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Three Steps to Remote Employee Onboarding Success




6 minute read

How do you onboard a new employee remotely? It’s a challenge that you’ve probably not encountered before – at least not fully remotely. But, like most companies, you’ll be wanting to keep on with BAU, so welcoming new employees to your team virtually is something you’ll have to do.

There’s no denying that we’re living in uncertain times. With no definitive or consistent guidance on how long the COVID-19 pandemic may require social-distancing, self-isolating and working from home for those that can, it goes without saying that there is a huge potential for disruption to hiring and onboarding.

Instead of being stumped by this new challenge, why not try to see it as an opportunity to refresh your processes, streamline your onboarding strategy and future-proof your business. Homeworking increased by 74% between 2008 and 2018 (BBC), and after this pandemic, many predict that remote working won’t just be a necessity, but perhaps the norm!

Luckily, we’re living in a digitally connected world, which means that we can minimise disruption and ultimately try to retain a semblance of normality.

We’ve distilled our top onboarding tips from some great sources and our own experience, into 3 key areas to focus on – Systems, Culture and Role.

Following this guidance will help you make the best impression to new team members from their first day and boost your retention too, with first impressions affecting up to 90% of employees decision to stay

1. Tech and systems setup

Starting with perhaps the least interesting, but most practical advice.

It’s paramount that your remote workers have the right tech setup and all software, hardware and equipment, with logins they’ll need to do their job.

Remote working necessities

We’ve all been there, it’s the first day in the new office and your email address hasn’t been set up, you’re not sure who the IT support is and so on… Worse still, your laptop or phone hasn’t arrived yet.

It’s bad enough when this happens onsite when you’re surrounded by new friendly faces, but imagine starting Day One from your home office, without the tools or open lines of communication to get the job done. Talk about stressful!

Plan this from their offer acceptance, get their tech ordered asap and ask IT to ensure their logins are set up a week before they need them. 

Also, bear in mind that your company is still liable for the appropriate desk set up for longer-term homeworking, so don’t forget to ask remote employees about their other hardware requirements, like monitor, mouse etc. and overall desk setup! You may need to factor in ordering more equipment than before.

Make sure you’ve asked your new starter about their setup preferences and ensure their tech and desk setup arrives at least a day before their start date to give them time to set everything up!

Create an onboarding toolkit 

Drop-in all the required documentation you need new starters to complete into one repository, to avoid duplicating hefty emails with endless attachments. Where signatures are required, minimise the need for printing and scanning (let’s be honest, who has a home printer anymore) and invest in a tool like DocuSign or similar.

Ask all the key stakeholders that usually are involved in your onboarding process to put their usual notes / walk-throughs into a deck that can be accessed remotely.

That way, new starters will be able to access material in their own time, complete documentation easily and ultimately have access to everything they may need without jumping from pillar to post.

Tech and Systems Onboarding Checklist

1 week out:

  • Desk and Practical Homework Setup – Laptop Riser, Monitor, Desk Chair etc
  • Technology - Delivered to New Starter at least 2 days before start – Laptop, Mouse, Keyboard
  • System Logins - Email setup / All system logins set up at least 1 day before the start

Day one:

  • IT Support / Systems walkthrough – IT support
  • Onboarding toolkit and company comms/etiquette - HR walkthrough call
  • Team channels, file storage, cloud structure etc – Manager walkthrough

2. Cultural Integration

Once you’ve taken care of the practicalities of remote working, it’s then time to think about making new workers feel welcome. It might seem like an obvious point and common sense, but it’s easier said than done when you’re not in the office together bonding over a coffee.

There are several ways you can do this from Day One:

Meet the team

At a time when the majority of workers you’re onboarding won’t be accustomed to remote work, it’s important that they feel motivated to make a good impression. This can be achieved by ensuring the new hire is introduced to team members from day one. Depending on the size of your company tailor who they meet, if they are joining a team of 5-10 then have them meet the team. If the company is 15-20 people, then try and get them to meet everyone.

Have each person introduce what they do and what they can help with. This can be part of your structured onboarding plan which we’ll explain later on.

Schedule in a team video call on their first day with their direct team members, but also shout out to the wider business via your internal comms channel (Slack, Teams or Intranet) to announce the new starters on their first week.

Introduce a mentor

We’d definitely advise setting up a mentoring relationship with an established employee (not even role-specific mentor necessarily), just a person that they can Slack or Skype in the day when they need help, pointing in the right direction or just a bit of social interaction.

Video chat visibility

At Confido we’re experienced with how to build relationships remotely. Once or twice a week we have an ‘open’ video session via Teams. We leave the video open in the background and work as normal with the option to chat amongst ourselves, about work, or non-work related stuff throughout the call time. It might sound really simplistic, but it actually feels sociable and encourages team bonding.

Brand them up

Why not go above and beyond and welcome the new starter with a surprise Swag Bag delivery to their home address on the first day. Failing that, just a nice branded company card welcoming them to the team. It’s the small things that make people feel motivated and engaged!

3. Role orientation

The most overlooked way of making an employee feel welcome and onboarded is by making it clear how they’ll be adding value to your team and business from Day One.

Set goals and expectations from Day One

This one falls to the Hiring Manager, so if you’re the HR or People Leader, make sure that you’ve checked the Hiring Manager has this in place for the new joiners’ first day.

As Workable lays out in this blog, remote workers shouldn’t have to wait on their line manager for new tasks. Instead, the line manager should:

  • Develop and share a task calendar after new hires’ training and onboarding sessions
  • Define short-term and long-term goals
  • Schedule weekly one-on-one meetings to discuss upcoming projects, progress and resolve potential issues

Make sure you’re asking for feedback from your new starter on their onboarding experience – it’s more important to ask for feedback when working remotely. It’s also important to establish a working rhythm that fits both you and the new team member. Generally, overcommunication (over-under communicating) is better when working remotely – diarising commitments and setting expectations will help build that trust over time with your team member that you would otherwise build face to face.

Clear onboarding plan

Working with HR, create a tailored onboarding plan where possible. Ensure that your new starter has time scheduled with key stakeholders from Product, Engineering, Marketing and Sales and across the business over their first few weeks. This will help them to understand the wider business objectives and how their role will fit into that.

Encourage communication

In the same way that you’d have a series of intro meetings internally, set up Skype / Zoom / Teams calls with team members. Diarise the meetings with them before the new starter joins so that they have already dedicated time in their diary. And, if you’re onboarding more than one person at a time, why not double up on calls.

Also, if you’d usually have weekly 1-1s, make sure these are already in the diary from Day One. And, if you’re new hire is part of a wider team, make sure they’re booked into the team weekly call straight away. Even if they have no specific actions in the first week, it’s great for visibility and inclusion.

A final consideration is to be mindful of how you communicate remotely. It’s easy to misinterpret tone in written messages, over Slack or Teams – be mindful of this and make sure you understand your new starters communication style and preferences to prevent any misunderstanding.

We hope you’ve found this useful. As a remote-first team, we’ve experienced onboarding team members this way.

If you’d like some more personalised advice around anything remote working, or you’re looking to hire and grow your startup team now, then do get in touch at contact@confidotalent.com

Also, we’d appreciate it if you follow us @ConfidoTalent to keep up to date with our latest news and views.

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