Remote Onboarding: the New Normal for New Employees
Starting a new job can be a daunting proposition: you’ve got new managers and colleagues to meet, new software to familiarise yourself with, and new processes to learn. All of this can be overwhelming enough under normal circumstances, but thanks once again to COVID-19, tradition has been flipped on its head and all these steps are now often performed remotely. Even as restrictions ease, it looks like the work-from-home paradigm is here to stay, meaning more and more employees will be kicking off their new jobs remotely.
Onboarding is a new employee’s introduction to the workplace, a time to connect with one’s peers and learn the company culture and environment. But how does this work when new employees never step foot in an office or come face-to-face with a single colleague?
Here are a few simple ways to make the remote onboarding process as stress-free as possible for newcomers.
Get set up and ready to go
Before work can begin, all the necessary hardware and software needs to be in place. Make sure an employee’s technical infrastructure, such as internet connection, meets company standards.
All software and tools should already be installed on a new employee’s PC or laptop (or these devices should be provided by the company with everything set up) before day one, because any oversights are going to be slow to correct since an employee can’t simply walk over to IT and ask for help. If the company is providing hardware, be sure to arrange a convenient pick-up point for the employee or plan a courier well in advance of the starting date.
Additionally, make sure all the required onboarding documents such as contracts, forms and certifications have been updated and digitised and are ready to be shared electronically. Include an employee handbook that features mission statements, key employment law policies, work scheduling, and other important information.
Introductions, introductions, introductions
No matter the size of your company – from a handful of employees to thousands – it’s a guarantee your new hire won’t be working alone, so don’t let them feel as if they are.
Since face-to-face introductions are off the table, use whatever conferencing software is available at the company to arrange meetings between the new employee and those they will be working with most closely, beginning with immediate team members and line managers.
But don’t stop the introductions there: let the new hire know that there are other moving parts to the organisation. Arrange meetings with people from other departments and company leadership so that the new employee has a greater sense of the company at large and how it functions. The better they understand all the moving parts, the more comfortable they will feel in their new role.
Ease into the flow, but stick to a structure
Getting thrown in the deep end is certainly one way to learn how to swim, but the risk of drowning is much higher when a new employee is working in isolation as conventional support structures aren’t immediately at hand. Start the new hire with smaller projects or tasks, ones that encourage collaboration with their teammates or put their skills to the test. This easing in will help the new hire grow comfortable in their role as well as familiarise them with their peers and work environment.
Begin with a 30, 60, 90-day plan to help chart a course for success for the first three months. Keep these tasks manageable and logical, eventually escalating in responsibilities as time goes on – your new hire should be able to see their growth in their role mapped out in clear, achievable goals.
Employees who complete a structured onboarding program reach full productivity 34% faster than those who are not offered any onboarding. New employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organisation after three years.
Appoint an onboarding “buddy”
Company culture can be taken for granted by long-time employees, but it’s all new and strange for a wide-eyed newcomer. As part of the remote onboarding process, designate a team member as the new employee’s “buddy”, someone who is available to answer the questions that may seem obvious or implicit, but which need to be made explicit for the new hire.
Don’t necessarily rely on the new employee’s line manager to fulfil this role – a buddy should be someone who you can ask those dumb questions to without feeling judged in your job role.
Nurture a relationship in which there are no stupid questions, only opportunities for greater understanding and integration into the company’s ecosystem. This will allow new hires to become more comfortable with asking questions and help them develop a strong relationship with one of their new colleagues.
Create a culture vulture
Integrate your new hire into the company culture and by showcasing your values through digital or e-learning assets (there are many innovative ways to relay this information that don’t rely on a 50-page manual or handbook). Show your new employee what makes your team and your company special – and, likewise, demonstrate why you’re happy to have them on the team. This is a critical step in forming a sense of belonging and mitigating feelings of isolation.
Short social sessions – such as virtual lunch or coffee-dates – are critical when working remotely. We don’t have the spontaneous opportunities to nurture “work” relationships now that we are not physically in an office, but this shouldn’t mean we simply accept missing out on creating these opportunities. Knowing your fellow workmates helps you work more effectively with each other
The sooner a newcomer gains an insight into the inner workings of your company, the sooner they will be at ease and come into their own as a contributing member of the team who feels valued by the organisation.
Refine with feedback
Provide as much support as possible during these first few months. Ask for constant feedback to make sure the new employee hasn’t been swept away by an overwhelming tide of new information or challenging tasks.
Be aware that it can be difficult for newcomers to ask for help, so provide a forum for them to share their thoughts on the onboarding process. This information is not only useful for refining the process of the current new hire’s onboarding but might prove invaluable for future hires as well.
Try your best to make the new hire feel connected and included in company structures as working from home can exacerbate feelings of isolation, confusion and disjointedness.
A strong onboarding process can be one of the biggest determinators in a new employee’s ultimate success, and since remote work looks like it’s here to stay, companies owe it to themselves and their staff to continuously examine and refine the methods of remote onboarding.
Contact us today to find out more about how TTRO can help you build a great digital onboarding experience for your new starters.