into the company, they enjoy breaks, vacations, and other relaxing events created by the company.
- Sets expectations
- Increase work motivation
Best Practices for Onboarding Remote Employees
It is very unlikely that a new employee joining your organization has experienced a fully virtual onboarding process since most companies often do their onboarding in person. With this in mind, create a plan to leverage various strategies to help remote employees have a seamless onboarding process. Here are some best practices that you can emulate in your company.
1. Start Your Onboarding Process Early
Most employers wait till the first day of the employee before starting the onboarding process. Don't get me wrong; I am not saying it isn't good. What I am saying is that it can be done in a better way. Megan McCann at McCann Partners suggested that companies start sending out welcome packages. This package can be sent out after the employee has accepted the offer. As a company, you can send your recruit the following;
- A copy of the company's handbook should contain the policies and guidelines of the company.
- A staff book containing various pictures, contact t details, emails, and social media handles each staff so the employee can start connecting with them.
- The onboarding process agenda
- Important H.R. documents to sign
- Something fun for their remote office
Sending this package will help your new employees ease anxiety, doubt and uncertainty.
For the first day of the onboarding process, Megan suggests hosting a virtual lunch during their first day and asking them questions about what will make them successful in their new role. She suggested that teammates record a welcome message and send it to the employee's inbox.
2. Assign a Dedicated Onboarding Liaison.
We all know that employees might be shy to ask specific questions from the manager, which leaves the employee struggling with one or two issues. As a company, you can assign someone who will be an informal mentor to the new employee. This person will answer employee questions and concerns about the company and other related things. The last thing you want is your employees to feel uncertain about whom to address the right question. Ideally, the onboarding mentor should proactively reach out to the new employee before the first day and establish themselves as the new individual's go-to person.
3. Personalize the onboarding process
Every onboarding process should be tailored to the needs and expectations of each remote employee As a company. You need to offer customized learning paths that provide information and support for each role and their learning needs and speed. Offer timely follow-ups, near-constant availability to answer questions, set meaningful expectations with new employees throughout the process and provide technology that creates an immersive, unique hire candidate experience. Give them time to absorb information and stay flexible. Not everyone is the same, and your onboarding process needs to incorporate that. This will allow them to experience the company's culture and work dynamically without physically being in the office.
4. Introduce a new remote team to the company culture
Research shows that 93% of employers believe that onboarding plays a critical role in an employee's decision to stay or leave the company. Furthermore, a good onboarding experience improves long-term job satisfaction by more than 2.6 times. These statistics show how important the onboarding process is to your employees. Remote workers feel disconnected from their companies and are often left out of events and activities concerning the company. Regardless of where they are, your remote employees are a part of your company and should feel welcomed.
The onboarding process can start by providing resources that introduce them to your organizational makeup, their colleagues and teammates, the company's events and activities, cultures and policies. You can do this by;
- Sending out a digitalized version of your company's handbook.
- Sharing videos, pictures, or infographics from company meetings, hangouts, retreats, birthdays, anniversaries, etc
- Any content or literature articulating your company's mission, vision and values.
5. Help New Hires Build Connections
Companies need to move beyond the remote “onboarding” process in which they consider an admin and tech setup to think more about the “integration process.” The integration system helps the employee by embedding them into the work culture and helping them build meaningful connections. One good way to do this is to create a buddy system for new employees. This buddy will be their point of call to answer any issues they may have regarding the company. Employees might feel comfortable asking a question from a colleague rather than the manager or CEO of the company. This buddy can also connect them with other team members with similar interests.
6. Set up technology before the start date.
Another way to onboard your remote team is by connecting them with the I.T. department. This ensures that the employees are familiar with the various tools that the company work with. Especially video conferencing, communication channels and project management tools can be a little complicated. This will ensure that the employee's first day is as seamless and stress-free as possible. Eradicating first-day anxiety and minimizing technical issues allows new employees to be fully present and more comfortable on day one. You can send your employee a new laptop and or phone before the start date, fully set up with the proper company configurations and security protocols. This creates a connection to the organization and reduces new employee anxiety.
7. Encourage virtual Lunch
Companies can encourage a virtual lunch meeting with new employees to get to know them better. This lunch can include all company staff or a meeting with the manager and departmental team, depending on the company's size.
Remote Onboarding Tips
Here are some exciting tips to take note of on the first day on the job with your new employees.
- Check-in immediately. First, check in with your employees to ensure they have everything they need to get started.
- Suggest helpful hints. As a company, you can share or suggest beneficial tips that will benefit your employees to reduce the anxiety and pressure they already feel.
- Allow them to introduce themselves. You can ask them to introduce themselves on the channels or in the Zoom meeting with other employees and staff of the company. Personal info and include a photo or two!
- Have them socialize with other new hires. You can organize a group call with all new employees to walk them through the onboarding process while learning new things about each other.
- Introduce them to the tools used by the company: It is good to familiarize your remote team employees with various remote tools you use to get the work done. For example, it might range from project management tools to communication tools to video conferencing tools. Make sure they get the technical know-how of the devices.
- Ask if they need any help: Ask if they need help so you can connect them with an experienced work colleague who will serve as a buddy. They can subsequently contact and connect with the person when the need arrives.
- Keep checking in regularly. Checking in regularly will help them feel welcome and supported.
Creating a seamless onboarding process for your remote employees is good for employees' success and productivity. Remote workers often feel disconnected from the company they work for, and this not only affects productivity and employee morale, but it also affects mental health. Employees need to integrate their remote workforce into their company's culture early to ensure that the employee adapts very quickly to how they do things in the company. Onboarding your remote team is a win for companies and their employees. A win for the company in the sense that it leads to more productivity and a win for the employees in the sense that it creates a healthy working relationship.