Your Essential Guide To Remote Onboarding

If you’re recruiting staff, you might think that the coronavirus pandemic has totally ruined your onboarding procedure, now that everyone’s working from home. Yes, you’ve got to adapt, but you can still onboard new staff effectively without ever meeting your new recruit in person.

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Why onboarding is important

Onboarding should be a key part of every company’s recruitment and retention strategy. This is because great onboarding will:

  • Motivate your recruit to “buy-in” to your company from the get-go. Great onboarding increases employee engagement.
  • Help new staff be more productive, more quickly.
  • Reduce the risk of the dreaded remote revolving door, with your new recruit leaving the job within weeks. All that great work by your recruitment team will have been wasted and you’ll get hit by more recruitment costs.
  • Boost your brand reputation.
So, what does good remote onboarding look like?

Remote onboarding is about giving your new recruit a great experience. It’s about making them feel informed, connected, valued and, heck, even cared for. It’s about giving the tools, the knowledge and the support to enable them to do their job safely and well.

Doing all this remotely is certainly more challenging than a standard in-office onboarding process, but it’s doable. And it’s a team effort. Remote onboarding means that your onboarding team - HR, IT, line manager and colleagues - have to work even better together. Onboarding without a pandemic raging around your head is complex enough, but when you have a fleet of remote workers and recruits, what’s especially important is:

  • Communication: you have the right tech and the right people in place
  • Connection: you have a shared strategy, and a structure to keep everyone connected psychologically. This will reduce risk of isolation and keep up the energy.
  • Clarity: your new recruit understands their role, what’s expected of them, and your working culture: for instance, are you expecting them to reply to emails 24/7? (Erm, we hope not).
  • Support: Your new recruit can find the information they need to be able to do their job, and has easy access to IT and HR support when or if they need it.
Remote onboarding: what to do and when to do it

The trick is to consider remote onboarding not as a one-day experience but as a three-part process:

  • Before their first day

    This period is from when the recruit accepts your offer, to their first day of work. Here’s what to do:
    • Send them a welcome email as soon as they’ve accepted your offer. Follow this up with further messages from their line manager and maybe even their team members. It’s not exactly a love bomb but it’s the next best thing.
    • Consider sending them a welcome pack with some fun and useful things: a company mug, stationery, chocolate - whatever reflects your culture.
    • Make sure they have the right equipment and tech to enable them to do their job. If you’re sending them tech or equipment, make sure they have step-by-step instructions for setting it up.
    • Assign them a buddy or mentor as a support. Make buddying part of your company’s development goals.
    • Give them access to a suite of online welcome videos, and details of your mission and vision: how your organisation is structured and other aspects that help them get to know you better, and feel more comfortable. What’s especially useful is a virtual tour of head office, introducing the people they’ll be connected to or working with. Try something informal, e.g. “I’m Derrin, and I’ll be sorting out your salary”; “I’m Mark, call me if you have an IT problem.” The videos don’t have to be live or even professional - get your key staff to record videos from home for that cozy, informal feel. Consider asking recent recruits to record their own take on how they felt when they started, what they like about the company, and any advice for the new recruit. This will make your newest recruit feel super-welcome.
    • Any formalities they need to complete (online, of course!). Use digital signature software if you need signatures.
    • Information about what to expect on their first day and beyond.
  • Their first day

    It’s important to a new recruit to feel welcomed and that they belong, but not to overwhelm them. The onboarding work you’ve done prior to their first day will have worked its magic but here’s where things get real. Make sure that there’s some structure to your new recruit’s first day. For their first day:
    • Schedule video conferences so that they can:
      • Meet their line manager and their new team. Call the meetings by a welcoming, informal name can be less intimidating and help the new recruit be more confident in taking part: Team Meet-up or Team Coffee sound more fun than Weekly Team Briefing. Make sure that there’s personal chat, too, to give your recruit a sense of their team as people, not just colleagues.
      • Meet their buddy or mentor. Buddies are especially important in remote onboarding.
    • Give them the time and the tech to enable them to complete any further formalities and also to get familiar with collaboration tools like Slack or Basecamp.
    • Make sure that expectations are clear: their job role, their hours of work, accountability and managing their workload.
    • If they’re down for training, make sure they have a training timetable and a log in.
  • Their second day and beyond

    It’s important to support your newest recruits through their first weeks and months: not to overwhelm them but to help them succeed at their role, so that they can gain in confidence and competence. Roll out training and tasks in a manageable way:
    • Schedule regular virtual meet-ups and touch points, and consider a weekly virtual team social to promote bonding and make work more fun and human.
    • Get feedback from your recruits about their onboarding experience: ask them what worked well and what you could do better. This will help you constantly improve the process to strengthen your retention strategy.
    • Give your recruit a roadmap to success: tasks, any compliance stuff, training, virtual meet-ups. When they’re clear on what they’re doing and why, they’ll be able to work more effectively on their own.

Onboarding remotely can be a challenge, but if you have the right tech, a great team and an awesome strategy, you’ll create the best experience for your recruits. And that’s the whole point.

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