Onboarding remote employees
Onboarding remote employees brings about new challenges that employers have had to face in the last year. Going forward, onboarding employees who work from home, will be more normal than ever before.
Employee onboarding is important because it acclimates employees to their role, the company’s values and philosophies, and what the company has to offer. It engages employees, creating workers that are committed to the company’s success. Moreover, it helps retain new hires by making them feel like a member of the team.
But how do you welcome, set up and train a new member of the team who you never actually see in person?
Memory.ai, a Norwegian company that has been working remotely for a long time, shares a few ideas on onboarding remote employees.
Sort paperwork for remote employees quickly and virtually
From a remote worker’s perspective it’s a game changer. Sloppy process and failure to sort the basic parts of remote operation sets the wrong tone. Be prompt with your offers and contracts, making sure all legal aspects of your new work relationship are settled before your new remote employee is ready to start. Everything can be done virtually: send email contracts and forms. Remember to get all your digital signatures set up. Then set up accounts and essential access log-ins to keep that momentum going. If possible, put your new employee in touch with someone working from the same city or country as them, to help answer any domestic questions.
Start onboarding remote employees in-person
Meeting in-person is essential for kick-starting remote teamwork. Where possible, bring your new remote worker to your main HQ for their first week of work. Starting your relationship in person is important for a few inter-personal essentials. This includes building meaningful relationships with the employee behind the picture, understanding how they like to communicate, and offering inclusion and group belonging from the beginning. These are all important factors for remote company culture and collaboration.
Meet big, then small
Welcoming someone new to the team is a big event for the whole company, even when you’re remote. A great idea is to start a new employee’s first day with a welcome breakfast and company-wide welcome call. All the other remote workers get to introduce themselves. And the new person gets to match faces to names and see how different people interact.
Furthermore, move onto more focused intros. For example, the core team the new remote employee will be working with, or key people around the company they may need to approach for different things.
To keep cross-team conversations going, you could even consider hooking your new worker up with a mentor or “buddy”. Ideally this is someone outside of their immediate work group, whom they can approach with questions and concerns.
Commit enough time to essential inductions for remote employees
With any employee onboarding, there’s always a ton of information to get through. However, it’s a bit more intense with remote employees who can’t start their work without everything falling into place first.
Ensure that you commit enough time to cover these essential inductions:
- An introduction to the company: the company’s purpose, values and goals, performance to-date and product history.
- How each department works: the strategy, workflows, people and processes; what everyone is working on; where they fit in.
- A tour of tools and documentation: from the purpose of different communication channels (e.g. email, Teams), to documentation, access to key resources and reports, and key company-wide events.
- Training: on tools, processes and getting up-to-speed on recent achievements and next steps.
One-on-one meetings with your new remote employee
Onboarding at best is overwhelming. Therefore, make sure you give your new employee space during their first few weeks just to process everything. However, with remote workers, you need to ensure they’re 100% set-up before they jet off back to their home office.
Most likely, you already have a plan for regular remote worker check-ins. Yet, for the first few months it’s wise to have weekly one-on-ones to give the new employee the opportunity to raise any questions and issues.
Importantly, you need to be sure that they feel comfortable heading back to resume their work from home. If your new remote worker isn’t clear on how to get started, you have more work to do. Regular one-on-ones are vital opportunities for learning how to better support your remote workers’ needs.
Let remote employees speak for themselves
Employee onboarding is a fairly passive experience. The employee is loaded with a ton of new information, which leads to them feeling overwhelmed. Therefore, ensure that there are opportunities to let your new remote employee express their personality and demonstrate how they like to work.
At Memory, each new employee is encouraged to put together a short presentation of themselves – no more than five minutes. They’re free to structure it how they want, talk about what they want, and use any medium they want just to give everyone a taste of their humor, background and interests. Every presentation is filmed, so that new remote employees can also look back on those of established employees to get to know their new colleagues too. Perhaps it’s a bit of an anxious exercise in group empathy, but everyone in the company – even the CEO – has to do it!
Stay connected after onboarding remote employees
Disconnect and isolation are two of the biggest threats to remote employees. Furthermore, studies show that the lack of physical presence leads remote workers to establish weaker relationships with their teammates than in-office counterparts.
Once the new remote worker is back at their home office, take every opportunity to strengthen relationships with them. As far as possible, hold company meetings, attend conferences together, and make an effort to meet up if you happen to be in the same area.
Remote team bonding should be a regular feature of each week. Companies have come up with great ideas. For example, at Memory.ai, the responsibility to organize remote lunches, games and celebrations is shared between the remote and in-house teams. Try out different group sizes and formats. One huge group video call doesn’t encourage meaningful individual interaction. Get creative with your activities.
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