There are unique challenges that remote employees have to face when comparing to on-site employees, including time-zone difference, lack of opportunities for face-to-face interactions, etc. And the below are key areas to pay attention to when onboarding remote employees.
#1 Before making an offer
Setting the right expectations
The onboarding process actually begins with the recruitment process, especially for candidates who are new to the remote working environment.
Make sure you communicate clearly about the expectations of the role, responsibilities, hours of work (e.g. are they expected to be working during specific hours so there will be overlaps with teammates in other timezones? Would team meetings be held outside their normal working hours to accommodate for teammates in different timezones?) and how performances will be evaluated.
Setting the right expectations can avoid conflicts and misunderstandings when they start.
Help candidates understand your company culture
Unlike regular employees who often got a chance to visit the office during the interview, remote employees can only imagine how the culture of the company will be like based on what they can see online or from their experience during the interview process.
Consider adding more elements to talk about the culture of your company and demonstrate how the day-to-day is like on the career page on your website. For shortlisted candidates, it is also a good idea to arrange more calls for them to talk to more of your teammates so both you and the candidates can understand better whether there is a cultural fit.
#2 Pre-onboarding before the first day
To keep the new hire excited about their first day, you can begin to fill them in with more background of your company and what to expect when they first start before their actual first day. And there are some admin tasks that you can perform beforehand to ensure things will go smoothly for the first few days.
Check if they have the right equipment and working environment
In most cases, it would be a given that an on-site employee has all the equipment they need from the get-go. You assign them a desk, you have the IT guy assign them a computer login, and in a few minutes, you can move right on to the next step of the onboarding process. With remote employees, however, it’s a different story.
Your remote employees have their own setup where they will be working, and you need to make sure that they have what they need. For examples, do they have a dedicated workspace at home or will they need to rent a desk at a co-working space? Are they using the same operating system as your teammates or do you need to provide them with a work laptop? You might even consider getting them a second monitor to boost productivity.
Send them some company swag
It’s easy for a remote employee to feel distant and separated from on-site workers and even other remote workers. Since they won’t get to clock in each day, have a chat by the coffee table, or run into anyone at lunch, they can feel very disconnected from their coworkers and that can impact loyalty and team commitment.
To help your remote worker feel like a part of the team for real, gift them some company swag. Send a personalized greeting card signed by the CEO (and maybe even their new coworkers), give them a company T-shirt, a hat, some stickers — make them feel welcomed and noticed.
Grant them access to the onboarding parts in your knowledge base
Most company knowledge base softwares allow you to set user permissions so you can consider granting early access to particular areas of your knowledge base to the new hires. For examples, information about your business culture and vision, common FAQs such as who to contact, company policy / benefits, etc.
#3 The first day
Set up a welcome call
If bringing the new hire into HQ during their first week is not possible, you should definitely set up a welcome call to orient them to the critical aspects of working at your company with a video call.
- Walk them through the team structure, and also spend some time talking about the culture and important policies at work.
- Share access to your knowledge base and onboarding reading list
- Explain what they can expect during their first week, and make sure they know how they can get in touch with their coworkers and other important staff.
- Grant them access to systems such as email, instant messaging tool, role-specific systems, etc.
- Set goals and expectations and give them a big picture of how things work on their new team.
Introduce the new hire to the team
Share your team lookbook and ask the new hire put their own entry into the lookbook so your workers can get to know them better, too. Insteading of just including the role in the company, encourage teammates to add more fun elements in their intro so it would be easier to spark conversations between teammates.
Also set up a team call so that everyone can say hello face-to-face.
For key members that the new hire will be working closely with, schedule individual calls so that they can have more chance to really listen and ask deeper questions, versus being a meet and greet that can easily leave them flustered.
Assign a buddy
It is a great way to help the new hires adapt to the new working environment and also establish bonding with other teammates. Best if there are other remote teammates in the new hire’s local area as well.
#4 The first weeks
Set up calls with key department representatives
Other than scheduling calls with teammates in the same department, also set up calls with the key persons from different departments so the new hire can understand better how the different departments work together to achieve your company goals.
A weekly check-in call
Onboarding is an interactive process. So you shouldn’t be just feeding information to the new hires, and should constantly ask for feedback from them to improve the process.
Set up a weekly check-in call to discuss progress, challenges and what help your team can offer.
According to research, new hires normally know whether they will stay with the company just within the first few weeks, so it’s key to nail your onboarding process to engage the new hire.
But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all onboarding process that works for all companies, so always try to get more feedback from your new hires so that you can keep fine-tuning the process to fit your company needs.