Working remotely was already a rising trend in 2019, and in 2021 demand for workers has risen and workers’ expectations have changed. Remote work and thus remote onboarding are the reality now for many industries. Here are some tips for the successful remote onboarding of new employees.
Challenges in Employee Onboarding
Onboarding is integrating the new employee into the company, and in a sense, the company into the new employee. The integration is mutual, and happens at multiple levels. At the corporate level, onboarding falls mostly to HR, and from their perspective, it’s done when the administrative tasks associated with a new employee are complete. For the team manager, that’s just the beginning. Productivity takes a hit when new team members are being brought up to speed, so making that process efficient is important. Also, there are social, cultural, and technical aspects to integration, which are all affected when workers are off-site. Those aspects must be considered if the process is to be optimized.
Whether they’re in-person or remote, unsuccessful onboarding practices are expensive. They disrupt teams, waste company resources, and result in churn. Companies with few or no programs to integrate new employees experience higher turnover, greater expense, and loss of productivity. Successful onboarding, on the other hand, results in happier, more effective, permanent employees, successful managers, and productive teams. The challenges of devising a successful remote onboarding program will be met by creative, adaptive companies.
Pros and Cons of Remote Onboarding
There are many pros and cons in remote onboarding as compared with in-house.
- Improves diversity. When companies embrace remote work and remote onboarding, they have an opportunity to build more international and culturally diverse teams, and work with people all over the world.
- More formal structure. Remote onboarding takes place in scheduled meetings and work sessions, rather than in casual chat in passing. This makes onboarding more structured and intentional, and can make it more effective.
- Reduces exposure to negative influence. In companies with poor morale, some employees might be eager to step in and negatively influence new hires. When employees have intentional, guided onboarding from trusted influences, they have less exposure to employees with low morale.
- Communication delays. In in-person environments, a new hire may ask questions in real time, and it’s easier to gauge urgency in communication. When questions are asked by chat or email, particularly when a workforce is distributed in different regions, there can be delays in getting answers, or misunderstandings of urgency.
- It’s harder to instill corporate culture. The new hire may be isolated, or distracted by their home environment. It is more difficult to build a sense of a unified team working toward the same goals.
Companies that succeed in overcoming these drawbacks will be companies who succeed in meeting today’s challenges. The biggest drawbacks in remote onboarding are also the greatest opportunities.
Best Practices in Remote Onboarding
Best practices for successful remote onboarding are similar to those used in-house, although put into effect differently. For the best results in remote onboarding, follow these tips:
Step 1: The Basics
- Make sure your remote onboarding process includes clear expectations, timely follow-up, near-constant availability of supervisors or mentors, and challenging but achievable goals.
- Create structure through appointments and shared calendars. Stress punctuality (especially across time zones), and start and end meetings on time.
- Provide the new-hire with a list of key stakeholders and explain roles and expectations. Arrange virtual meetings to allow them to get acquainted.
- Provide mentors, buddies, and cohorts. Overcome isolation and introduce company culture to new hires by providing them with a more senior team member as a mentor, and/or a less senior relatively new team member as a ‘buddy’. Buddies can explain company culture and create community, while mentors can show new team members how to manage the complexities they’ll encounter. If the team brings on multiple new hires, treat them as a cohort and encourage them to form relationships, discuss questions, and provide feedback.
Step 2: Think Long Term
- Giving new hires a longer period in which to fully integrate and reach peak productivity improves results. Plan for long-term mentoring and feedback, rather than a short training period.
- Company culture is a continuous practice, so messages about values must match the actual experience of the new hire over time. This builds a shared culture and instills loyalty.
- Celebrate differences and diversity. Expect and encourage different backgrounds, temperaments, and personality types, and prepare for them in every aspect of operations.
- Maintain oversight of onboarding practices. Get input from more recently hired satisfied employees, from dis-satisfied employees who leave within 18 months, and reviews from new-hires as they go through the process. Set and periodically review metrics around reducing churn.
When teams are at a distance, it’s even more valuable to mark the arrival of a new team member with celebration or ceremony. Use welcoming outreach to create the personal touches new employees might experience in an office setting. Recognize and reinforce their importance to the team and to the goals of the company, and celebrate their achievements and accomplishments. Bit by bit and over time, these acts will grow loyalty, commitment, and competence in new employees, however distant.
Tales of companies triumphing in adversity are common, as are stories of companies that collapse when faced with change. Successful businesses are successful precisely because they are able to adapt to new conditions. For every business, the pandemic is a catastrophe, a challenge, an opportunity, and a test. They must be flexible enough to change, to re-imagine themselves, in order to survive and thrive. If you need expert recruiters to help you build strong teams and reinvent your workforce, contact grapefrute today.