Emerging remote and hybrid work models pose new challenges across communication, collaboration, and accountability. It’s important to find creative ways to welcome new faces to your remote team.
Here’s your step-by-step guide to best practices for onboarding remote teams.
According to Amy Hirsh Robinson, principal of The Interchange Group in Los Angeles, the onboarding process can set the tone for the rest of the employee’s time with your organization:
“Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged. It offers an imprinting window when you can make an impression that stays with new employees for the duration of their careers.”
By creating an effective onboarding process, you have a chance to set new employees on a positive track from the very beginning.
In most cases, onboarding takes one of two shapes—a one-day welcome, or a multi-day, “boot camp” style onboarding.
The one-day welcome might appeal to companies that need to get employees on the job quickly. However, a less thorough onboarding process can have negative effects for both companies and employees.
These may include:
On the other hand, companies that opt for a longer, “boot-camp” style onboarding have much better results, with employees being 29 times more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs.
Aside from setting employees up for productivity and satisfaction, remote onboarding offers a key moment where companies can help new employees to engage with the rest of the workforce and make up for the lack of face-to-face interactions that happen in person.
Forward-thinking companies recognize the need to go above and beyond to make up for that lack of proximity. As Beau Davidson, VP of employee experience at NVIDIA recommends, you must humanize the process:
“The most important thing is making sure that human connection happens. It’s a lot easier when we’re all sitting together in the same room. [That includes] making sure managers are equipped with knowing how to set up their employees, engage with them, and ensure that no one is left behind.”
So, what does an exceptional remote onboarding experience look and feel like?
By necessity, each company must tailor its program to match the industry, workforce, and goals. That said, here are some universal features that every business should incorporate.
Preparing your team to welcome new hires can help to build team morale and create harmony between new and existing team members. Existing employees can also help new hires create connections and assimilate to your workplace culture.
Businesses should ready the team for this initial handoff and then encourage the employees to engage proactively by:
Felicia Joy, adjunct assistant professor of strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, spoke to Fortune Magazine about how fellow colleagues can help to welcome new employees and foster connections:
“If we know about other coworkers who share common interests, then we’re able to introduce them to other people who have common interests, and who they may form a stronger bond with more quickly because of those commonalities.”
The first touchpoint an employee has with a business should be focused on welcoming them and then familiarizing them with their new role. This is your opportunity to introduce them to their immediate team as well as the company’s goals, culture, and mission.
You can do this with:
Ideally, new employees should be given an opportunity to meet, observe, interact, and settle into their team. This time should be unstructured and focused more on relationship building than on the work itself.
Done right, it can help combat feelings of remote isolation while also instilling the confidence remote workers need to hit the ground running.
What’s the best way to go about this? Leigh Yanocha, Head of People Strategy at Knopman Marks, offers some advice:
“HR leaders need to get creative to help their teams maintain and build connections while working remotely, especially if you have new hires. Design opportunities to step out of the day-to-day grind of work to discover a more personal side of colleagues. Stay plugged into the interests of your team, as well as current events and pop culture trends to get ideas.”
Consider scheduling a virtual happy hour, game night, or lunch break where everyone can participate in a shared activity and be relaxed and present.
After an employee has completed the cultural aspect of the remote onboarding process, the next task is to clarify their roles and responsibilities so that they know exactly what’s expected of them and have the opportunity to ask any questions they might have.
There should be no guesswork here. Be clear and explicit during the virtual onboarding, especially about the major company do’s and don’ts. Clearly defining the job’s scope and parameters is paramount. This entails:
Over the first few weeks, be sure to schedule face time with senior company executives from a range of departments. Familiarizing the employee with the various parts of the business lays the early groundwork for an employee to envision a long-term career within the company.
While there is some bleed over from onboarding to actual training, this portion is devoted to bringing the new team member up to speed while providing the resources they need to excel in the role.
For this, employees must learn two things: how to be successful and how success is measured. Meighan Newhouse, CEO of Inspirant Group, advises that you:
“Find model employees to mentor and speak with the new team members to show them what success looks like at your company. Set short-term goals for your new hires to meet; review them, and offer real, applicable feedback on what they did and did not do well in meeting those goals.”
Set clear goals and to-do items in the immediate, near, and far future. Many companies will set these for 14, 30, 60, and 90 days.
Marissa Heckman, the Director of Employee Development and Training at Power Digital Marketing mentioned in an interview conducted by our team:
“The key to a successful onboarding is having 30, 60, 90 day goals established with new hires. Having these concrete goals helps them slow down and alleviate stress so they take things in bite sized portions”