Remote teams are here to stay, so it’s time to tweak your onboarding checklist to accommodate remote employees. Some of the same steps apply—fill out new hire forms, review benefit enrollment—but to truly make your remote workers feel appreciated, a few changes are needed. Try these tips and your new remote employees will feel welcome and integrated in no time.
1. Get Ready for Them
Set your new remote employees up for success by getting ready for them ahead of time. While you don’t have to find a cubicle for them, there are still items that need to be pre-arranged, such as computers, monitors, and logins with appropriate security access.
HR Daily Advisor recommends proactive delivery of hardware and login information. Delivering the hardware early allows the employee to verify it wasn’t damaged in transit. Login information sent to the employee’s personal email lets them know how to login on day 1. Be sure to include instructions on who to contact with issues, as it’s tough to report a problem if you aren’t already logged into the work system.
Clearly state when procedural information will be shared. For example, if the employee is required to track their hours, let them know when the training for the time-tracking software will occur. Slowly sharing information so you don’t overwhelm the new employee is useful only if expectations are set ahead of time. Otherwise, you risk the new employee feeling confused about the next steps.
2. Create a Training Program
Don’t underestimate the power of a robust training program. Your new employee needs to be shown the ropes (virtually) for everything from how to use new software to where to find team procedures. Eliminate training fatigue by including different media and formats in the program—like pre-recorded videos, 1-to-1 mentoring sessions with a peer, and microlearning segments.
Make sure your training program is up-to-date. You don’t want to train the new social media coordinator on how to use the now-defunct Google+. That’s embarrassing and forces the employee to point out mistakes during their onboarding window.
3. Write a Communication Plan
Create a communication plan that outlines how you and the employee prefer to communicate. Perhaps the employee prefers email while you prefer a text. As a manager, do you have a “call me anytime” policy, or do you prefer unscheduled phone calls only for time-sensitive concerns?
It may be useful to include in the guidelines in the communication plan on your team’s remote communication style. There’s no need to make the employee guess whether meeting invites require a response within 2 hours or if the calendar must be updated with unavailable times.
Depending on the size of your organization, it may also be useful to have a “meet-and-greet roadmap.” Think of this as an internal networking guide. Over time, the remote employee may figure out who is important to know for their role, but you can jump-start that process by outlining key people and facilitating the initial virtual meetings. Remember, remote networking takes more planned effort than the ad hoc networking that would happen onsite.
4. Designate an Onboarding Buddy
Assign a buddy to help the employee navigate the new work culture. An onboarding buddy is not a mentor. A mentor’s role is to provide career coaching and guidance, while an onboarding buddy should be viewed as a short-term “instant friend.” The onboarding buddy can share undocumented tips like who is the actual go-to person in the accounting department for that cross-team project.
If you don’t think an onboarding buddy is needed, consider these statistics from Microsoft’s use of buddies in the first 90 days:
- 36% of new hires were more satisfied with the onboarding process.
- 97% of those who met with a buddy 8 or more times in the first 90-days believed that the buddy helped them be productive quicker.
5. Plan to Talk—A Lot
Don’t hire and forget. Just like a new plant, your remote employee will need frequent attention in the beginning. Since you aren’t walking by their cubicle each morning, it’s important to schedule regular checkpoints to help the employee learn the lay of the land and needs of the team. Block time on the calendar for coaching sessions. If you didn’t designate an onboarding buddy, include some “ask me anything” time.
6. Roll out the Welcome Mat
Onsite teams typically take a new hire out for lunch the first day as part of a get-to-know-you routine. Do the same for your remote employee by hosting a 1st-day lunch (that you pay for) and have the entire team lunch together via video conference. Make it a camera-on meeting so personalities can shine through and common ground can be found in the form of a teammate’s Cleveland Browns shirt or a half-dressed toddler popping into the room.
Remote employees are human, too. Use these tips to welcome them and you’ll have a satisfied onboarded team member in no time.