The pandemic changed everything. While remote working and work-from-home jobs were somewhat commonplace prior to March 2020, they became a staple in most industries with the onset of COVID-19. And even today, with the worst of the pandemic behind us, many companies are continuing to prioritize virtual work.
Research shows that 16 percent of companies globally are now fully remote. In total, 62 percent of workers between the ages of 22 to 65 say they work remotely at least part-time. Less than half of companies (44 percent) say they offer no remote working of any kind. In other words, remote working is here to stay.
As a business that hires remote employees, you have to be mindful of the onboarding process. Onboarding is difficult in any environment but can be even more challenging when you don’t have the luxury of being face-to-face in the same room.
Here are several tips for smooth and efficient onboarding:
1. Send a Warm Welcome
An alarming number of people have changed their minds on a job offer after signing. (Likely somewhere north of 10 percent.) By sending a warm welcome soon after the job offer is extended and accepted, you can set a positive tone and make the new hire feel embraced.
In addition to welcoming the new hire yourself, you should encourage the rest of your team to do the same. If your team is on a platform like Slack, encourage people to welcome the employee in the #General channel. Otherwise, email and Zoom work well.
2. Start With Pre-Boarding
For best results, you should begin with a “pre-boarding” process. This ensures the first day isn’t totally consumed by filling out paperwork. It allows you to get ahead of the process and spend the first week on the job with value-adding activities like training and team bonding.
3. Eliminate Friction & Disorganization
New hires are often filled with a mixture of excitement, anticipation, anxiety, and uncertainty. You do not want to add a layer of confusion on top of this. Do your best to streamline everything and make sure the entire process is organized from start to finish.
Digitize every part of the onboarding process. For example, use e-signatures to get contracts signed (rather than emailing, scanning, signing, etc.). The fewer steps there are in the onboarding process, the less there is that can go wrong.
4. Match Each New Hire With a Remote Buddy
When onboarding a new employee virtually, always partner them with a “remote buddy” who has a similar role in the company. This should be someone who is experienced and has had success.
As Eddy.com explains, “The onboarding buddy should be patient and understanding, allowing the new hire to take as long as necessary to feel acclimated and confident in their role. Not only should the new employee’s onboarding buddy have extensive knowledge of the company and the role, but they should also display a strong reflection of the organizational culture and values.”
In a physical office, the new hire would spend time shadowing the remote buddy and working in the same office for a couple of days. When you’re doing it virtually, it’ll look different. Tools like Zoom and Slack can help.
For the first few days, set up a morning and afternoon Zoom video call for the new hire and the remote buddy to catch up. You can also encourage the new hire to send questions to their buddy via Slack for quick answers and feedback. (This prevents HR or the hiring manager from being bombarded with questions from every new hire.)
5. Continue to Follow Up
Don’t leave a new hire hanging after the first week. Make it a point to continually follow up over the first 90 days. At first, this might look like daily checkups. Then, it might turn into a weekly huddle. After two or three months, a monthly chat is probably enough. The objective is to keep the new hire engaged and to address any issues that arise as soon as possible.
Gather Feedback and Improve
On the backside of any onboarding process, make sure you leave space to gather feedback. This information will help identify opportunities for growth and improvement so you can improve the process in the future.