Remote onboarding is the process you use to bring new members onto your team when there will be no face-to-face interactions.
Unlike one-shot orientation training, the onboarding process can last anywhere from two weeks to several months. On top of teaching your new hire about day-to-day working practices and tools, it also involves teaching them about your company culture and mission.
In a world where remote and hybrid working setups have proven themselves such a boon to businesses, getting your remote onboarding process right is going to be vital for all kinds of organisations moving forward.
How to make remote onboarding successful
1) Think about day one
We’ve all been in or heard about situations where new hires are left with little to do on their first day because the tools they need aren’t in place. This problem can be exacerbated in a remote situation.
On a personal and personnel level, it’s good to have one member of your team whose responsibility is to deliver the onboarding process. It’s also good practice for this responsible person to be someone other than your new hire’s line manager.
This person can become a sort of mentor to your new team member. They’re there to answer the inevitable many questions. It’s also their job to proactively help your new team member connect with the wider company.
2) Talk about talking (and technology)
Two major day one concerns are talking and technology. More precisely, how to communicate with the people they need to communicate with and what tools they have available to them to do so.
From a technical standpoint, you will want to make sure any work laptop (set up with the company configuration and meeting the latest cybersecurity standards) arrives via a certified carrier with an item tracking system – and that it does so in plenty of time for their first day.
You might also consider arranging several virtual meets with your IT department so your new hire can learn how to use all of the communication tools and channels they’ll be using, along with how your company likes to use them.
Aim to do this before their first day if you want them to hit the ground running and have the opportunity to ask questions after they’ve had the chance to actually use the systems. You will also want to make a point of:
- Cyber threat training – make sure new hires receive the same phishing awareness and other cybersecurity training as the rest of your team.
- Cybersecurity best practices – such as how to use VPNs, how Two-Factor Authentication works, how to create strong passwords and the like.
3) Consider culture
Communicating your company’s culture and expectations to new hires isn’t necessarily more challenging when done remotely, but it does require more explicit action.
Make time and space available for your new team member to ask questions about things like the right level of formality in interactions, videoconference and messaging etiquette, working hours, and so on.
It’s always a mistake to just assume these things are clear even when the person is standing right next to you. Doing it remotely simply gives you even more of a reason to state things clearly.
Again, making sure there is a responsible individual available who isn’t your new hire’s line manager and whose job it is to answer these questions is a sensible step. This person may also be required to provide feedback in a structured and non-judgemental way.
4) Communicate goals and what success looks like
Many people will also be familiar with anecdotes from friends and acquaintances who’ve started a new job and reported they aren’t 100% sure what they should be doing with their time.
Being explicit about expectations is also vital. Make it clear to your new hire what their responsibilities are, what they are trying to achieve, and – perhaps most important of all – how this fits in with the work of other people and the larger company.
5) Build relationships actively
Knowing things like who is part of which team, who is involved in what processes, who is responsible for certain activities, who to contact about specific issues, and so on requires some active work when onboarding remotely.
Without this knowledge and making it possible for your new team member to build relationships, information and communications can start to become siloed within certain groups.
It’s good practice to help your new hire build relationships up, down, and across the organisation wherever possible. This might include doing things like:
- Facilitating a presence in group discussions even when their role isn’t directly linked.
- Encouraging one-to-one relationships and virtual meets between team members, both formal and informal.
- Working to help new hires understand the wider organisation, including “shadowing” other teams.
Good remote onboarding matters
Good onboarding governs how successful your team members are – especially in a remote working situation.
An effective and engaging remote onboarding process ensures your new employees get off to a strong start. The most successful businesses prove time and again that those who carefully plan and measure the effectiveness of their onboarding are those that succeed.
For the leaders in most fields, it’s just the start of an ongoing planned development process that gets the best out of each team member while making them feel cared for and supported enough to give their all.
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