How To: Remote Onboarding

from Silk Helix
28 May 2020

Onboarding or Induction (both terms mean the same) is about welcoming and settling new people into the organisation. Research has shown that successful onboarding increases employee retention and job satisfaction whilst also reducing absence. Getting it right is not complicated but does require some thought and planning.

Starting a new role can be an anxious time. There is a lot to learn, even for an experienced hire. The onboarding process should aim to reduce these anxieties and recognise the learning process. Introduce people to their team and the company culture to enable them to settle in quickly.

When onboarding people remotely the principles are the same but there are some additional things to consider. This article is best read alongside our article How To: Onboarding.

Make Day One Welcoming

There are broadly two types of remote onboarding, but during the COVID-19 lockdown many organisations are finding themselves having to do fully remote onboarding with no personal contact. This will also be the case when recruiting people who are very geographically spread apart.

Often new starters will travel to an office or central location for day one or the first few days. This provides a chance to meet people face to face and start to build relationships they will need remotely. If this is the case make sure they are expected and welcomed and that everything they need is either ready to take away with them or delivered to them.

With fully remote onboarding your new starter is in their own home waiting to start work. You’ll need to be proactive to ensure their first day is welcoming. Many companies give new starter gifts and this is even more useful for someone starting remotely. A branded mug and a notepad can help them feel welcomed into the team. Don’t forget to ensure all the equipment they need arrives in time for their first day along with instructions for setting up and a phone number to call for help!

In advance of day one make clear your expectations with regards to equipment arriving and when this should be set up (on day one rather than before) and what telephone calls or video calls are planned and when. Don’t forget that equipment may need to be set up before video calls can happen. Depending on the role and skill of the individual, instructions on using video calling software may be useful including handy tips around backgrounds. Making first impressions in a new company can be challenging enough when we’re only worried about walking into the office, but the added pressure of our home being on show can increase anxiety levels.

Your remote worker has the same employment rights as any other employee so ideally all their new starter paperwork will have been sent out in advance of their first day, taking into account potential postal delays and time for returning documents if they need to be returned by post. Electronic signature systems may provide alternatives to posting.

Rules around requirements to have had sight of right to work documents have been relaxed during the lockdown period to allow employers to take on and evidence right to work of new starters remotely.

Getting to Know People

There is no doubt getting to know people can be more difficult without face to face contact but it is not impossible and video calling does provide the next best thing. Arrange video calls with the people they need to know, introduce your new starter to all communication channels and announce their arrival. It’s particularly important with remote onboarding to encourage your existing team to reach out and say hello.

During the lockdown period we’ve seen many companies successfully operate social events including team lunches via video calling. It is easy to forget the need for social and informal communication but this must be planned into the onboarding process. These social events are important for building relationships and getting your new employee comfortable in their new team.

Buddy System

A buddy system is even more important with remote onboarding. It can feel very lonely sitting at home not sure who to ask or where to find the answers. A buddy will be the person who your new starter can contact to ask questions.

The buddy should reach out and check in, making sure that your new employee is comfortable asking questions. Pick up the phone and don’t just rely on text messaging as this is key to building a relationship where information is shared. The buddy should be someone who can share the company culture and help with introductions that may not be formally organised.

Company Culture

Everything we have recommended so far is about the company culture and sharing this with your new employee, but to add to that make sure you share your company values, mission and vision. It may not even be noticed by long serving team members but you probably have a company language, acronyms and names that those outside your company may not be aware of.

Set expectations, discuss the organisation goals and how this translates to team and individual goals. Help your new employee immerse themselves in the company and everything they have learnt by getting working. Make sure you have reasonable and practical tasks they can do in those early days and weeks as these will start to make them feel part of the team and that they are having an impact.

Practical Tips

Top Tip: Create an onboarding checklist, a template document which can then be adapted to individual hires. Detail what they should know by the end of week one, month one, month three and possible even month six.

Schedule key meetings, including probationary meetings, to ensure they happen in a timely manner. Don’t leave your new employee feeling like an afterthought.

If you’re hiring a lot of people at the same sort of time, consider ways to ensure they all get the right information without having to repeat it to everyone. The person sharing the information will have heard it before, it is easy to forget this is new information to the receiver. Produce information in a written format that can be referred back to or make videos that can be shared. Not only is this efficient and ensures consistency it also produces a resource that can be referred back to. Whilst this works for some information, don’t go overboard with documents and videos as too much content delivered like this can result in forgetting the human touch!

Review and evaluate your process. Once your new starter is settled and has been with the company a while, ask them how they found the process and if anything could be done better. Act on the feedback you get and keep improving.

While this guide covers the basics, every situation has its own complexities so you should always seek professional advice. Silk Helix can help so give us a call on 01245 910 500 to discuss, or we will call you:

Article last updated: 28 May 2020

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