Onboarding is an important aspect of any company that hires new employees. It helps staff feel welcomed and connected with other employees, and helps to set expectations. The onboarding process, if done correctly, can also impact your company’s ability to retain the staff that you’ve worked so hard to recruit and train.
When it comes to remote employees and hybrid teams, the onboarding process can’t simply be overlooked. It needs to be adapted and transformed from the traditional face-to-face onboarding process. And when there’s a sudden transition from traditional work environments to remote ones, having a remote onboarding process to manage that transition can prove very helpful and can save time and money through enhanced productivity.
Below we explore the importance of the onboarding process, and some tips for creating an effective onboarding process that is tailored to the needs of remote and hybrid teams.
The importance of a company onboarding process
There are many benefits to having a formalised remote onboarding process. It helps to make new staff feel welcome, introduces them to the company culture, gives them a sense of expectations, and helps to convey company values.
While some people may be tempted to rush the onboarding process to get employees focused on being productive – that in itself can actually lead to decreased productivity and can also impact staff retention rates. That’s why your remote onboarding process is now even more important as it can help you attract and retain great talent.
Tips for effective remote onboarding for remote and hybrid teams
Below we discuss some tips to help you create an effective onboarding strategy and process. This will take some careful consideration and planning to ensure it suits the needs of your organization and staff, as well as your budget.
Have a structured approach to onboarding
Your approach to onboarding is a reflection on the company. If it’s well structured and organised, this will reflect positively on your company and will show employees what’s expected.
Creating a standardised method or checklist for onboarding will help to ensure that you don’t forget any important aspects. It also ensures that all employees go through the same onboarding process.
Welcome new staff
Part of the purpose behind having an onboarding process is to make new staff feel welcome. It may sound obvious, but not all companies begin the onboarding process with a warm welcome.
It’s important to do this to show your new staff how happy and excited you are to have them join the team. It also sets the tone for future working relationships and making a good first impression can have lasting impacts.
During your virtual welcome, you can explain your company’s onboarding process and what to expect in terms of the next steps to come. Sometimes onboarding is done in person, even if a company is fully remote; other times it’s done remotely. A comprehensive onboarding process could last several weeks.
Whatever format of onboarding your company has, it’s important to make mention of it during the hiring stage, so that employees are forewarned what to expect. This is particularly important if any travel is required.
Make the first day memorable
First impressions really do last, so make sure that you create a long-lasting and positive impression by creating an amazing first day for new staff. You may decide to have a face-to-face first day, or you may opt to host it virtually.
You will need to include training on remote working within your company, outlining your remote work policy and communication requirement etc. You may want to start off the day with an informal chat about the company and its mission, explaining the organizational chart, and expectations. You may also want to virtually introduce the new staff member to the rest of the team and their manager – perhaps over a cup of coffee.
Some employers go an extra mile to make the first day special for remote staff by ordering a delivery meal, or having company branded clothing delivered to the employee. This is similar to what an in-office first day may have been with everyone sitting around a table enjoying donuts or a snack.
Ensure remote staff have the necessary equipment and resources
To be able to work effectively and efficiently, remote staff need access to office equipment (or coworking spaces) as well as relevant company software and tools.
Some companies provide a stipend to cover the costs of creating a workstation at home and some provide employees with dedicated computers and other software. Most companies will also need to set up secure file sharing and internet or cybersecurity systems.
Make sure that you communicate before the employee’s first day on the job as to whether you will be providing any support for them to establish their home office so they can get set up in advance. Also ensure that you provide employees with information about software setups and security access before the start of work. If you plan to provide employees with equipment like laptops, ensure that these items are purchased or sent ahead of their first day.
Institute a remote mentoring program at work
An effective way to make employees feel welcome and to show them the ropes and introduce them to office culture and policies is to pair new employees with a mentor or buddy.
Having a mentor who you can ask for help in your first few weeks on the job is a great way for staff to learn about things like how to get IT support, which communication tools to use, and how to schedule days off. By having your remote staff paired with other remote staff, they can have their questions answered. Having had similar experiences with remote work, the mentors can also share tips and help overcome any challenges associated with starting the new remote job.
Involve senior management
New employees can be very impressionable during the onboarding phase, and it can make a good impression to have senior management take time to get involved personally in the onboarding process.
Senior staff can do this by discussing the company’s strategy with new hires, or answering some of their questions. This sends a signal to new staff that they are an important and valued member of the organization.
Create a sense of community
Company culture needs to be cultivated. By introducing your new employees to the rest of the team and by actively fostering engagement and connectedness, you can enhance your onboarding process and also build a more vibrant company culture.
Many remote staff can struggle with feelings of loneliness and lack of engagement and connection with others. To overcome this, you can actively create a sense of community by taking opportunities to create engagement and to foster collaboration and communication between staff.
You can do this by creating opportunities for staff to socialize virtually – for example virtual team building sessions, virtual book clubs, or virtual coffee breaks. You can also create a sense of community through the way you conduct virtual team meetings.
Discuss your company’s remote work policy
Many companies that have transitioned to remote work, have seen the need to draft a remote work policy. It’s a good idea to send new employees a copy of this policy before they start work, as it can be a useful guide to help with the onboarding process.
Your company’s remote work policy can also outline many aspects of the job that otherwise may be uncertain, helping employees know what’s expected of them.
During the onboarding process, it’s a good idea to discuss your company’s remote work policy and ensure that employees have read and understood its contents.
Ask for feedback
There’s a lot of useful information you can glean from the onboarding process that can help you to improve it over time. By asking new staff for feedback and suggestions on the onboarding process, you show you are open to new ideas and collaboration. You can do this by giving new staff a survey to fill out.
Be thorough and incorporate all learning styles
Everyone learns differently – some people learn by watching others, some by listening to instructions, some by reading, and others learn by doing. Your onboarding process should be mindful of these different learning styles and should not focus on just one style to the exclusion of all others.
It’s also important to take your time with the onboarding process and not rush over important steps. Onboarding can’t be achieved in a day, or even one session. Staff need to feel supported, inspired, valued and engaged – all of which can be achieved through a well-structured onboarding process.
Nurture engagement and connections
A big part of the onboarding process should be providing opportunities for your new staff to get to know their team members on a more personal, informal basis. As employees who work remotely can’t have the serendipitous meetings that would ordinarily happen in an office canteen or during coffee breaks, these need to be scheduled remotely.
As remote work and hybrid teams are becoming ever more commonplace, employers need to spend more effort on creating effective and welcoming onboarding processes.
This requires careful planning and dedicated organization to ensure that new staff are efficiently introduced to company processes and culture, so they can be productive members of the team.
Some employers are tempted to rush the process, or skip it altogether, to focus on outputs. But you should consider the effect that a thorough and welcoming onboarding process can have on your employees and on your ability to retain staff.