Remote Onboarding: Make the Process and Your New Employees a Success

Businesses and their new employees face many challenges, but remote onboarding doesn’t have to be one. Here’s how to set your process and your people up for success.

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How to make your onboarding process virtual and help new employees find success

Here's what you need to know:

  • Today's technology tools are designed to make signing official documents remotely a secure, low-stress, and easy process.
  • Make sure employees get the equipment they need to do their job before their first day.
  • Have tech support lined up to address issues as they arise.
  • Clear expectations on remote work practices and policies will help your new hires start off on the right foot.
  • Clear expectations on remote work practices and policies will help your new hires start off on the right foot
  • Challenges and solutions surrounding the remote onboarding process.

Increasingly, businesses are hiring remote employees to help fill vital roles. Taking steps to make a remote onboarding process smooth, efficient, and welcoming can go a long way toward providing new team members a great start.

Paying better attention to how we onboard employees is more important now than ever. New remote hires can’t socialize in an office in the ways they’ve traditionally been able to do. Standardizing your remote onboarding process, perhaps following an onboarding checklist, can help pave a smooth transition for new employees.

If your workplace is leaning virtual, with or without HR software, here’s how to take better control of your remote employee onboarding.

Invest in tech tools that streamline remote paperwork

Investing in technology to help manage onboarding paperwork is a win-win for everyone involved. It can automatically walk new hires through essential paperwork while simultaneously streamlining other onboarding tasks for HR or hiring managers.

Today’s software tools are designed to make handling new hire paperwork and other documents remotely a secure and easy process. Considering the amount of official onboarding documents required, signing and submitting it is a relatively quick and easy task for a remote employee.

Ensure equipment and other remote environment necessities arrive on time

Since the onboarding experience for new hires will essentially be virtual, your new employee should have the necessary tools and equipment before their start date. Presumably you want to establish clear expectations regarding assignments, meeting attendance, and goals. But you can’t expect new remote employees to hold up their end if you’re not holding up yours.

From laptops to chat tools to employee handbooks, there’s a lot to provide to new employees on day 1 to help them succeed. Equip them well for the remote onboarding process and months ahead. Not only will your newest employees have the tools they need to do their job. But it also shows that while they may be out of sight, they’re certainly not out of mind. Thoughtful gestures like this can help make a new colleague feel included and important in a remote work environment.

Find ways to make a new employee feel welcome from home

Making new employees feel welcome from a distance is perhaps the biggest challenge when onboarding employees remotely.

There’s plenty you can do in person to introduce someone to their new job. From making introductions among coworkers to pointing out where to get coffee and favorite lunch spots near the office, it’s pretty intuitive.

But it gets trickier when people are working from home. So why not put together a little “welcome to the team” care package? Fill it with company swag and perhaps a gift card for lunch on their first day, since you can’t take them out in person.

When it comes to making a new employee feel welcome from home, it’s the thoughts that count. Small gestures show them you’re thinking about them. They get the impression that you want their onboarding process to be both effective and welcoming.

Create remote opportunities for socializing

With remote workplaces, gone are the days of team happy hours, team-building activities, and other social events that help coworkers bond outside the workplace. That said, there are still things you can do to help new employees:

  • Make sure new colleagues are invited to relevant video calls and group chats.
  • Conduct a remote team-building activity, like trivia or a bring-your-own-beverage happy hour, from home.
  • Bring taco Tuesday to your team members by ordering take-out to their locations and gathering on a video call.
  • Offer remote employees a complimentary music streaming account for getting into “the zone” with productivity-inducing tunes. Encourage everyone to share their favorite playlists.

It’s not feasible to completely replace in-person connections. But it’s worthwhile to give it your best shot to ease employee onboarding and help new remote employees bond with their new team. These and other creative ideas help foster company culture, relationship building, and a positive new employee experience.

Be clear about remote work expectations during the remote onboarding process

Setting clear expectations for remote work practices and policies up front is a good way to go. Doing so is especially crucial if those you are hiring are new to the workforce or to remote work. This way, it’ll be clear to your new team member what’s expected from them. For example, how available should they be during working hours, and on what channels? Clarity makes it easier for people to start off on the right foot.

Overcoming challenges employers face when onboarding remote employees

Among the challenges organizations face when building remote teams is transitioning from an in-person onboarding mindset to a remote one. This is true whether 10%, 50%, or 100% of your employees do their job remotely. Consider incorporating remote onboarding activities into your company culture, starting with the following.

Schedule tech support for new team members

Chances are your new hires are going to get stuck at some point during the remote onboarding process. That’s just the way things go with technology. Rather than let a small snag derail the entire process, be sure to have tech support lined up to address technical issues as they arise. This enables everything from getting email access going to signing paperless documents to proceed without a hitch.

Use the buddy system

You can start by assigning new employees an onboarding buddy they can turn to with questions, concerns, or needs. The buddy system should be a source of support to new remote workers during their first week and thereafter. Even in a remote setting, people need a friend they can talk to and trust.

Leverage technology to build strong communication channels

In our modern world, there are numerous ways to communicate. Take advantage of them. Use chats, video calls, virtual conferences, and text messaging platforms to help remote employees stay in contact and feel less alone. This also provides employers the ability to keep in contact. Take the old-fashioned “open door” philosophy and apply it virtually. Just remember to be mindful of different time zones.

Shifting to a remote workplace is a learning curve for all

It can be tough to establish a cohesive and happy workplace when people rarely, if ever, get together in person. It’s even more so when they’re starting remotely. Beefing up your remote employee onboarding process can replace traditional onboarding and offer many benefits. It is a learning curve in your quest to improve company processes. But once your onboarding checklist and related processes are complete, managing employees who are working remotely can quickly become second nature.

For help creating or revising your company’s onboarding process, read our free guide to employee onboarding today.

For ongoing tips, tools, and resources for HR and business management, visit Workest by Zenefits daily.

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