Remote Onboarding Definition, Best Practices, Tips, Challenges and More

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What is Remote Onboarding?

Remote onboarding involves assimilating a new employee into a company ​— without making any in-person contact. The goal is to make the new hire familiar with the culture and the policies of the company, allowing them a safe landing pad to hit the ground running.

It is more or less similar to the traditional employee onboarding process. The difference is that traditional in-person steps or phases are not part of the remote onboarding process, instead digital tools like Zoom, Slack, and Google Workspace are used to replicate these phases. 

In this post, we will outline some of the trends we are seeing in remote onboarding today as well as some remote onboarding best practices that can help you overcome common challenges. 

Remote Onboarding Best Practices

As providers of a solution used by many leading companies in their remote onboarding processes, here are some remote onboarding best practices we have seen in use today.

Create Connections

The major challenge that remote employees face is the feeling of isolation and loneliness. When we look at on-site onboarding, new employees are introduced to colleagues and shown around the office, which does not happen with a remote employee. Creating connections can be done through video conferences/ zoom meetings, where the new employee is introduced to the team. There can also be a virtual tour done, to give the remote employee a sense of belonging. Connections can also be created by introducing the employee to a ‘virtual mentor’ or a ‘buddy’, who will hold their hand until they learn the ropes. A sense of belonging to a team can be achieved when the employee is a part of a cohort or a group of new employees as well.

Set Clear Expectations:

This step should be taken as early as possible. Talk about working hours; whether fixed or flexible, work timelines, who to report to, the standard of work expected, the job description, and the like. These expectations seem basic, but they can often be overlooked and can cause confusion and potential disagreements further down the line. Clearly setting expectations also helps to give the remote employee a sense of direction. A good onboarding process familiarises the remote employee with the company procedures, policies, and culture as well. A ‘sink or swim’ approach is not advisable. It is important to guide the remote employee through tasks until they can hit the ground running on their own.

Provide new hires with the right Tools and Equipment:

Ensure that the remote employees have access to the necessary tools needed to accomplish their tasks effectively. Some essentials might include a computer, a printer, a desk, a dedicated office space, a reliable internet connection, a stable power connection, a phone, and office supplies. In the same breath, ensuring that the remote employee has the software required to deliver the work needed is also key. There are a number of approaches companies can take to ensure remote hires have the right equipment – some are presenting a budget to employees to buy their own equipment, some provide the employee with the necessary tools, while others implement a BYOD (bring your own device) model.

Put Culture Front and Center:

Ceridian found that 85% of high-performing respondents were more likely to work for companies that have clear values, and 72% were far more likely to know their company’s business goals. A company’s mission, vision, and values help the new employee, whether remote or onsite gain a sense of direction and they also see how connected their contributions are to the bigger picture. This also helps them set appropriate personal goals towards achieving success as an employee of that particular company.

Remote Onboarding Challenges

There are a number of remote onboarding challenges companies face today. 

  • New Hires Feeling Isolated and Lonely: If the remote onboarding process falls short, then the remote employee will not feel welcome and invited into the organization. This is why it is important to connect the new employee with a ‘mentor’ who will intentionally walk with them as they acclimatize to the new space as well as the culture of the company.
  • Monotony: The remote onboarding process can be monotonous at times. For a worker who is in a different geographical area, in-person team-building events are usually out of the question. Companies who still rely on legacy processes such as signing, printing, and scanning documents can exacerbate this feeling of new hire boredom. Ideally companies should be looking to streamline their remote onboarding processes, using tools that eliminate time-consuming document and data collection efforts. Taking this time back can help both the HR teams and the new hire who can focus on the more important parts of their onboarding period.
  • Personalization: Personalizing the remote onboarding experience without any in-person contact can be a significant challenge. It is important to note that every new employee is unique and should be handled as such. Regular zoom meetings, mentorship programs and goal-setting can all help. Putting together pre-onboarding emails with helpful information about parking, dress code, etc. can also help to personalize the experience for the new remote hire.

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