Onboarding remote workers: It’s time for a rethink

The main goal of employee onboarding should always be to go above and beyond to help new starters settle into to their new working environment, get to grips with your company culture as well as their role and responsibilities. In the past, many businesses would opt to do this in person. But this could be all about to change, thanks in part to the coronavirus pandemic.

Until the lockdown was introduced earlier this year, a lot of businesses hadn’t even considered remote working as a viable option. But after being forced to shut their workplaces and set up employees to work at home, many businesses have seen the advantages that remote working can have. In fact, there has already been a surge in companies hiring remote workers, not just from the UK, but from all over the world.

While this is a fantastic step toward a new normal for the workforce, it does mean that the more traditional approach to welcoming new starters into your organisation falls by the wayside. Whether it's due to lockdown or because you're hiring remotely from different countries or time zones, an in-person meeting with your new starter isn’t always possible.

So how can you set your new employees up for success and make them feel welcome when you can’t see them in person? The answer is simple; reshaping your onboarding process to better suit remote workers. This guide will give you some practical advice on how to create an effective onboarding plan that fully integrates remote workers into your team, even if they're only away from the office for the time being.

Get them set up with the right tech

Arguably one of the most important parts of the onboarding process for remote workers, you need to make sure they have all of the tech they need ahead of their first day on the job, particularly if you don’t work on a bring your own device basis. Remember that you’ll need to factor in time for items to be shipped and to arrive at your new starter’s home. The last thing you want is for them to be unable to get going because they’re waiting for various pieces of tech to arrive.

From laptops and printers to VPNs that boost their Wi-Fi, consider exactly what tech they will need to be able to do their job effectively. You will also need to make sure they have access to any company software you use, provide them with logins and company emails and give them instruction for safely setting up their new workstation.

It can also be worthwhile to arrange some virtual training sessions that will get them up to speed and help them feel comfortable using the programs and software your company uses.

Create a virtual community

Whilst we’re in the grips of a global pandemic, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to invite your new remote employees into your HQ for a tour or to meet the other members of your team. But it’s still important to have some face time with your new employee and communicate with them regularly to make sure they feel valued. This is where video conference calls come into play.

Used the world over since the pandemic started, video calls have become integral in keeping teams and businesses in touch with one another. So, consider using this to help your remote workers build social connections with the rest of your team. Introduce them to their colleagues on their first day and let them know who they can talk to about certain issues, so they aren’t left in the dark when challenges arise.

You might even want to set them up with a mentor who they can meet with virtually each day and can answer their questions and help with any concerns they may have. Inviting them to team social events, as well as meetings will also help them to feel a part of your biz and remove any chance of them feeling isolated.

Set expectations

Another key aspect of your remote onboarding process should be setting clear expectations and giving tasks that instil purpose. If they’ve worked remotely before, it’s likely that they will be already be able to self-motivate and manage their time effectively. But it’s still important that you clearly communicate your expectations and their responsibilities before they start work.

Before you send over a list of expectations to your newbie, consider how your expectations may have changed since lockdown began, particularly in terms of working hours and new processes you’re using. It’s vital that you're both on the same page when it comes to company values, objectives and goals. You should also work out a schedule for their availability to attend team meetings and provide them with documentation of their induction plan for them to refer to.

In addition to their immediate role-specific responsibilities, also encourage them to get them involved in upcoming projects your team are working on, even if it’s only in a small capacity to begin with. You could also add tangible tasks that they can complete remotely into their training plans to help them get used to your systems and ways of working.

Studies show that employees will increase their work efforts by as much as 20% when they are integrated into a company through an effective onboarding program. With statistics like that, it’s clear that investing time into making your onboarding process people centric, purpose filled and engaging is definitely worth your while.

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2nd July