Onboarding is one of the first steps in building a connection with your new employees. When done right, it increases employee retention and productivity. But here’s the thing: almost 9 out of 10 companies don’t do it well. The past few years have made it even trickier to onboard employees — you have to send your warm welcome from your home desk to your new hire’s office at home, with a whole new goal added to your list: help them prevail over the isolation of remote work.
So what makes a solid remote onboarding process? It takes creativity and careful planning, of course. Below are tips for successfully onboarding remote employees.
Plugging in to your new office is probably one of the most exciting things about starting a new job. There’s nothing like the feeling of a fresh start at a new company. So please don’t spoil it with stressful technical difficulties or login problems. Instead, make the transition seamless and stress-free is by ensuring that access to systems, emails, and learning resources are readily available as early as possible.
Add your new hires to your communication channels weeks before their first day. Then, send them videos and other resources that give them a glimpse of your company culture and the projects they will be working on soon.
Make new employees feel welcome right off the bat. Send them a welcome package containing company merch and swag. They’re going to love it! It is also essential to let them know how they can access employee benefits — partner discounts, health insurance, and learning opportunities, among others.
Successful remote onboarding relies heavily on the content. Will your learning materials successfully introduce your new hires to their jobs? One great way to ensure this is to empower your subject matter experts to impart their knowledge regardless of which team they belong to. This should take some pressure off the HR and the L&D departments, and it also allows new employees to interact with other departments.
Employee learning today is so much more exciting and fun. You can use a blend of learning module types and software. Several types of training are used in remote onboarding, such as gamification and scenario-based learning. Your remote employees should be able to navigate all types of learning modules with confidence and ease. In addition, give them access to all the resources they need to succeed in their jobs — manuals, guides, instructional videos, live training, support teams, and critical team members who can answer specific questions.
With remote work, check-ins are more necessary and also more challenging. Pablo Fernandez is an entrepreneur and advisor to engineering teams. He is passionate about creating better ways for fully distributed teams to collaborate. When it comes to remote onboarding, he says that the main objective of anyone in a leadership position is to make sure new joiners feel part of the team. “You should pre-establish what you want them to know, which processes they will need to become familiar with, which tools to use and be sure to set some engagement rules, too.”
It is easy for remote workers to get distracted and off-track, so make one-on-one check-ins part of the onboarding schedule. Schedule recurring one-on-ones in advance off essential milestones — first month, 90th day, 6th month, and the first year. These check-ins are also your way to follow through with your successful welcome and let them know that it wasn’t just for show.
Ask new joiners what’s up. And do so consistently. Aside from plotting check-ins on your onboarding schedule, collect feedback regularly. This includes scheduled survey questions during milestones and spontaneous conversations on how the onboarding process is helping them. It is also important to get prompt feedback. Regular feedback enables you to refine your learning materials and resources as you go.
In the end, you must be able to measure learner progress and success against clear and specific metrics. Keep the metrics specific, measurable, and time-bound. For example, new sales representatives should be able to do a product presentation (specific) with a score of at least 90% (measurable) by the end of the first month (time-bound). Mix role-specific and general metrics in measuring learner performance and overall satisfaction.
Measure the success of the onboarding process itself, as well. Are the new hires happy? Monitor employee satisfaction levels by regularly sending out survey questionnaires. Are there more people leaving? Track employee turnover as this can indicate that something is not done right. An increased voluntary turnover might be an onboarding problem — inadequate training, culture mismatch, or not getting the expected benefits.
Schedule virtual meet-and-greets. Announce it in your regular team meetings so the team can get some facetime with their colleagues. Consider assigning a mentor or a work buddy to create a sense of belonging from day one.
An excellent way to build connections early is to show videos of current employees telling new hires about themselves, their work, interests, and the company. This helps humanize the remote onboarding process.
Pablo also suggests that heads of departments should record videos introducing themselves, their departments, what they do and how best to interact with them.
For teammates who have lunch at the same time, lunch-outs are a great way to bond and talk about things other than work. You can do this remotely by sending out gift cards for food delivery, then having lunch together via video conference. Make it structured but not stiff with fun conversation starters.
New hires must be able to familiarize themselves with the big picture from the beginning. A great way to do this is to introduce them to key stakeholders in their jobs. This gives context to their role and lets them know who they will be working with.
Onboarding activities do not usually allow for movement. So a great way to break up the day is to conduct walking meetings. A walking meeting is a more interactive version of the usual video meet-and-greet. Apps like Spot allow for audio-only virtual meetings that can help your team relieve stress and add movement to the workday.
After a slew of video meetings, a voice-only meeting can be a refreshing option during onboarding. Steffen Wendt is an operations specialist at Wolt and he is very enthusiastic about how walking meetings can build relationships. “My style of leadership is based on creating a safe space. Therefore, it’s important to listen before you speak (which Spot is amazing for). Taking time to listen is the best way to strengthen relationships with remote team members.” Steffen recommends using walking meetings as a time to get to know your remote teammates - their interests, hobbies, how their families are, etc.
Not to mention walking meetings are a great way to encourage new hires to stay fit and healthy while working from home.
Don’t be afraid to inject fun into the onboarding process. The first few months of a new hire’s entry into the organization are crucial, so ensure that your activities and programs are not flat and boring.
A series of video meetings, workshops, and training sessions can be draining for new employees. So shake things up by making meetings more dynamic. Check out Spot’s blog to know more about walking meetings and how we can help you find a better balance between work and life.
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