First impressions matter, and you only get one chance at making them in the virtual recruitment process. A key part of how engaged a team member is feeling and how equipped they are can be traced back to the process of how they are onboarded.
The Boston Consulting Group in fact found that the most capable companies at onboarding report 2.5 times more revenue growth and 1.9 times higher profit margins than their weaker counterparts. It really does pay off to do it properly!
Onboarding remote employees is tricky though, and for more reasons than you might think. The amount of planning and thorough preparation you need is going to be higher than in a normal office setting. It’s easy enough for a new employee to get lost in what they’re doing when their coworkers are sitting around them. Just think about how they might feel when they’re working completely alone.
The remote onboarding has to be completely watertight, with all bases covered. If they’re working in a different timezone, the new employee will need a way of finding out the information they need quickly and efficiently. The social side also has to be worked on too. An employee that begins their remote career feeling isolated is going to have a difficult time getting out of this feeling. Structure is needed to successfully integrate them into your working family.
Break Down the Remote Recruitment Essential Items
Let’s start with the basics and essentials that have to be present right from the beginning.
Equipment and software
Perhaps your new hire will need some equipment to complete their tasks, or have access to the correct software, tools, and accounts. A list should be drawn up for each position you offer, noting everything that a person will need to get the job done.
You can easily find this out by asking other people in their role (or similar role) what they are using on a day to day basis. Once the list is in place, tick off each particular part and make sure your new employee has access to everything on their first day at the latest.
Another tip is to make sure you check your login credentials tool. It can be much easier to do this with tools that securely save your credentials for you, for example, 1Password. Make sure all the logins and passwords work before you pass them on to the new hire.
Prepare onboarding guide (expectations, rules & culture explained)
A key piece of information that has to be passed on straight away is what is expected from the role and how the culture at your company works. This shouldn’t be totally alien to any new teammates if you included it during the interview process.
It’s worth going through it a second time however, and provide any documentation needed so that the new employee can refer to it when you’re not around. The same goes for how to arrange meetings too. This should be explained and outlined in a document, knowledgebase, or internal wiki to make sure there is no confusion in the future.
Unlike in the office, there isn’t someone always around to explain to you in a pinch. That’s why proper documentation is really necessary.
Break Down What You Need to Know
Now we’ve covered the very basics of what your new hires need to know, what about the things that you need to know? You’ll probably have covered this in the interview process already, so if it wasn’t you personally conducting the interview make sure to check these.
If you’re missing some information, then primarily you need to find out key personal details and how familiar they are with working remotely. The rest of the information is quite standard for any type of job, co-located or remote.
It’s important to understand how familiar they are with standard remote processes, as things that may seem usual to you may be completely new to someone who has only worked in an office. This of course is then going to affect your whole onboarding process.
Does the new hire also know a lot about your company? Size, departments, management, and other details? If they do already, then you can focus your onboarding efforts on other areas where they may need more support.
You should ask if there is any equipment they also need, preferably in advance of their first day so you can sort out any logistics. Finally, if you haven’t already received this in advance, their personal details for payroll information and where you can mail documents if the need arises.
Stage Your Onboarding of Remote Employees
Once everyone is clued up with the essential information they need, you can begin to start the onboarding process properly. Onboarding actually begins right from the end of the interview process, and not just from their first day. This pre-start phase needs to kick in as soon as possible after someone has accepted their offer and signed their contract.
In the pre-start phase, we recommend a welcome onboarding email that can be personalized to each new team member. Attach any forms that you need them to fill out, along with a request form for any equipment they might need such as a work laptop. If you have any cool merch or swag to send out, now is the time!
Once all agreements have been signed, set up a meeting on their first day to take the onboarding process to the next step. In this meeting you can hand over the tools, credentials, and logins you collected previously and provide them with the essential information that they need.
Don’t forget to let their team know that someone new is joining and to give them a welcome email or message should also be worked into your onboarding process. Everyone loves to feel welcomed on their first day if they’re feeling a bit nervous.
The First 90 Days
The crucial first 90 days of any job is going to have a lot of learning involved and socialising to get to know the team better. You might find it best to set them a buddy on their team to help the new hire get along, someone with who you can also get involved in the feedback process.
Our top tip is to schedule a feedback session every 30 days with the buddy, you, and team lead/manager to provide constructive criticism and comments. You can discuss where a new hire is excelling, where they need help, and what can be improved upon.
Build a plan with the new hire, and keep reviewing it after every month. The manager should be celebrating all progress made, and reporting back to the management team how the new team member is getting on.
After the first three months or roughly 90 days, the new hire’s manager should be taking the lead in all feedback sessions and evaluations that take place. A skill level and salary check is best to do around this point, once they have settled in more and you are able to see more of the skills they have to offer. By this point, the onboarding process is over and everyone should feel more settled in with each other.
There’s a Lot to Lose if We Don’t Onboard Well
The real key takeaway that needs to be said about onboarding remote employees that everything needs thorough preparation and documentation. For a new employee, getting hold of the information they need if they have any questions should be almost as easy as if they were in an office.
When they don’t have a colleague they can directly ask, there should be a source of information that they can refer to. We may also need to help ease people into the transition to remote work if they’ve never worked outside the office before.
But, all of these should be well known to you if you’ve collected all the essential information like we recommended. We wish you all the best for your next onboarding, and hope it leads to a long and happy working relationship that everyone can enjoy!