Best practices to onboard remote employees

Viren Kapadia September 20, 2021
Best practices to onboard remote employees

In health and nutrition, breakfast is usually called the most important meal of the day. In the corporate world, onboarding new employees occupy the exact position of importance. The significance of both stems from the fact that they are initiators and catalysts of what the time to come can become. Poor early nourishment detracts from giving the body the proper energy levels and poor employee induction can have equally disastrous long-term consequences. There is a paramount need to get it right.

On-boarding is foundational and sets the ground for the relationship between the employer and the employee. However, as with the onset of any relationship, first impressions count, so it is with onboarding. Enterprises, therefore, devote time and effort to making their onboarding programs meaningful and impactful.

Statistics lend weight to the importance that onboarding improves retention and long-term engagement of the employee and reduces the start-to-productivity gap. For example, Harvard Business Review reports that "Organizations with a standard referral process experience 62% higher new employee productivity and 50% higher new employee retention rates.”

While getting the right mix of inputs for induction of new hires is challenging in itself, in a remote working environment, the task has an added degree of difficulty because of physical detachment. It requires attention to detail as critical aspects like face-to-face meetings, water-cooler moments, peer-to-peer interactions, informal groups, etc., readily available in a physical setting, are missing for off-site workers. These resources are required to be replicated as nearly as possible. This in turn will make the onboarding experience of the new employees no different from that of a physical workplace.

To get the best out of the remote onboarding exercise, here are a few practices that can help optimize desired outcomes.

  • Prepare the groundwork in advance

    The best way to initiate a new hire into a unique setting is to start after the appointment is confirmed. On-boarding is not a specific day act but begins even before a formal joining date. The employee must be made to feel that he is a valued and welcome addition to the team. All standard logistics and paraphernalia like hardware, software, company directory and structure, codes of conduct, etc. must be delivered in advance. Contact numbers of support teams for setting up remote workstations and any other help to be provided ab initio. Avoid official language in all communications and instead, use a personalized tone and approach. If a group of people is being inducted, examine (keep privacy concerns in mind) whether their contact details may be shared amongst the new hires. This will help establish kinship and camaraderie and create a cohort support group. Convey the full program agenda of virtual onboarding and the schedule of activities and expectations so that the participants are in complete readiness.

  • Go Easy

    New entrants are often apprehensive and tentative. Make their orientation a pleasant and joyful experience. The new hires have to be eased into the culture of the organization and eventually, they will discover and adapt to the same. However, a stiff-upper-lip and a grave approach at the outset do not help. The orientation should be made into a fun event without sacrificing seriousness. Team events, video interactions, virtual tours, ice-breaker sessions, collaboration exercises, virtual celebrations, casual meetings, feedback, etc. are great ways to introduce the company to the new employees and vice versa.

  • Set Milestones

    Corporate expectations should be spelled out to the new hires. Milestones work in two ways--for the employees to provide unambiguous guidance and the management a progress monitoring chart. In addition, setting timelines for tasks to be achieved gives structure and a sense of achievement on reaching the goals.

  • Leverage Technology

    To successfully navigate the complex process of onboarding, many companies take advantage of current technologies. Some of the tools are

    • Online portals : single point source of all information. Facilitates completion of formalities and forms in a digital framework accessible to all, thereby eliminating the need for print, sign, scan, and deliver. New hires can simply fill, e-sign, and store online from their remote location. The portals can also be used for communication, gamification of information, and dispensation of cultural nuances and values.

    • Chatbots : Chatbots are handy substitutes for company representatives. Chatbots can hand-hold new hires and guide them through the various company processes, policies, roles, and responsibilities. New hires FAQs can also be responded to through the chatbot.

    • Online Collaboration tools : Software like Slack, Microsoft 365, Asana, Trello, etc., which work on any device, are great for sharing and communication. They help replicate organic team connections in a virtual environment.

    • Video conferencing : for remote onboarding, this is a must-have. Video conferencing provides real-time human interaction and two-way communication. Person-to-person communication is more engaging and personalized. Video chats, mentoring sessions, check-ins, virtual tours, etc. add a positive dimension to the new hires' orientation.

    • Online feedback surveys : Such surveys involve the employees and make them feel that they have a voice that is being listened to and that they are contributing to bringing about improvements and refinements in the company's processes. Such surveys can be done at regular intervals throughout the onboarding process and beyond.

The above practices are not exhaustive, and many more covering the areas of communication, collaboration, culture, training, assessments, productivity, etc. have to be followed in ensuring that the onboarding is successful. It must be remembered that onboarding is not a fixed time exercise of a day or two. In a remote working environment, a flexible approach that includes a stretched time beyond the initial orientation is often necessary. Investing in successful onboarding will give long-term benefits by way of a better engaged and productive workforce.

Technology can help in ensuring that the onboarding is done satisfactorily. At Gyrus, we recognize the value that proper onboarding brings to an enterprise. Our tested and award-winning LMS, GyrusAim, can effectively support your efforts to build customized programs to accelerate new-hire connections, training, and assignments, and shorten ramp-up times for your new employees. Get it right with Gyrus.