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Top Tips for Onboarding Remote Employees

March 23, 2023

By: IQTalent

By: Ashley McMurtry and Alyssa Cave

In an age where remote work is becoming increasingly popular, onboarding new employees has taken on a whole new meaning. With no physical office to visit or colleagues to start a water cooler conversation with, the process of introducing someone to their new company is quite different from the traditional in-house approach. 

Organizations must ensure their remote onboarding process is professional, informative, and engaging. A seamless and effective onboarding process can lead to a successful employee experience and, ultimately, greater productivity and higher retention. Ashley McMurtry, Vice President of Sales at Worky, and Alyssa Cave, IQTalent’s Director of HR, explore some handy tips for onboarding remote employees to set them up for success from day one. Keep reading to learn more!

Top Recruiter Tip: Prioritize clear communication and internal support to help remote employees onboard seamlessly.

Hear from Ashley McMurtry, Vice President of Sales at @worky_life, and Alyssa Cave, @IQTalent’s Director of HR, as they help organizations navigate the challenges of onboarding remote employees with these top tips:Click to Tweet

1. Ship the Hardware Before Day One

Put in requisitions for the company-issued laptop, phone, or other required office equipment in time, so your new remote employee has what they need on their first day. Separately, send clear instructions on connecting to the company server, and include the contact information of someone on your tech support team who can handle any troubleshooting for the new hire.

Granting access to email, webcasts, internal platforms, and other technology where content can be readily accessed from the start is crucial to onboard remote employees successfully. It communicates to your new hires that they are a priority.

2. Show the Big Picture

Within the new employee’s first week, schedule an online orientation with HR or key team leaders that covers benefits, workplace policies, and administrative details and includes a discussion of the company culture, values, mission, organizational chart, and products and services.

Workers feel a sense of purpose and job satisfaction when they understand how their specific role supports a company’s mission and how the organization supports its staff. With a remote workforce that comes together only on video calls, giving the big picture is especially important so every employee feels a connection with the team and an understanding that everyone is ultimately working toward the same goals.

3. Establish Realistic Responsibilities

Absent being in-office to see your employees working and interact with them face-to-face, it’s important to be on alert for signs of worker burnout and chronic stress. The 24/7 possibility of online work, as many have come to learn, can be a blessing and a curse: It’s nice to avoid the morning commute and have the option of a flexible work schedule, but it’s dangerously easy just to keep working when you’re living in the office. Add to that the daily stress of coping with the uncertainties of a pandemic, and it’s no wonder many remote workers feel overwhelmed.

As a manager, you can help by developing routines and setting realistic schedules that work for both you and the employee. Remind your new hire that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is core to your company’s values. When remote workers know what’s expected, they’re more inclined to give themselves room to recharge and participate meaningfully.

4. Encourage a Supportive Team Culture

Connecting the new remote worker with their team members early on is a critical piece of an onboarding program. A virtual team meeting during the first week can provide valuable insight into how coworkers interact, what a typical day looks like, and how the organization operates. Keeping a weekly or biweekly team meeting on the calendar for project updates and brainstorming problem-solving ideas will help build relationships and staff cohesion.

Pro Tip: Create new hire coffee breaks and invite the organization to join to meet new staff. 

Consider, too, a virtual lunch hour with the entire team at the end of week two or three and offer as a conversation starter a topic like how team members are maintaining a work-life balance and handling the isolation of working from home. The exchange might alleviate some stress for an employee still settling into their role and, in the process, demonstrate a supportive company culture.

If an organization consists of multiple departments, it’s beneficial for a new hire to meet people who make key organizational decisions or other colleagues they might be working with. This can help them form new relationships across the enterprise, share a sense of belonging in the workplace, and find their voice.

5. Train Your New Remote Employee

You made a great hire based on the work you’ve done in candidate outreach and the skills and experience they will bring to your company. Even so, that doesn’t mean they’ll be familiar with your processes, tools, and technology.

Carefully consider the new remote employee's skill set and what training they may need to fill knowledge gaps. Insist that trainers adhere to punctuality so the trainee feels valued. Query the employee soon after their training and welcome their feedback. You want to be certain each session was useful and is helping them perform their daily tasks.

6. Create a Coaching Plan

Given the isolation of offsite work, it’s even more important to keep the lines of communication open and provide opportunities for questions and feedback. Managers should take the opportunity early on to build relationships with new team members. Schedule frequent and regular video check-ins to review goals, challenges, and concerns. In your conversations, dive deeper into job expectations and discuss their professional priorities and goals.

Pro Tip: The training that is offered to remote employees should mirror the training provided for onsite employees.  We want to ensure that remote employees feel prioritized as well.

Assigning a mentor would provide additional coaching and guidance, give the new hire a sounding board, and show how much the organization supports professional development. Mentoring is a great way for new employees to get a better feel for the company culture, including how people typically communicate and interact.

7. Don’t Let Your Message Die

Make no mistake, onboarding remote employees isn’t going to be a one-off, one-day formality. Begin with a warm virtual welcome and introductions to your company and people, follow up with online training and networking, and provide continuity through coaching and mentoring. But make sure the message never grows old.

The company values and best practices you stress during the new hire’s introduction should come through loud and clear month after month — through your actions and through internal communications, such as employee publications and your company intranet. 

In ongoing training activities, continue to make it plain that values such as respect for colleagues, commitment to quality service, and doing what’s right rather than what’s easy or convenient aren’t just first-day lip service but integral to your philosophy of doing business.

The Importance of the Onboarding Process

Onboarding is the official process of integrating new team members into an organization. The difference between onboarding and orientation is that orientation is typically a singular event, whereas onboarding is a continuous process during a team member's first year. Having an efficient onboarding process can have long-term benefits:

  • Better team member retention
  • More productive, more quickly
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Sets expectations

Onboarding is an investment in the long-term success of new hires and in the company as well. Studies show that 87% of team members are less likely to leave a company when they feel engaged. Companies that invest in onboarding report 54% more productivity from new hires.

Ashley McMurtry, Vice President of Sales at @worky_life, and Alyssa Cave, @IQTalent’s Director of HR, break down some of the most important tips to help successfully onboard remote workers in IQTalent’s recent blog:Click to Tweet

When hiring in an all-remote organization, a cohesive onboarding process is especially important because not only do you have to give new hires the information they need to do their jobs, you have to empower them to think remotely as well. Remote onboarding relies heavily on documentation, anticipating the needs of new team members, and a dedication to continuously improving the process based on feedback.

Remote Onboarding Best Practices

Outline work logistics and expectations. Most believe that the best way to operate is by documenting processes, guides, solutions, how-to’s, and policies. Be sure to empower remote workers to adopt remote-first communication and workflow practices.

Identify employee concerns and answer questions. This value gives team members access to a great deal of visibility into what is going on throughout the organization. However, it does not negate the need to invite employees to ask questions.

Pro Tip: The organization should have a remote work policy that outlines the expectation of remote work.  For example, employees should have a professional workspace free of distractions.  Employees will likely be expected to provide internet that supports normal business activity.  Setting clear expectations from the beginning sets employees up for success.

Add some excitement. In addition to the incredible benefits of all-remote work, getting to network and interact with their team, whether remote or in-person, is part of what makes work fun and exciting - especially in an all-remote culture.

Pro Tip: Consider stipends for remote employees to join a coworking space.  This will allow remote workers to feel more engaged. 

Schedule check-ins with new employees. It's a good idea to schedule weekly 1-1 meetings to field questions, ask about any challenges, or focus on areas to grow and build trust. Managers can supplement formal meetings with coffee chats where no work is discussed: the goal is to simply listen, share, and have open conversations and nurture the social component of remote working.

Remote Onboarding Tips

Because remote onboarding is mostly self-guided, the real-time face-to-face ability for new employees to ask questions does not exist. Knowing this, we've created some important reminders for onboarding remote employees, such as:

Check-in immediately. Receiving and retaining a wealth of new information can be overwhelming, particularly on the first day of work.

Suggest helpful hints. Chances are that you've discovered some tips, tricks, and hacks – share them proactively! Never assume that the person who is working remotely has worked remotely before.  Coaching may be necessary for the person to build the skills necessary for successful remote work.  Consider including reading materials on good remote work habits during the onboarding process. 

Remind them to introduce themselves. Remind the new team member to introduce themselves in the Slack channel #new_team_members or the relevant team channel. Encourage them to share some personal info and include a photo or two!

Encourage them to socialize with other new hires. For example, new employees might organize a group call with other new hires in order to walk through onboarding together, while learning about new personalities and departments of the company.

Introduce them to any tools for connecting with colleagues. Chat tools such as Slack may seem ubiquitous, but not everyone has used them before - and even if they have, they may not know how your network is organized.

Ask where they need help and connect them with the experts. Connect new team members with subject matter experts if your assigned team member requests additional help in a given area. Keep checking in regularly. Checking in regularly will help them feel welcome and supported.

Provide backup if needed. If you plan to be out (e.g., on vacation, company business, events, etc.) during a new team member's first few weeks, make sure that a backup person is available to offer support.

Best practices for effective onboarding include clear communication. A few ways to do this are to:

  • Encourage people to write everything down
  • Allow open access to view all important documents
  • Use screenshots so everyone at any time can follow the thought process
  • Encourage non-work-related communication for relationship building
  • Encourage group video calls for bonding
  • Encourage one-on-one video calls between people

Providing a robust onboarding program that includes resources, clear communication, and support will ensure that new remote employees can easily integrate into their new environment. By implementing the tips and tricks mentioned above, you can effectively onboard your remote employees, equipping them with the tools they need to be successful while fostering positive team dynamics and growth.

Thank you to Worky and Ashley McMurtry, Vice President of Sales at Worky, for your contributions to this blog and insightful work-from-home perspective! Get in contact with them here.

IQTalent is the perfect solution for companies looking to hire remote workers. Our on-demand recruiting firm has access to a vast network of remote talent, making it easy to find the right person for the job. With our expert recruiters and advanced search options, employers can quickly and accurately assess available candidates, ensuring they find the perfect match for their open positions. Reach out today and get started.

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