How to Onboard Remote Employees
On-boarding employees remotely has become a necessity during the COVID-19 outbreak, while face-to-face contact has been limited. Companies have had to learn to adapt and overcome, while some have struggled with this change due to not having online processes in place, others have learned to stumble through. With two-thirds of businesses are successfully interviewing and onboarding employees remotely since the pandemic began, according to a survey conducted by Cielo.
How does remote employee onboarding differ?
The main difference between remote and in-person onboarding is that you will never meet your future employee in person before they officially sign their contract. Instead, any interviews or meeting with the wider team will all be done virtually, either by phone or video call. This has been a huge culture shock for many hiring managers whose companies weren’t up to date with advancements in technology before the pandemic began.
What is remote employee orientation?
Not only does onboarding an employee remotely affect the interview process but it also significantly affects the orientation of your new employee. It’s easy for your new employee to feel cut off and isolated from their team and the business unless the correct procedures are put in place. This is where remote employee orientation is essential in bridging the gap from interview to fully-fledged team member and there’s only one chance to get this right. This is both the employees’ chance to understand whether they’ve made the right decision in accepting the offer of employment and the company’s chance to provide their new employees with all of the skills and information they will need to succeed in their role.
Phases of the remote onboarding process
There are several phases to the onboarding process, including pre-onboarding, orientation, assignments, and then ongoing support. The process as a whole can be as formal or as informal as the company wishes it to be and can last from only a couple of weeks to over 3 months. This is entirely down to how complex their role is, how small/large the company is, or how detailed you want the onboarding to be.
Pre-onboarding is the first stage of the onboarding process and includes everything from signing the contract to your new employees’ first day of logging on. This will include making sure they have access to their email account, sending them any devices they might need like a laptop/phone, assigning them a mentor. Some companies even send a personalized welcome pack, including information and branded merchandise, this not only makes your new employee feel appreciated and special but also helps widen brand awareness when it’s shared on networking and social profiles.
The next stage of the onboarding process is orientation and begins from day one of the employee starting. This stage provides the knowledge and information on what systems you use, how you track tasks, how you communicate as a team. As well as setting up 1:1’s so they can get to know the team on an individual basis. Without the coffee breaks or lunchtime natter, there is a lack of engagement within the team that needs to be supported virtually, hence the introductory 1:1’s. The implementation of a ‘buddy’ should also be considered, due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, it’s important that your new employee has someone they can feel they can go to with questions no matter how big or small. This ‘buddy’ shouldn’t be the employee’s manager as this will provide them with more of a social partnership as well as a managerial one.
It’s important for you to be extremely clear on what your employee’s assignments/tasks are during this onboarding process. Until they are confident in their abilities and more in line with the business’s needs. Give detailed and straightforward directions, with a clear deadline, and also provide the contacts of the wider team who they may need to liaise with on certain projects. The clearer you are at this stage, the easier they’ll find completing the tasks and therefore feel more confident in liaising with the team and in their abilities.
By arranging for your employee to have a ‘buddy’ as well as them making connections through their 1:1 meeting, this will provide them with a level of support aside from their manager. It is vital that they still feel that they have the support of their manager as well though and regular catch-ups both personal and work-related should be set. Without this ongoing support then it’s easy for employees to feel isolated, abandoned, and eventually unengaged and switch off from their role.
Challenges of onboarding remote employees
While remote onboarding has become a standard practice for many companies, it hasn’t come without a few challenges along the way
The setting up of virtual meetings, being extra detailed in communications/tasks and feedback, and arranging time for extra processes. Such as sending out equipment, making sure they have adequate WiFi and can access all systems without on-hand support. This can be a long and tedious process. Which some companies don’t have the time, resources, or patience for, hence their onboarding process is failing and they’re losing employees.
Delivering adequate support
Without in-house team comradery, it’s important that new employees receive this type of support virtually. Which can often feel forced or leave older employees having to take extra time away from work/projects to do their part in the onboarding process.
Isolation / Lack of interest
Without the casual office chats, drinks after work, or conversations over lunch, it’s hard for new employees to build a friendship with their new team, often leaving them feeling isolated which in turn can lead to a lack of interest in their role within the company. This is when it’s important to both provide extra support emotionally and provide them with a clear structure of how to improve their performance within their role. A remote performance review can help structure the support that they may need moving forwards.
Channels for optimal communication
Providing the correct channels for communication and making sure they work with these new systems to collaborate within the team sufficiently can be both tedious and time-consuming. However, it is a key part of being able to make sure everyone works on the same platforms and in the same way, to keep information and updates flowing consistently and efficiently.
It may not pop to the front of your mind at first however one of the main reasons that employees stay with their companies for so long, is due to the emotional connections that they have within their team. Friendships with colleagues is a large factor in staying within a job for so long and this is hard to emulate within a remote onboarding process. Employees are more distant and lack that human interaction that allows them to form bonds.
The process of onboarding remote employees
Onboarding remote employees might be more of a minefield, however, with the right plan of action and support from your HR teams – it can be as easy as pie!
Develop a month-long plan
Having a month-long plan is the best way to achieve success, if you need assistance in developing your plan of action for an onboarding process then read our article on employee onboarding process that will provide you with the rough steps needed in your month-long plan.
Onboard in groups where possible
Onboarding individually is not only time-consuming but takes up too many resources. The best way to initiate any remote onboarding process is to make sure you can do so in groups where possible. This means you can do one mass order of laptops/phones, arranging 1:1’s and sorting out a buddy system. It will all be easier to track and keep on top of.
Ask for feedback
The only way to make sure your remote onboarding system is working is to simply ask for feedback! There’s no one better to provide constructive criticism than someone who has been through it themselves. Also knowing how your onboarding process might differ for different departments within your company, perhaps the Legal Department needs an extra onboarding step in the process than the IT Department do. Feedback will only help you continually improve your process.
Tips for remote workers onboarding
While remote working might have been a new process for your business it will definitely be a factor that is here to stay and play a part in your work life for the foreseeable. So, here’s a few tips that will help with the onboarding process as well as how to manage your remote workforce.
Provide a clear and detailed tasklist, that leaves your new employee guessing as little as possible. If they feel confident to complete these first initial tasks, they’ll feel prepared to take on larger projects sooner than you anticipated.
A simple welcome email to introduce your new employee to the team, is a great way to start conversations. Not only will this inform the wider team about where this new person sits but should also include some fun facts or interesting points, allowing for a more friendly tone than corporate. It can also start as a conversation starter for the wider team to introduce themselves!
Working with your new employee to set goals with them allows them to work for something bigger than just ticking boxes on their task list. It provides them with a sense of purpose and allows them to work on goals that they’ve created as well as business objectives.
The onboarding process was complicated enough before it became remote, now line managers are having to deal with a lot more in terms of processes and timelines than they ever should be. Taking time away from achieving business objectives and doing their job. That’s where our ultimate HR software solution can help, with a remote onboarding solution that makes life easier for hiring managers and the company. Putting worries that everything is handled to one side and allowing employees to doing what they do best instead of spending a large amount of their time worrying about the onboarding process. Book a demo to find out more.
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