When the COVID pandemic struck, many of Canada’s businesses shut their offices and directed employees to work from home indefinitely. Now over a year into the pandemic, remote work is firmly entrenched in our work culture and is here to stay. Onboarding remote employees follow the same process as onboarding “in-office” employees, with a few obvious variations associated with their off-site location. The process of onboarding, whether a formal structured approach or a more relaxed informal method, involves a series of activities that are designed to acquaint new hires with their role, your company and its policies, processes, tools, and culture. For remote employees, who can often feel isolated and disconnected, it’s essential for them to feel engaged and connected with their coworkers. Onboarding is also important for your business because when everyone is united, working towards achieving a common goal – your business thrives.
When you bring new people on board, it’s your responsibility to ensure that they have everything needed to be successful in their role. Onboarding remote employees can be challenging because they are physically distant. However, it’s not impossible to create a welcoming onboarding process that nurtures the success and happiness of remote employees. Here is a checklist of activities to include in your onboarding process for newly hired remote employees.
1. Create an onboarding plan
It can take longer to onboard a remote employee simply because they are not in the office. Creating an onboarding plan can reduce the stress and anxiety newly hired remote employees may have by providing access to information about the company (workplace culture, company values, mission, policies, etc.), along with a structured process of activities such as completing paperwork, online orientation training, role-specific training, meeting coworkers, etc.
2. Arrange for any technology requirements in advance
Before a remote employee’s start date, order all relevant hardware such as laptops, additional monitors, headsets, and any other hardware required. Have a member of your IT department standby to assist the remote employee with any setup requirements, such as establishing log-in credentials, access to company applications and sites.
3. Simplify HR paperwork
Completing the necessary HR paperwork can be time consuming and overwhelming. Each new hire is required to complete a series of employment forms, such as employment contracts, health benefit enrolment forms, direct deposit forms, tax forms, emergency information forms, etc. You can reduce the amount of time it takes to complete these documents by using onboarding software solutions that automatically send these documentation tasks to new employees and capture electronic signatures.
4. Make remote employees feel welcomed & included
Whether your remote employee is a new hire or a long-term employee transitioning into a remote position, they need to feel welcomed and included. Provide newly hired remote employees with a welcome package that includes such things as, company branded merchandise, a welcome letter or note from the team, or a message from the company president/CEO. You can also include personalized gifts such as a set of headphones or gift certificates to a local or online store. Encourage remote employees to use social media or team chats to engage with team members and post team updates.
5. Connect remote employees to the team
Introduce your newly hired remote employee to the team and other employees. Make a point to introduce them at all team or office meetings. Ensure you include them in all relevant project meetings, brainstorming sessions, or project discussions. Get creative and host virtual office tours where teammates can say a quick “hello”. Once a remote employee feels welcomed and part of a team, they can begin to build relationships with their peers.
6. Establish communication conventions
Workplace communication is vital for the exchange of information and ideas. It’s also key to ensuring a successful and happy team. Provide remote employees with communication avenues that promote open lines of communication through approved channels such as chat, group messaging, video chats, phone, and email. It’s also important to provide a new employee with clear direction on who to contact and when. This will help them feel more confident about reaching out.
7. Provide any role-specific training
It can be difficult to provide remote employees with role-specific training, especially when they are not physically present, and real-time communication is limited. To overcome these challenges, consider using interactive training modules that include quizzes and boost engagement. Use video training to demonstrate product or service features, or processes. Remote employees need to know how to produce deliverables, follow processes and comply with necessary reporting cycles and requirements. Follow-up after each training session to answer any questions a remote employee may have.
8. Arrange training with your IT department
It’s important that new hires understand how to use the hardware, applications and tools they need to successfully perform their jobs. With this training, remote employees can become familiar with computer security requirements, password management and data encryption tools, cloud backup software, VPNs, and file sharing applications.
9. Set specific goals and expectations for remote employees
Don’t make them guess. Set specific goals and expectations. Define any short or long-term goals and deliverables for the role. Use a task calendar to help you and the employee keep track of their progress. It’s also important to schedule weekly check-in meetings to discuss progress and resolve any potential issues or setbacks.
10. Host and promote team-building opportunities
Remote employees are often overlooked when it comes to team-building exercises. You can make remote employees feel more connected by including them in various team-building activities. As an example, you can establish video team lunch and learns, invite remote employees to after work get-togethers, invite them to annual company conferences, or events. If distance is a factor, you can still encourage team members to engage in fun activities to enhance team comradery such as hosting a virtual happy hour or by involving the team in online games, such as a quick round of trivia.
11. Schedule regular check-in meetings
Conducting regular check-in meetings is key to ensure remote employees continue to be engaged and are achieving the goals and deliverables set. It also gives you an opportunity to assess whether the employee is struggling with certain tasks or processes. Tailor these meetings according to the remote employee’s role, job functions and individual work style.
12. Provide opportunities for professional development
By providing opportunities for continued learning and development, you demonstrate that you value the employee and that their contributions are important. You can incorporate professional development into your onboarding process in several ways, including online training courses, self-paced certifications, tuition reimbursement, etc.
Lastly, if it’s feasible, and if the remote employee is based near your office, arrange for an in-person meeting or get them onsite to meet their coworkers in person. There is just something about meeting in person that can’t be readily replaced by a video call. People often bond over meals or by participating in team games. However, if your entire team is distributed and fully remote, you can still find ways to create bonding experiences for remote employees. If you haven’t developed an onboarding strategy for remote employees or you need to tweak an existing one, Vexxit can match you with an HR consultant who can help your company create an onboarding strategy that works for you. They can also help you design recruitment and retention strategies that ensure happier and more satisfied employees.