What to Remember When Onboarding Remote Employees

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As companies increasingly hire remote employees, they have to rethink how they manage certain processes. Among those processes is onboarding. 

Onboarding is critical to employee and organizational success but can be overlooked when it comes to remote employees. 

There are technical considerations that come with onboarding, such as identity and access management. There are also cultural considerations, and of course, preparing new employees for success. 

The following are some general things to keep in mind when onboarding remote employees or hybrid employees. 

The Basics of Onboarding

First, onboarding means that you’re integrating a new employee not only with the company and their duties but also with the organization’s culture. 

The ultimate goal of onboarding should be the provision of the information and tools an employee is going to need to be a productive participant in the organization. 

Onboarding should be strategic, and many experts feel it should last for at least a year. 

Having a positive onboarding experience is what can help improve your organizational retention. 

Don’t confuse onboarding with orientation. Orientation is just one element of onboarding during which routine tasks are completed. Onboarding is much more comprehensive and strategic. 

Some of the things to ask yourself as you craft an onboarding strategy for any employee, but particularly your remote team members, include:

  • When do you start onboarding, and how long will it last?
  • What is the initial impression you want new remote employees to walk away with after their first day and then their first week?
  • What are the things about your culture you want to stand out most?
  • Who’s going to play a role in the onboarding strategy and implementation?
  • How will you set and track goals for new employees?
  • What will your methods be to gather feedback on your onboarding program?

Get Employees Online as Soon As You Can

For remote employees, you want to make sure they have the connection to the resources to do their jobs. If an employee doesn’t have secure access to the digital workplace, they’re going to feel cut off from everything they else they need and are expected to do. 

When you’re getting employees online, think about apps and tools, video conference software, your intranet, and anything else that will pull them into being part of the team and getting familiar. 

Orientation with IT setup should be a top priority. 

When possible, these are things that you might start providing as soon as you hire someone, even if there are a few weeks before they’re going to start. 

Help Them Belong

A lot of remote employees feel imposter syndrome. These employees might feel isolated, and they might not know where to check in, who to report to, or where to go when they have questions. There are a lot of elements in the traditional in-person work environment that aren’t available to remote workers, so try to anticipate this ahead of time. 

A good way to help someone feel like they belong is to create a new employee Slack channel. You can encourage your current employees to collaborate with new employees through that channel. 

You should also appoint someone within your organization who is dedicated to onboarding employees. It could be different people depending on varying roles. 

Having a point person can create that sense of belonging that’s difficult to fulfill in a remote position. 

Create a Checklist

The more you can standardize elements of your onboarding process, the better it’s going to be. Then you can make sure nothing is falling through the cracks. 

Some things you might want to consider as part of your remote employee onboarding checklist are:

  • Send out information, articles, videos, and links about the company when someone is officially hired. If you have company swag, you might want to send them that too, or a link to where they can order it. 
  • Schedule a video conference individual or group orientation. Beforehand, make sure the new employee gets a meeting agenda and a digital copy of the employee handbook. Before this orientation video meeting, you should also ensure they get all the documentation they might need. This is when you can connect the new employee to their mentor. 
  • Give employees time to go over all the documents you send over, and once they’ve done that, you can schedule an orientation with human resources. 
  • A communication orientation should be set up as its own thing, where you’ll provide tools, passwords, and any access that may be needed. 
  • Once you have the HR and communication orientation finished, you might want to have a team orientation. This is when new hires can get familiar with their new teammates and go over more specific things to their role. 
  • Encourage new employees to provide feedback as they go through the onboarding process. 
  • You should have a tailored, individualized 30/60/90-day onboarding plan. 

Introduce Your Communication Style

When you hire employees to work in a traditional, in-person setting, they may be able to pick up on communication style just by being in the office. This isn’t going to be the case for remote employees, so part of your onboarding should work to get them familiar with how you communicate. 

You’ll introduce communication tools, and you should lay out expectations for communication. For example, how long should it take during work hours for someone to respond to a request or question?

Let employees know where they’ll need to go as far as digital channels to get what. 

You might let them go through old conversations that are saved on your digital channels so they can get an idea of the more nuanced elements of communication. 

Finally, you should create a personal success plan for every employee when you bring them on board, especially remote employees who could easily start to feel disconnected. A personal success plan will take into consideration the strengths of every employee and also their attitude and demeanor. 

Their personal success plan will be a long-term approach to onboarding, and the objective is to keep the employee excited and engaged about their role. 

You may need to make changes as time goes on based on what you learn about the employee and how they prefer to be managed.