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Onboarding is a hugely important part of welcoming anyone new to your team. First days traditionally are a whirlwind of tech set-up, meeting the team, sorting out your desk and most crucially, finding out where the biscuits are kept.
More seriously, the data surrounding effective employee onboarding show that it can increase employee performance by up to 11%, increase discretionary effort by more than 30% and that employees are 58% more likely to be at the company three years later if they complete a structured onboarding process. Long story short, it’s worth getting right. But what happens when you’re onboarding a remote worker? How do you make them feel welcome and part of the team? Here’s eight tips to make sure your remote workers are ready, able, and excited to start working with you.
1. Set expectations during the recruitment process
A good onboarding starts during the recruitment process. This is especially true for remote workers.
If you’re onboarding a remote worker, you’ll know before their first day that this will be the case. Whether you’re recruiting for a specifically remote role, or the candidate has requested to work remotely, it’s important that expectations are set during the interview process. Be aware of the common struggles of remote workers. Managing workloads, ill-defined hours of work, and lack of accountability perpetuate remote workers’ negative feedback.
Burn-out, over-working and confusion is not the expectation you want to set. Be transparent about workload, hours of work, and the metrics for success for their role. Defining these at this early stage will help you avoid misinterpretation or conflict further down the line.
If you’re interviewing remotely, check out some of our tips for getting the best out of video.
Extra tip: Bear in mind that when your candidate does not come in-house for the interview, they are exposed to much less of your culture, instead relying 100% on what is online. Make sure your website, especially the “Careers” and ‘About us” pages, are up-to-date and sending out the right message about your culture.
2. Have a remote worker-specific checklist
Before their first day, you should take some time to create an onboarding checklist. There’s a good chance you have something like this in existence already. Some points will remain the same, others won’t be relevant, and some new ones will have to be created especially for a remote worker. You want them to feel comfortable and able to do their work as soon as possible, so think about what tools they will need. Consider your tech stack – who needs to set your employee up on what platforms? Be as detailed as possible. If your office manager, or the employee themselves are responsible for fulfilling a checkpoint, they should know exactly what they need to do. Being clear about this from the start means your employee will be quickly ready to work.
3. Send a welcome pack
Speaking of tools – sending things over in advance may be required. While some things, like your company handbook, offer letter and contract, can be sent digitally, some things need a little bit of advanced planning. This is a great opportunity to also send a welcome package in the mail. This can include necessary equipment, training schedules, and style guides, but also some fun things to get them excited about working for you. T-shirts, mugs, pens and any other swag which says “Welcome – you’re part of the team!”
4. Introduce the team
Helping your employee meet their colleagues is easy when they’re in the office. Sure, they might forget some names for the first few days, but nothing beats a friendly, in-person introduction. This definitely is a little trickier with remote workers, but don’t let that be a reason to neglect doing it. Getting to know colleagues and putting “faces to names” early on will help alleviate feelings of isolation, nervousness about reaching out to people, and fast-tracking their assimilation of the company’s culture.
Set up video calls with the team
With no opportunity to casually introduce co-workers throughout the day in the office, you’ll need to get strategic. Think about your new employee’s role. Who are they most likely going to work with? Which people will they need to know? Who is a great representative of your company culture? Beyond obvious meetings with appropriate management, HR and IT, help your new employee build the relationships that will add to their job performance and satisfaction. As you might set up in-house coffee meetings for in-house employees, set up short video introductions for them with these selected people. Make sure that both parties use video as well – seeing faces is more powerful and bonding for the remote employee. It’s unlikely that they will meet everyone on their first day, but these key introductions will help them feel more comfortable in their first week or so.
Invite to team meetings
While it’s easy to quickly call a team meeting in the office, don’t forget to include your remote workers. This will not only help remote workers keep on top of projects as decisions are made in live time, but it will also give them an opportunity to contribute. This is important not only for their expertise and opinion to add to the fuller picture, but also to experience the camaraderie of working on problems as a team.
5. Ask what works for them
We’ve so far spoken at length about setting boundaries and expectations from your perspective. However, take the time to ask questions about preferences for things you are prepared to be flexible on. Hearing how your new employee would prefer to hear feedback, take meetings, or be issued tasks. Taking the time to hear their thoughts gives them confidence that you are prepared to listen to them and that you’re considering their specific needs. Why not create a “How I Work” document and ask your new employee to fill it out?
6. Create a regular feedback loop
Following on from the previous point – it’s also a good idea to set up a meeting to revisit their working preferences further down the line. Things can change! In these early months, it’s easier for you to ask if they are still happy with their set-up than for them to tell you.
The informal feedback that your in-house team give you – in the kitchen, in-between meetings or dropping by your desk – is much easier to come by. Remember your remote team does not have that luxury. If you’re not hearing regular feedback, you’re missing out on opportunities to not only make your employees feel heard and looked after, but also achieve their full potential. Set up a regular process for this with your remote employees – whether it needs to be a daily stand up, or in your one-to-ones. Make sure they know where and when they can give you feedback.
7. Individual Development Plan (IDP) and OKRs
Everyone works better when the metrics of their success are clearly defined. After all, if you know where you need to go, it’s easier to get there! We recommend after the initial settling in period, taking some time to go over your employee’s individual OKRs and the KPIs they can demonstrate as they work towards them. While this can be agreed between the two of you, this should be very much coming from you and the business.
On the other hand, ask your employee to take the lead with their growth and fill out an Individual Development Plan. It’s a great way for them to tell you what their more specific career goals are. This is a directive which they set the tone and expectations around. That said, it’s important that you listen to them and help them strategise actions to move them towards their goals. Taking the time to understand what motivates your employees not only helps them achieve their personal goals, but helps you be a better manager.
8. Refine the process
While we’re confident these tips should help you on your way to successfully onboarding a remote worker, this is always going to be a process which can be tweaked and improved. Three, six months down the line – why not ask your remote employee what worked and what didn’t? What helped them settle in, and what could have been done better? Being open to feedback means you’re always improving and bettering the process. It also shows that you respect the opinion of your employee and are actively trying to improve things for all remote workers.