As offices around the world shift to more work from home, some companies have adjusted well to remote onboarding for new employees. However, other companies have either not planned for such change or are in the process of shifting recruitment strategies to better adjust with this new environment.
For most companies, the onboarding process requires face-to-face interactions to help new hires learn about the company, adjust to their new role, and network with team members. This time is vital for new employees to understand job responsibilities, but it can be difficult to achieve if remote processes are not prepared in advance.
Whether driven by a sudden change, or just a shift in recruitment strategies, companies should make a process for welcoming new remote hires and continue onboarding best practices when working outside of the office.
What is Online Onboarding?
Online onboarding is a program that provides new employees a digital overview of the company. The process is like in-person onboarding, but the delivery of the message is different. For example, there may be video conferences instead of in-person meetings to introduce the team.
According to Nancy Nagdeman of TeamHealth, “some potential benefits [of hiring remote employees] are an expanded talent pool not tied to a certain geography, flexible scheduling to meet client needs, employment value proposition, and decreased costs associated with real estate/buildings, etc.” Incorporating remote roles in recruitment strategies helps increase the possibility of discovering candidates that are a good fit despite being located elsewhere. This avoids the pressure of hiring employees that do not fully fit the requirements needed to perform the job.
Why is Online Onboarding Important?
Online onboarding is important because it helps new employees adjust to a fully remote work environment and ensures they are set up for success without coming to the office.
A remote workplace can sometimes cause difficulties for team chemistry and engagement, resulting in poor job satisfaction and increased turnovers. Implementing new practices to support remote workers can help avoid these issues and improve your employer brand, allowing you to attract a larger pool of talent.
Online Onboarding Best Practices
Establishing an effective online onboarding program can improve employee engagement and set standards for a successful career at your company. It requires management to develop different strategies to deliver the knowledge and skills a new employee needs when offsite.
When paired with our general guide to onboarding, the guidelines below will ensure management can keep up with hiring without people coming into the office:
Arrange Online Training
Online training allows new hires to engage and immerse themselves in learning about the tools and platforms used within their role. Whether training is given through group conference calls or individual practice, this gives easy access to continue education in the comfort of their own home. The only requirement is proper internet connection.
Being able to use technology to improve the onboarding process for remote roles can be beneficial for the overall company if it is effectively optimized to be educational and prepare employees for their job.
Deliver Essential Equipment
It is vital that all offsite employees are given the essential equipment needed to continue working as effectively as they would in the office. According to Cyquest HR, “one advantage of providing [workstation] equipment is that these employees may be happier with their work situation.” The flexibility to work from home with all the necessary tools makes employees feel comfortable, which helps to increase productivity levels.
The right equipment gets the job done, but it is also important for management to instill a policy to help avoid running out of equipment for future employees. Allocating a certain amount per new employee and documenting carefully ensures they get what they need while making sure there is enough for the next new hire.
Schedule Frequent Meetings
Scheduling meetings between managers, new hires, and more experienced team members is essential to prevent distancing and a lack of team engagement. It also helps new hires feel connected and reduce tension.
Consider starting with a virtual orientation to introduce a new employee to their designated team, provide information about your company, and answer any questions they have. Following orientation, consider scheduling weekly one-on-one virtual meetings with a direct manager to ensure their new remote employee is learning and able to perform their job properly.
Provide a Digital Employee Handbook
Digital employee handbooks are valuable for an onboarding process as they lay out standard policies and answer frequently asked onboarding questions that may come up.
According to Stephanie Stevens of Hibob, a people management company, “providing a digital handbook to new hires being onboarded at your company gives them something to reference during their training process at any given moment.” Employee handbooks are generally distributed on the first day of employment, so it is important to provide this resource digitally for remote employees, as HR may not be as easily accessible remotely.
Encourage Collaborative Learning
Having new remote workers contribute to their team’s regular work early in their onboarding process builds morale and allows interaction outside of stilted introduction calls. Jumping in can be intimidating, but it helps remote employees dive into work that they are passionate about early on. You can consider starting by assigning sub-tasks through digital tools, such as Asana, to introduce how technology is used in the company.
Teamwork also improves engagement between colleagues. Tracy Middleton of Atlassian, a software company, “when people work together, smartly, it can unleash energy that boosts creativity, productivity, engagement, communication, and efficiency.” Some employees prefer to work individually, but encouraging a collaborative environment uncovers new learning opportunities and diverse perspectives. In addition, new members give teams a fresh perspective to enhance strategies.
Create a Virtual Mentorship Program
Telecommuting can be isolating and make it more difficult to ask questions compared to an in-office setting. A virtual mentorship program is an invaluable resource to provide remote mentees with additional assistance in integration and building relations during their first few months.
According to The Enterprisers Project, “assigning new employees a virtual mentor who can build them a customized learning path can speed up the onboarding time and allow for more learning and growth.” Assigning virtual mentors can act as a direct point of contact that eases distance tensions and as a trusted guide. Reassuring remote mentees that there is always someone accessible for personal and professional development helps keep employees happy, create a greater sense of loyalty, and decrease turnover.
Remember, First Impressions are Everything
First impressions never change. Therefore, it is important to leave a good impression for new remote employees that will help set their expectations at your company. The flexibility of management, communication expectations, and career growth opportunities are just a few of the expectations that need to be outlined early on to lead a positive experience throughout the first several months.
Employers need to make sure new hires are comfortable with the work environment and provide regular touch-points to give feedback and address concerns. This is especially important when they are working from home because they do not have the benefit of conversations that arise from bumping into people around the office. Whether that consists of virtual lunch meetings with respective teams or sending a welcome care package, showing that employers care regardless of where their employee works is vital to leaving a good first impression of your company’s employer brand.
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