5 Tips for Onboarding Employees Remotely

As companies adapt to the changes brought on by COVID-19, organizations are evaluating their hiring plans and processes. For some companies, hiring remote employees might be a completely normal and familiar task. For other companies, this might feel very unnatural and raise a lot of questions.
| HR Tips & Tools
Jul 28, 2020
Welcome team lunches, office tours, and in-person introductions with company leaders are all common onboarding practices that can no longer exist in the era of remote hiring. Additionally, with significant distance between employees, even basic communication can be a challenging feat.

Fortunately, there are many ways that you can overcome these onboarding hurdles. Below are a few tips that any company can consider when onboarding remote employees.

1. Create a Digital Onboarding Checklist
The first step in your onboarding process should involve putting together a digital onboarding checklist. Ideally, this is provided to new hires in one mobile-optimized, branded, and streamlined onboarding portal. Employees don't want to pull resources from several locations – this quickly becomes confusing, frustrating, and only adds time to the onboarding process.

Below are some things to include in your onboarding checklist:
Documents and forms that they need to sign (contract, tax forms, benefits form etc.)
Login credentials for email and other tools
Employee handbook
Privacy policy
A checklist of short and long-term goals
2. Team Introductions
For many new hires, it can be a little intimidating joining a new company. From meeting new people to taking on different work, there are tons of changes happening that can make the initial stages feel overwhelming.

To get new employees settled in, one of the most important things you can do is to get them connected with colleagues. Of course, doing this in a remote environment will require more foresight and planning.

Does your company use video calling software to organize virtual meetings? Consider using this for other purposes beyond formal business calls. Schedule a team meeting where you can introduce your new hires. Prepare some questions that will allow them to share background information and get connected with the team. Consider topics such as previous work experience, hobbies, and where they grew up.

You can also use other video software, such as VCV's, to allow existing employees to create short introduction videos. Existing employees can record a short clip discussing some basic background information such as their role in the company, how long they've worked at the company, and their hobbies. Sharing background information with new hires in advance will allow everyone to get acquainted much easier.

Once this is complete, consider scheduling virtual coffee breaks between the new hire and existing team members. It's much easier to reach out to colleagues down the road if you've already met them in an informal manner.
3. Check-in on New Hires
It can be easy for hires to feel disconnected in a remote environment, especially if they are new and still learning the company culture. To support new employees, be sure to check in on them regularly.

You don't have to message them constantly, but consider scheduling a few one-on-one meetings during the first few weeks – even just 10 minute meetings can be sufficient. This time can be used to address challenges and provide clarification.

Also, make sure that you can be easily reached through your company's messaging tool. As the employee progresses through the onboarding process, they may have quick questions or need help accessing resources. This is a great way to provide timely support.

Additionally, unlike video calls, messaging platforms can provide the added benefit of permanency. Employees might find it helpful to revisit past conversations to obtain information.
4. Prepare Activities that Reinforce Learning
Sometimes new employees need a step in between their training phase and project execution phase to reinforce their learning. Extra reinforcement becomes even more helpful when employees are working remotely and don't have the benefit of seeing others do a similar job.

To ensure that employees are on the right track, consider creating small exercises that involve skills and processes that they've learned in training. For instance, if someone is joining the company as a client success professional, have them draft a few replies to common client concerns.

This is the perfect time to clarify expectations and provide support if they are stuck. Allowing them to begin a project in a low-stakes environment is a great way to keep remote hires at ease as they prove their skills.
5. Request Feedback
We all know that giving feedback to new hires is a critical component of any onboarding process. However, it can also be quite helpful to request feedback from new employees about their onboarding experiences. This information can allow you to improve your company's onboarding process and ensure that there is a positive employee experience from the get-go.

When requesting feedback, avoid asking generic questions. To obtain valuable information, ask open-ended questions about certain elements of the onboarding process. Some examples might include:
Was any information missing as you progressed through the onboarding process?
What could be improved about the onboarding process?
What was your favorite part about the onboarding process
How could the onboarding process be more organized?
If you expect remote hiring to be a part of your company's future, then it is probably worthwhile to gain feedback as soon as possible so you can start enhancing the process.

Final Thoughts
It's no secret that onboarding remote employees presents more challenges than in-person onboarding. Without colleagues to tap on the shoulder and converse with, it can be difficult for new hires to feel supported and fit into the company culture.

However, this doesn't mean that a great onboarding experience is impossible. If you invest an adequate amount of time into planning your remote onboarding, then this process can be productive from the start. Clear communication is the foundation of a good onboarding experience – remote or not. By focusing on communication and the tips outlined above, you will surely be on the right track with remote onboarding.
Author Bio
Megan Doleweerd is a Marketing Coordinator at InFlight. InFlight is an Employee Experience Platform (EXP) that optimizes existing software investments to resolve bottlenecks that result from overly complicated applications creating friction for candidates and employees. InFlight uses analytics to improve the user experience, reduce training and support requirements, and streamline workflows for existing HCM, ATS, Financials, and other applications.
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