Onboarding employees is a hefty process. Especially, onboarding remote employees require much more effort, time, and strategic planning to effectively get them familiarized with the new company as opposed to onboarding employees inside the office.
The most part of onboarding employees remotely can be documented before introducing the new remote employee. However, in addition to this, there’s a lot more planning you should do to make the onboarding process as effective as possible.
It’s always best to take it slow and give space for the new remote employees to digest and thoroughly understand the company and its culture.
In this article, we’ll go through everything you need to know about onboarding remote employees. We’ll cover remote employee onboarding best practices to make the introduction of new remote employees as effective as possible, which ultimately lets you effectively manage remote teams.
Remote Employee Onboarding vs Orientation
Before we get into the how-how of onboarding employees remotely, it’s important to know the difference between onboarding and orientation.
Orientation is more focused on introducing new employees to the workplace. The primary goal here is to provide the employees with the basic organizational structure of the company, such as its working culture, and it is often conducted for a group of newly hired employees.
Employee onboarding, on the other hand, is inclined towards preparing an employee for their specific role in the company. Orientation can be a part of onboarding, but is not limited to it.
Onboarding is also often scheduled for only one employee at a time. This is done to introduce them to the company culture, as well as to get them familiarized with their job role, and the work processes involved.
While orientation is a one-time event for a group of new hires, onboarding is a long process that happens throughout an extended period of time, which is specifically scheduled for a single newly hired employee.
Remote Employee Onboarding vs Onboarding In-office
Remote employee onboarding is basically the process of virtually onboarding a newly hired remote employee. The difference here is that in the office, the onboarding process is done in person.
Generally, in employee onboarding, there are two types of techniques that employers use; formal and informal onboarding.
Formal onboarding is the process of feeding a new employee everything they need to know right from the start. Employers do this through a series of workshops, one-on-one video calls, meetings, training sessions, etc.
Although formal onboarding is used for both remote onboarding and in-office onboarding, it functions much better in a remote environment.
Instead of feeding a myriad of resources to the employees from day 1, informal onboarding focuses on being more ad hoc.
This means new employees will have the freedom to explore their way. Here, they get to know various stakeholders, shadow their colleagues to observe and learn from them, and a few other ad hoc ways to gradually learn their role in the company.
Like formal onboarding, informal onboarding is also practiced in both remote and in-office employment. However, informal onboarding is more practical to complement an in-office setting.
Why Is Remote Employee Onboarding Difficult?
For one, remote work lacks emotional connection. Onboarding inside the office involves help from managers and other colleagues. When employees step into a new company on their first day, they’ll feel welcomed more evidently, with a lot of greetings, and a lot of help for the new joiner to get acquainted.
Another factor that differentiates remote employee onboarding from in-office onboarding is the lack of human touch. A remote employee onboarding includes remote meetings, recorded sessions, documents, and a lot of other work that both the remote employer and employee should go through.
On the other hand, onboarding inside the office requires less effort in comparison to onboarding employees remotely. With an office full of happy faces and helping hands, onboarding inside the office is often lower effort for employers and employees as it reduces the barriers for someone new to ask for help when needed.
Steps for Onboarding Remote Employees
As a manager, you must make sure that you do your part right when onboarding remote employees. In order to ensure the onboarding process of new remote employees is as effective as possible, here are a few of the remote employee onboarding best practices that you should consider.
Develop an Onboarding Plan
To start with, managers should have a definitive onboarding plan in place. This should include the step-by-step process of how the onboarding process should go over the course of its time.
It’s easy to onboard a remote employee inside the office as you’ll see them in person every day for plenty of hours. Remote onboarding works the exact opposite, so you need a clean onboarding process that you and the new remote employee can easily digest to help them set their schedule right.
The onboarding plan should basically include the time, date, and hours of upcoming onboarding events for a new remote employee. It should also mention the name of coworkers that they’ll collaborate with as part of their training session if they have any.
This allows them to plan their day accordingly, rather than having to respond to you or join a meeting or practice session in haste. Such strategic planning is also part of async communication, which every remote organization should encourage.
Start With Small Projects
One of the most important things that managers should always watch out for when onboarding a remote employee is to never overwhelm them with work.
It’s true that new remote employees may have to learn a lot of things from scratch to get a lot of things done while they stay in your company. But dumping a lot of work on them right from the start will kill their motivation and interest in their new job.
Instead of bombarding them with hefty work, start small and gradually increase the workload. Give them the time they need to learn, and let them practice and learn from small projects.
The best thing you can do is to provide them with small projects to do as a practice session. A single practice session won’t cut it, so make sure you give them the space, resources, and time to get used to their new role in a new company.
You can evaluate their progress and gradually increase the difficulty of their work as they learn. This helps in effectively motivating your remote employees and to keep their interest in work as strong as possible.
Ask For Feedback
If not primary, feedback is an integral part of every business organization. It provides further insight into the minds of your employees, and if used right, plays a really critical role in a company’s progress.
A new remote employee will have a lot going on in their mind. They may be desperate to ask you a question, or maybe eagerly want to seek input from you to progress or learn.
After every onboarding session, it’s a best practice to ask for their feedback. Letting them know that their words are valuable and will be heard offers them the freedom to open up their minds.
Maybe they have a bunch of questions crowded in their head. Or maybe they want to seek validation from you. In any case, let them know you’re all ears.
You must also note that for every feedback, you get back to them with a solution or a response. This is the only way to complete the cycle of feedback. You must make sure it’s a back-and-forth collaboration so that they know they’ve been heard, and you know what you need to do to help your employees better.
Promote Personal Connection
Whenever possible, encourage other employees to connect with the new remote employee. Remote work often feels like isolation, so it’s an activity of relief for everyone if they have the opportunity to connect with each other.
If employees live in the same area, encourage them to meet and introduce each other. You can take this technique of personal connection a notch higher by inviting your remote employees to the company HQ, to lunch, or even to a few hours of fun offsite.
You can also try building personal connections virtually, by setting up meetings with non-work activities.
Remote Employee Onboarding Checklist
Once a remote employee is hired, you must have a checklist in place that clearly tells you what to do and what not to do through or before the onboarding process. Here are a few things you should constantly keep an eye on.
Set Up Their Accounts
It’s frustrating when a new remote employee is clueless about the tools they should use or wondering how they’ll get access to resources provided by the company.
Remote organizations will be using software and other digital tools for seamless collaboration. Make sure you grant them access to everything the company provides, or let them know how or where they can go to set them up.
Avoid Long, Constant Meetings
If meetings aren’t scheduled right, it will become tedious for everyone involved in a remote team. Especially for new remote employees, long and constant meetings will affect their productivity and interest in their work.
Make sure you don’t bombard new remote employees with meetings. Reduce meetings in remote work as possible, preferably 1 or 2 meeting sessions on alternative days through the onboarding process.
Set Working Hours on All Employees’ Calendars
Whenever a new remote employee joins your company, immediately set their working hours on their calendar.
This is an effective technique to avoid interruptions for them. With an active calendar for every employee, others will know when they’re available to be booked for meetings or other activities.
This ultimately eliminates sending back-and-forth messages inquiring about their availability.
That’s everything you need to know about onboarding remote employees. The onboarding process is hefty, especially in remote employment. However, if done right, you’ll save time and boost interest in your employees’ work
It’s extremely important to keep an onboarding plan. It should be the pillar of your onboarding process, which will make the entire event a lot less like work!
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