5 Top Tips to Successfully Onboard Remote Employees

June 23, 2022
Stela Gineva

5 Top Tips to Successfully Onboard Remote Employees

June 23, 2022
Stela Gineva

Hiring remote employees can be a great way to expand your team during a talent shortage. However, it's important to remember that successfully onboarding remote employees is not the same as onboarding local employees.

Failing to successfully onboard a new employee can have significant repercussions. Poor onboarding experience has been linked to increases in turnover rates.

Did you know that 1 in 10 employees left their company because of a poor onboarding experience? Conversely, 69% of employees who had a great onboarding experience were more likely to stay with their company for three years or more.

Losing 10% of your staff because you failed to onboard them properly is a mistake that could be easily avoided with a little forethought and work.

There are a few key things you need to do in order to make sure your remote employees feel welcomed and supported from day one. Here are our top four strategies to make sure your remote employees are onboarded properly!

Lay the groundwork before the new employee starts

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's important to have all the logistics in place before your new employee starts. Check in with your IT team to ensure they have access to all systems. This is especially necessary given that they might be working in different timezones and support may not be available right away.

Also, make sure you take the time to let your current team know who is joining the company and how you plan on introducing them.

As Catherine Maheux-Rochette, Digital Marketing Director and Manager at Folks, said: "The first step is to build an onboarding plan specifically tailored for remote employees so that there are no mishaps throughout the entire process.

"The plan must be flexible to face the challenges of virtual integration. Anticipation is a must: you need to have solid digital processes in place to ensure good communication from the start.

"Speaking of communication, involving the team from the get go is also essential: prior to onboarding, you can introduce the employee to their team through a group email with info about the newcomer. The key is to make the hire feel right at home!"

Create a structured onboarding program

When your remote employee is working elsewhere, you do not have the luxury to check in on them during random periods of the day. You can't see how they're getting on, and you can't answer questions immediately.

This is especially true if you're working for an asynchronous organization and you're both in different timezones.  

Because of this, it's important to have a structured onboarding program in place so that your remote employee knows what they need to do and when they need to do it by.

This could involve sending over a detailed guide on their first day, scheduling regular check-ins, and creating an onboarding agenda using a collaborative tool like Google Docs.

Your structured onboarding could come in many forms. Jennifer Hartman, Human Resources Expert at Fit Small Business, said: "When it comes to remote employee onboarding, it's important to communicate the company culture and expectations early on and make sure to provide clear and concise instructions for using company tools and services.

"It’s essential that your remote employees understand how their first few days will be structured.

"One way to accomplish this is to create a spreadsheet or calendar document that clearly outlines what the employee should be doing and during what times of the day.

"Be sure to also schedule some downtime so the new employee has time to review policies and clearly understand their position. Packing too much work into one day will overwhelm your new hire."

Having a spreadsheet which outlines tasks and meetings provides the new employee with clarity, putting them at ease during their first few days as they know exactly what is expected of them. It also provides a sense of accomplishment as they complete the tasks on the list.

Weave your company's culture into the onboarding program  

If you are hiring remotely, chances are, you're hiring from across the globe. Your remote employees will come from different cultures. The work environment could look different in their home country.

For example, some countries largely favor flat hierarchical structures, while in others, there's a clear divide between the employee and manager. In some countries, there is a stronger emphasis on work/life balance than in other countries.

Your own company is likely to have its own distinct culture too. In part, this will be shaped by where you are based and your own experiences. It is important that this is taken into account when inducting a new employee who may, otherwise, face 'culture shock' when they join the company.

Maciek Kubiak, Head of People at PhotoAiD, said: "Get everyone on the same page from the start. One of the benefits of having a remote team is that you can hire the best talent from anywhere in the world.

"However, that also means that your team might be spread out across different time zones and cultures. It’s important to set some ground rules from the beginning about expectations, communication, and workflows. This will help everyone feel like they’re part of a cohesive team, even if they’re not physically in the same place.

"Also, make sure that your new hire has all the information they need to get started in their role. This includes things like an overview of the company and its mission/vision, an explanation of their specific responsibilities, and access to any relevant training materials or resources."

By getting everyone on the same page from the start, you can avoid any misunderstandings or culture shock down the line.

Assign them an onboarding buddy

Remote employees can often feel isolated, especially as it's hard to meet colleagues when everyone works remotely. This can make it difficult for new hires to reach out if they have questions.

But introducing an onboarding buddy can help to combat this! Assigning each new hire a buddy who they can contact with any questions they have is a great way to make sure they feel supported.

The onboarding buddy should be someone who is experienced and knowledgeable about the company culture and processes. They can act as a mentor for the new hire, helping them to settle into their role.

Nina Pączka, Community Manager at MyPerfectResume, said:  "An onboarding buddy is there to help. This person supports the onboarding process, serves as the first point of contact, answers all questions that new hires may have, and assist and navigates during the first few weeks.

"Their main job is to support new employees, keep them connected, introduce them to the company culture and other workers as well as provide insight into the written and unwritten rules of the workplace."

Assigning remote employees an onboarding buddy is a great way to make sure they don't feel disconnected in those crucial first few weeks.

Give cohort-based onboarding a go

Larger companies could make use of their size to implement cohort-based onboarding.  This is where new employees are placed in groups (or cohorts) and they complete the onboarding process together.

Cohort-based onboarding has many benefits, including providing support systems, increasing social interaction, and promoting a sense of belonging.

It can also lead to better knowledge retention as employees can learn from each other. Plus, it's a great way to build team morale from the very beginning!

Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding, said: "We have 100+ remote team members. Whenever possible, we do onboarding in cohorts because it starts creating bonds between coworkers.

"One of the biggest challenges for newcomers to an organization is the feeling that everyone has been there forever, and you are the outlier — even if others joined literally the day before.

"You can overcome this issue with group training and activities. For example, adding icebreaker questions into early meetings so participants can get to know each other better.

"The result is stronger onboarding not just into the organization, but also onto the team."

Cohort-based onboarding is a great way to build team morale and support systems from the beginning.

Onboarding a remote employee successfully

An effective onboarding process is key to retaining your employees long-term. If your new hire is working remotely, it is even more important to make sure they're settling in well.

Remote onboarding is different from office-based onboarding. You need to take into account communication issues, tech issues, and even cultural issues if your employee is used to a completely different management style.

There are a few things you can do to help remote employees feel welcome and supported when onboarding. These include preparing for their arrival by making the necessary arrangements, designing a structured and transparent onboarding experience, and assigning them a buddy and even providing cohort-based onboarding where possible.

By implementing these strategies, your new remote hire will be able to settle into their role with ease.

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