Remote Teams Month: Onboarding Remotely
17th November 2021
First… the good news? If you already have an effective onboarding process, it won’t need a complete overhaul to be remote friendly. Instead, follow this best practise guide to virtual onboarding and provide your top new hire with the best introductory experience to your company and retain your top talent:
What does your new hire want to know more about? What tools do they need? What essential organisational, project and team information should they be aware of? Do they have access to all the relevant resources? Ask new hires what they expect as part of the initial onboarding. Then HR leaders and direct managers can create interactive check-ins and coaching sessions. It’ll help ensure new hires feel welcomed, involved, well equipped and supported, which in turn will help them stay motivated.
2. Start Early!
Many HR leaders and individual teams have always welcomed new hires in ways fit for virtual onboarding, reaching out before the start date by sending recorded video messages, arranging group virtual calls and welcome email messages from the team.
Successful remote onboarding involves arranging personal messages and practical tools for new remote hires just before they start. Send instructions on set up along with the equipment you provide, plus a link to technical details such as the ideal bandwidth, security information, login details and IT contacts. Software such as Loom is ideal for making “how to” videos.
Try to digitise the usual documents that must be signed, and plan to go over them during a video call in order for you to witness signatures.
Establishing a foundation for strong relationships across your organisation is a huge part of onboarding. Therefore, it’s best to be proactive and intentional about setting up a mix of formal and informal one-on-one interactions between the new hire and other individuals so that the new hire can develop contextual understanding of team dynamics. Additionally, appointing an onboarding point of contact is crucial when the process is being carried out remotely. Your new hire won’t have colleagues around to spontaneously ask questions as they come up, so ideally this person will reach out before their first day and establish themselves as their go-to person.
Guidance can often be incredibly helpful to settle into a new role, for example the company’s tone and level of formality, dress code, virtual etiquette on video calls, messaging norms, and working hours. Don’t leave new employees to guess at these issues; doing so can create ambiguity and unnecessary stress.
Facebook have an onboarding tradition of culture training new employees together from across functions, so they make career connections and share new employee experiences. They now host the training via video conferences as well as an app channel to continue allowing new hires the opportunity to interact, train and share experiences.
5. Get Feedback
You’ll want to make your onboarding as effective as it can be as well as align with business and staffing needs over time. So, you’ll need feedback. Find out what new hires think after they aren’t so new anymore and tailor future experiences.
For instance, at LinkedIn, the HR team direct virtual onboarding “graduates” to a short online survey where they rate different parts of the program and make comments. Leaders also follow up with a focus group for an informal chat on what virtual hires liked, didn’t like and still need, following their onboarding experience.
Onboarding is one of the most important drivers of employee success. Getting off to a strong start creates business momentum. Getting off to a poor start breaks a new employee’s confidence and leads the organisation to question the wisdom of the hire. What separates businesses that do onboarding well, is that the work is intentional and that it does not end after the first week, the first 30 days, or even the first 100 days. Your onboarding program should just be the beginning of an ongoing developmental foundation that continues to strengthen your employees’ cultural alignment, relationships across your organisation, and performance in their role.
MD Comment: Our experience has found most hiring fall-outs occur in the first six months. The vast majority were avoidable and the result were candidates being thrown in at the deep end with very little to hold on to in terms of what ‘good’ looks like from a performance and cultural perspective. Though time must be invested up-front to develop your on-boarding process, the benefits are huge in terms of talent retention, reduced disruption from new starters and from a financial perspective your new starters and the team will reach high levels of performance much more quickly. Technology is a great enabler for effective on-boarding, its never been easier to shoot a short intro or walk around videos or simple how-to guides.
Next time we’ll be looking specifically at creating an ongoing developmental foundation for your remote team.