Tips for Onboarding Remote Employees

By Robert Half on March 20, 2020 at 2:00pm

Companies that have recently hired new employees and continue to do so to handle critical projects are encountering a challenge they have never faced before: How do they bring new hires into the fold and give them a proper orientation when so many of their staff — including managers — are working remotely due to COVID-19?

Onboarding isn’t something that’s optional. It’s a critical way to help new employees learn the basics of their jobs, understand corporate culture and ensure they have the necessary tools to be successful. Moreover, some businesses have stumbled with the process even in previous times when everyone was located in the same place: A survey from Robert Half revealed that while nearly all professionals (95%) polled say their company has an onboarding process, more than half (59%) have experienced a mishap when starting a position.

It is still possible, though, to onboard staff when the entire team is working remotely. Check out these tips for handling this important process virtually.

1. Invest in the right technology 

Your company might be providing a laptop, phone or other office equipment to your new remote employees. Be sure to send these items to them ahead of the first day.

2. Set realistic expectations

Many professionals drawn to telecommuting options are incredibly hardworking and self-sufficient. However, remote employees may feel a need to prove they’re putting their nose to the grindstone to maintain visibility. Some individuals may consequently begin to experience burnout or feel unappreciated in their attempts to be seen.

Managers can prevent these issues from occurring by setting schedules that work best for the individual and developing routines for new hires from the start. When remote workers know what’s expected, they’re more inclined to give themselves room to recharge and participate in meaningful ways.

3. Encourage a supportive team culture 

If an organization consists of multiple locations, it’s beneficial for the new hire to meet people who make key departmental decisions or colleagues they might be working with. In the Accountemps survey, 21% of professionals polled said not being introduced to their colleagues was another common challenge when starting a new job.

A great way to make remote employees feel included is to invite them to a virtual team meeting. This can provide valuable insight on how team members interact, what a typical day looks like and how the organization operates. Additionally, assigning them a mentor they can meet with via Zoom or FaceTime shows new hires how much the organization supports their personal development. It also provides both parties an opportunity to get to know each other and form a successful partnership.

4. Create a coaching plan 

Managers should take the opportunity early on to build a relationship with new team members and help them understand how the team and company are organized. Schedule frequent and regular check-ins, and keep an eye on how your new hires are doing.

Keep in mind that, if they’re struggling, they may keep quiet about it because they want to be viewed as competent. Ask your remote employee a few open-ended questions to allow for clarification and to check for any confusion. Plan a weekly meeting to answer their questions, dive deeper into job expectations, discuss more about the company and team culture, and chat about their priorities and goals. 

Telecommuting can be a challenge for those used to a traditional workspace, so managers need to make sure new virtual hires can hit the ground running on the first day. In an uncertain time, it’s even more important to keep the lines of communication open and provide opportunities for questions and feedback. Remote employees who feel connected to their team and organization are more motivated to make positive, tangible contributions. 

Leveraging technology such as email, webcasts and internal platforms where content can be readily accessed is crucial. The most common issue when onboarding, cited by 39% of professionals surveyed, is technology (phone, computer, security access, etc.) not being properly set up. Lack of necessary supplies (24%) came in second. Having access to the right tools and technology from the start communicates to your new hire that they are a priority.

While new employees interact extensively with the person conducting the onboarding process, it can be difficult for businesses to pull other team members away from their daily tasks to meet with the employee. Onboarding from a distance only exacerbates these challenges, as it’s even harder for remote employees to forge meaningful relationships with their peers and manager without face-to-face contact. Used effectively, video conferencing software such as Skype for Business or Zoom are logical solutions to this problem. 

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