Commencing a new job role at any time can be daunting, but imagine starting your new role in a pandemic, where your office is the home study and your new manager and workmates are mere faces on a screen. With the population of remote workers growing substantially, more than ever organisations are in need of a strong onboarding process.
To be succinct, the employee onboarding process is a series of formal and informal activities that allows a new hire to get to know their team members, understand their role, and learn about the company’s culture, methods and tools. We’ve all been through this process and know the value of those everyday interactions with our work colleagues in teaching us about the inner sanctum of our working environment. Imagine attempting this in a remote forum. Onboarding for remote employees is particularly important as they have less opportunity to organically integrate. To start out on the right foot, it is essential for employers get the basics sorted prior to day one; provision of documentation for signing, access to systems are set-up and working, and ongoing support in place.
Crucial to the long term success of a remote recruit is the dissemination of information, creating open channels of communication, and bringing the new recruit into the team so they can begin to build relationships with people key to their role. If feasible, bring the new recruit into the office environment for their first week and orient them face-to-face. In the absence of this luxury, you are reliant upon technology to achieve a smooth integration.
Naturally the essential induction provides an introduction to the company, its history and mission, and goals moving forward. Also its products and services, its customer base and where it sits in the marketplace. The inner workings of each department should be realised, with workflows, people and processes explained. The organisation’s systems should be toured so that your new recruit understands where to access policies and procedures, key resources and documentation. Bear in mind that a new recruit cannot physically begin their new role if they don’t have access to this information. That is to say, they can’t simply lean into the cubicle next to theirs and ask for assistance. Your onboarding process must be mindful of these constraints. If you’re not prepared, the chances of losing your new hire increase substantially.
To ensure you don’t lose your new remote employee, have a plan. Set up meetings with video links and introduce them to their team mates and other people in the organisation that are vital to achieving their responsibilities. You may want to develop a 100 day plan for them with key milestones built in at different intervals. You should agree on how you will measure the success of this plan over the 100 days. And give them an exercise to focus on that sees them collaborating with team members and getting to know not only how the company operates, but also its culture. It may be something as simple as developing an internal campaign for the company’s annual awards event.
Break up the formalities with some informal chats and online team get-togethers. Ask your team to reach out and introduce themselves. Building an emotional connection with team mates is just as important as learning the mechanics of the role and the organisation. Maybe schedule a team breakfast where everyone can share some personal insight into themselves and how they spent their weekend. It is important to actively engage regularly to eliminate that feeling of isolation that can so easily overcome those who work remote to their team. Onboarding in groups can create a sense of community among your new hires, so consider group inductions and a means for them to stay in touch in their first 30 days.
Of course you will want to be able to measure the success of your onboarding program. The tracking of statistics such as employee retention of remote personnel and productivity rates can be taken into account, however what is most valuable is direct feedback from your new employee. At six months ask what has worked well, what hasn’t worked, how they are fitting in with their teammates and what additional training and support they require. This will provide an excellent insight into the effectiveness of your communications and ability to build relationships within the team over this period. Your onboarding program should be adjusted to account for any failings or shortfalls.
Employees are twice as likely to look for a new job if their onboarding process fails to create a sense of belonging. To ease the transition, have a checklist that provides support and promotes comradery before and throughout their orientation. Remember, your key goal is to help your new hires acclimatise socially and professionally to their new work environment so that they can continue comfortably, effectively and with confidence.