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Onboarding Remote Employees – 7 Ways to Set Them Up for Success

By Betterworks
September 8, 2021
5 minute read

We’ve all experienced first-day jitters as we walked into the offices of a new employer. Many of us have felt equal amounts of anxiety and excitement as a host of questions swirled through our heads – covering everything from “Will IT train me on the new software I need to use?” to “Who should I reach out to when I have questions?”

With remote and hybrid work environments here to stay, companies have a renewed focus on how to effectively onboard new employees so that they are set up for success from day one. Our own Betterworks’ Director of HR, As Jamie McCormick explains, “onboarding is one of the most critical stages in an employee lifecycle. This stage is when the employees are most engaged, so it’s critical to plan and implement a process that helps them get off to a fast start – both in terms of performance and assimilating into the company culture.” 

Proper remote onboarding gives employers a chance to introduce new hires to the company and the employee’s purpose within it. But if onboarding isn’t carried out deliberately and with intention, new hires can feel like they don’t have the resources they need to succeed in your remote workplace.

Traditionally, onboarding has been stressful and time-consuming for both employers and their new hires –  this has only intensified in the pandemic-influenced workplace. Here are some ways that you can streamline the process and deliver a great employee experience.

1: Introduce new hires to an onboarding “buddy”

In a remote work environment, new employees can’t spontaneously approach their colleagues in the hallway to ask questions (and they will have questions!). Having a seasoned employee proactively reach out to a new hire as their go-to person for questions and assistance helps put them at ease while establishing an informal mentor relationship. 

2: Create a connection to the company prior to their first day

Everyone loves a good swag box. Sending one to remote employees prior to their first day helps make them feel like part of the family. In addition to company t-shirts, caps, pens, etc. consider some fun additions that reflect the company’s culture. For example, include a notebook containing their colleagues’ go-to recipes, or a Spotify playlist with a compilation of their department’s favorite songs. And don’t forget to include a “handwritten” note from one of the executives to let them know how excited they are to have them on board.

3: Help them set up their technology and remote workspace prior to their start date

Alleviate some first-day anxiety by offering each new employee a hands-on session with IT to show him or her how to set up their email, Zoom, Slack, and other software resources. This helps them get comfortable with their technology stack and allows them to focus on their roles. 

Keep in mind that some employees’ workspace may consist of a dining room table, TV tray, or kitchen counter. Betterworks provides new hires with ergonomic guides and work-from-home checklists to help them set up a workspace that allows them to be comfortable and work productively. Betterworks also provides remote employees with a monthly stipend to cover home internet costs and a one-time allowance for them to use for improving their home and work environments. 

4: Help new hires build their networks

Very few things can be more intimidating to a new hire than staring at a blank contact list on their new company’s Slack channel. Help them build connections and a broad network within the company. Encourage new hires and their teammates to schedule a mix of formal conversations about company policies, business objectives, and “who-does-what” intel with informal interactions over virtual coffees, lunches, or happy hours. If your company holds regular “all-hands” meetings, include new hire introductions on the agenda so they can introduce themselves and offer a “fun fact.”

In addition, leverage digital channels to make introductions on behalf of your new employees. For example, Betterworks has a dedicated Welcome channel on Slack so managers can introduce new hires to the entire team. Betterworks also sends out a company-wide new hire introduction email that includes their photo and LinkedIn profile for easy connecting.

5: Explain the company culture and how work gets done

It’s one thing to hear about a company’s “amazing culture” during the job interview; understanding what it really means on Day 1 is another story. Take the time to fill in new hires on the cultural pillars. For example, if community service is a strong pillar within your company, help the new hire identify and sign up for the next charity drive. Also, bring them up to speed on unspoken cultural practices such as “cameras are on” for the first 15 minutes of every Zoom call or that the company offers Summer Fridays where people leave the office at 2:00 pm.

6: Set clear expectations and communicate how the new hire’s role ties into the company’s overall mission

Every new hire should have a clear picture of what is expected from them in their role and what success looks like for the first 30, 60, 90 days, and beyond. It’s critical that they understand the company’s mission, vision, and goals, and how their role contributes to them. This can help them prioritize their work and with their manager’s guidance, map out a successful career path.

During remote onboarding, managers should host a team meeting to discuss communication. They should share ground rules regarding expected response times for emails, as well as explain levels of urgency. Team members should share their preferred communication methods, and the new hire should be able to set their contact preferences. As in most cases, the preferred communication channel is email; train new hires about DMARC failure and give tips on how they can prevent their account from malicious attacks.

Solutions such as Betterworks can help employees and managers establish a foundation for success, starting with goal-setting that is aligned with specific OKRs. As the employee’s role evolves and becomes more complex, having a clear touchpoint to refer back to can help them adapt to changes and grow in their roles. 

7: Establish a cadence for performance conversations

Performance management isn’t just a once-a-year activity. Effective performance management relies on ongoing performance conversations.

These conversations are even more critical in a remote environment. Because there are no chance encounters in the hallway or breakroom to address questions and check up on new hires, these conversations must be scheduled. As part of onboarding, managers should lay out a plan for regular performance conversations. In the beginning, these conversations should be more frequent. 

New hires will need additional support as they adjust. For example, a manager might call or video chat with an employee once a day for their first three months. As the new hire acclimates, managers can work with them to change the frequency of their conversations.

Goal alignment provides a clear line of sight from an employee’s individual goals to the company’s strategic priorities. That clarity helps guide remote performance conversations. New hires can see their goals and how they intersect with their colleagues’ goals. They have a better context for their performance to ask better questions and foresee potential roadblocks more easily.

Your onboarding program can largely influence employee success. However, it shouldn’t be a one-and-done activity. Continue to evaluate and finetune it, taking in feedback from your team members.

To learn about how Betterworks can support the remote onboarding process, reach out to a team member today.