Congratulations on making your new remote hire!
Your business is growing and you’re ready to bring new people into the fold!
If you’ve hired a remote employee, maybe this is your first time onboarding someone who doesn’t physically come into the office. That’s OK—virtual onboarding can be just as good (sometimes even better!) than face-to-face onboarding.
We are going to walk you through some tried-and-true tips for ensuring that your remote employees feel welcome and prepared to make a great addition to your company.
You’ll learn about best practices for getting started with a new employee before their first day, setting them up for success during their initial weeks of training, and checking in on them after they’ve settled in.
When does the onboarding process start?
Your employee onboarding process starts way before your new team member’s first day!
I would advocate the onboarding process starts the minute you have a signed employment agreement from your new employee.
And onboarding is not simply:
“Here is your laptop, here’s your email address, meet your team, and a reminder of your job description…. good luck! I’ll see you again at the end of your probationary period”.
Seriously, some companies think this is an effective onboarding process.
It is not!
Yes, you do need to make sure they have the right equipment, software, inbox setup, documentation, data and training.
Minimum Viable Onboarding
Do this as the bare minimum, and if it’s not you doing it, make sure the right member of your team knows about this list:
- Let them know you and the team are looking forward to them joining. A video email is nice for this and is much more personable and human. Plus it takes 5 mins max to do.
- Check out the tech equipment before their first day so there are no surprises later on in the month when things start getting busy. If you’re sending the tech, please be sure that it arrives before day one. Quick win – if you’re sending a laptop, pop a nice card inside to say welcome and they don’t need to set it up until their first day.
- Set up their email ahead of day one. The week before they join, send an email to their personal email and copy in their new work email. Let them know they will be able to access their email form day one including their diary.
- Share a simple week one schedule for meetings ahead of time. This alone will help settle those day one nerves for your new employee.
- Ensure you, as the business owner, have a virtual lunch in their schedule in week one or two.
- Plus ensure their line manager, if not you, has a coffee break booked in with key members of the team. These work well in week one and every week until week 4 (or beyond!) with a max of 4 people in the online meeting.
Here’s a little more in-depth info on all of these minimum viable onboarding to help you create a successful environment and kickstart the success.
Make sure new hires have everything they need
As a company, you owe it to everyone involved to ensure that your new hires are set up for success. To that end, you need to make sure that they have access to everything they need from their first day on the job.
This might seem like a tall order, but it’s actually pretty simple: just give them what they need!
Create a simple, streamlined onboarding checklist
- Make sure that your onboarding checklist is accessible to all new employees.
- Make sure the checklist is easy to follow.
- Plus the checklist is easy to update for all including your new hire.
- Ensure your onboarding checklist is easy to share with other employees and managers who are involved in the process of onboarding new hires.
- Finally, make sure that it’s easy for you – or anyone else who needs it – to read over!
Prioritise social interactions between co-workers
The first few weeks of a new job can be the most critical, in terms of determining how long an employee stays with your company.
In our experience, we find those remote teams that don’t prioritise social interactions don’t gel well together and new employees do not stay in the team as long. Ultimately this means you end up hiring more often, and leads to more media coverage on remote-working apparently not working.
A significant part of onboarding involves getting a sense of what it’s like to work there, but it also requires that you make your new hire feel comfortable and welcomed. This is where social interactions come into play.
You want to give them every opportunity to see themselves as integral members of the team, so look for ways to facilitate informal or formal face-to-face meetings between employees who may not have interacted before—and make sure these opportunities (or at least invitations) are extended to everyone in the team.
It’s also worth noting that virtual onboarding doesn’t mean that you have to throw out all social cues—in fact, many would argue that remote workers need even more encouragement than those on-site because they may feel lonely or isolated without regular face time with their coworkers.
Here at Your People Partners, we encourage all new employees to have a light-hearted introductory video call with each team member individually. Of course, for larger companies, this may not be practical but it’s something worth thinking about to help continue that team-building as the company grows.
Check-in with your new employee frequently
Check in with new hires… more often than you think you need to. This truly makes a difference in remote teams.
If you have a robust onboarding process in place, it will include a series of informal and formal check-ins that allow you to stay on top of the needs of your new employees as they settle into their roles.
Asking questions like “How are things going for you so far?” or “Is there anything I can do to support you?”. This gives them an opportunity to ask questions or share what they are experiencing.
You (or your leadership team) also have an opportunity during these check-ins to share any information or materials that may be helpful for new hires’ success, such as training resources or informational videos about how things work at your company.
Reinforce KPIs if needed so that you know they’ve understood that certain info is a KPI, or OKR, or company/individual target.
Informal check-ins are also a great way of demonstrating how approachable you are as a manager and can help encourage positive mental health during working hours.
Formal Check-in i.e. Monthly Probationary Period Review
Formal check-ins such as monthly probationary review meetings ensures that everyone knows they’re on the same page. Use your probationary period to build the foundations for success.
Before your new hire starts, create a document that outlines what success looks like at the end of month 1, month and so on to the end of the probationary period in month 6. In your very first meeting in week one, I would encourage you to share a plan. Show the new employee and wider team what the success markers are.
Be very clear on what you’re expecting after another month in the team. This way you’re using your formal check-ins as part of the probationary period so as there are no surprises for anyone at the end of the first six months.
Give new hires space to ask questions and make mistakes
It’s important to give new team members space to ask questions and make mistakes as they learn the ropes. They may have experience in a similar role elsewhere, however they have never worked for you. It takes time and experience to develop excellence within your company.
It’s also possible that this is their first time working remotely.
They might be hesitant to ask questions because they don’t want to appear that they lack knowledge or come across as unprofessional. You can help ease this anxiety by encouraging your new employee not to feel afraid of asking questions or making mistakes—because no one will think less of them for doing either!
Your goal should be to create an environment where people feel safe enough to ask questions and make mistakes without fear of judgement from their teammates, line manager or you as the business owner.
Virtual onboarding is different
Virtual onboarding is different from in-person onboarding, but it can be just as effective if you plan well.
Virtual onboarding is an important part of the employee experience, even if you’re only hiring remote workers. It’s your chance to welcome someone into your company and give them a taste of what they can expect during their time with you.
We hope this guide has answered your questions about onboarding employees virtually.
As you can see, the process is quite similar to onboarding in-person, but it requires some extra planning and attention.
Regardless of whether you’re onboarding people remotely or in person, the most important thing is to make sure that your new hires are able to learn quickly and smoothly while also having a good time at work—and don’t forget to check in with them regularly!
Good onboarding helps everyone including your existing team members who are (remotely) learning how to work with their new team member.
The onboarding strategies we’ve listed here should help you do just that!