Employee onboarding is one of the most important aspects of successful business operations.
When done right, onboarding can boost employee retention rates by 82% and improve employee productivity by 70%. Furthermore, employees are happier and therefore more engaged when onboarding efforts meet their needs.
Need additional evidence?
A study from Aberdeen Group found that organizations with structured employee onboarding processes could generate a 60% year-over-year growth in revenue. Clearly, successful onboarding is powerful! And for remote workers, good onboarding is especially important. Because being a new employee is challenging enough, let alone feeling disconnected from the rest of the team. So, if you’ve been wondering how to:
Boost remote worker engagement and satisfaction
Reduce the time it takes from hiring to productivity
Build genuine trust with your remote team
Save yourself from having to re-hire every six months
Keep reading, because we will discuss exactly what goes into an exceptional remote team onboarding process. We will look at the best remote onboarding strategies for building new relationships, setting solid expectations, and imparting company culture to give new employees the best possible start. So, without further ado, let's dive into how to make this happen.
1. Send Your Hardware
Few things will frustrate both you and your new employee, like having them spend the first few working days ironing out technical difficulties.
So, ahead of time, order all necessary hardware they’ll need (such as a laptop or a company cellphone) and have it delivered to their home. When it comes to software, if what employees need isn’t cloud-based, ensure it's pre-installed on their device. Include passwords, usernames, and any other security information needed so remote hires can easily get up and running before day one.
2. Create a Welcome Package
Making remote employees feel welcome can help embed them into your organization and feel like they’re part of the team. Creating a sense of belonging is essential, as one of the most difficult aspects of working remotely is the feeling of loneliness.
As a first step, send a welcome package with some branded merchandise like notebooks, t-shirts, caps, water bottles, pens, etc. You can take it one step further by including gifts tailored to a new hire’s interests.(For example, sending single-origin coffee beans to a coffee lover). Then stick in a personalised letter or video message from the CEO congratulating and welcoming your new employee to the company.
3. Develop a Buddy System
Besides potentially dealing with feelings of isolation, the first few weeks can be nerve-racking for new employees as they try to navigate company culture. But with an existing employee acting as a buddy/mentor, new employees can feel at ease. Buddies can help address any questions or concerns from remote employees as well as help with making them feel like they’re part of the team.
What’s more, millennials (who’ll be the bulk of the workforce by 2025) list ‘friendly co-workers’ in their top three most wanted workplace features.
So, while remote employees can’t eat lunch with their assigned buddy in person, that doesn't mean they can't socialize. Arrange for buddies to give remote hires a virtual tour of the office as well as provide opportunities for informal hangouts like a virtual coffee catch-up. Doing so will go a long way towards helping new employees feel like they belong.
4. Streamline Your Process
There's a lot of information for new hires to take in so break your orientation flow into chunks to better enable new workers to get up to speed. (As a quick side note, while some people may use “employee orientation” interchangeably with “employee onboarding” it’s important to realize that they are not synonymous. Rather, employee orientation is but one of the activities your new hire will go through as part of the overall onboarding process.)
Here’s an example of how to divvy up your orientation content:
Company Culture: Your company’s values, mission, and future aims
Company Structure: Introduce departments, common workflows, and the key people in charge
Tools Intro: Step-by-step guides to acquaint new employees with tools they must use
Role Intro: Overview of the role, their responsibilities, who they’ll report to and who they’ll work with
Project Overview: The specific projects they’ll be assigned to and their deliverables
To help with streamline this process, you can use HR Cloud so that your organization and its new employees can enjoy:
Full self-service functionality to allow new hires to access documents like benefit plan descriptions, organizational charts, and the company’s employee handbook (saves new employees loads of time and prevents them from being overwhelmed with paperwork)
New employees can create their profile and connect with their team (new hires can get started with building natural, authentic relationships with colleagues)
Customized compliance, onboarding, and action-item checklists for employees to check off (keeps things simple and logical for new hires)
Ability to assign tasks to other team members during the onboarding process (eg HR organize a virtual-lunch)
View data to see which employees have completed their checklists and which are still outstanding (ensure full compliance)
HR Cloud can make creating and managing orientation, and thus the overall onboarding process, fairly painless as well as easier for your new hires too.
5. Make Room For Training
Enable your new remote employees to better reach their full potential and optimum performance by providing training for the processes and systems they’ll be working with.
You can use a combination of online training courses (such as with GoSkills or LearnWorlds), webinars, screen capture software, etc. The point is to use technology to better help your remote employees learn and retain knowledge that’s being shared.
6. Add Purpose
If your new employee has worked remotely before, chances are they’ll have heaps of initiative and know-how about how to manage their workday effectively and keep their motivation up.But for first time remote workers, putting structure, focus, and a vision into their work can be a little more difficult. That’s why it’s important to set clear goals early on. You need to make new hires feel like the work they’re doing matters.
If possible, get them involved in larger projects, even in some small capacity, to foster a sense of the bigger picture. Also, encourage their managers to schedule regular check-ins and remind them their contributions are valued. Attempting to add purpose to your employees’ work-life won’t only give you a happier team, but a more productive one too.
7. Touch Base Often
It’s alarmingly easy for remote employees to fall ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ especially once the initial onboarding process is over. However, consistent and extended communication is essential for keeping remote workers at the top of their game.
A few things you can do to keep remote workers in the loop include sharing news of key company events, having informal video meetings, or scheduling weekly check-ins and monthly reviews.
8. Analyze, Adjust, Improve
It’s rare to have a perfect remote onboarding process the first time around.
To help with making meaningful improvements, get feedback from remote employees during and after onboarding to better understand their experience. You can send them a questionnaire asking employees what parts of the onboarding process helped them with transitioning to their role as well as how they could have been better supported and what problems they faced.
Incorporating employee responses will help you create a more robust and enjoyable remote onboarding experience for your next round of remote hires.
Onboarding a new remote employee is challenging. There’s so much to think about plus tons of extra coordinating, planning, and management that goes into it.
But with shrinking levels of employee engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction around the world, you can’t afford not to be putting effort into your remote onboarding program.
Because how your employees feel about your organization can be the difference between success and failure.
So, make sure you’re setting your remote employees and your business up for success by building a meaningful, helpful, and rewarding remote onboarding program.
Josh Brown is the Marketing Manager at Helpjuice which provides knowledge base software that can be used to promote agile knowledge sharing and collaboration among remote employees.