5 Tips for Onboarding Remote Employees

Onboarding is a process that has been a staple of truly smart HR practices for decades but it is finally really getting the attention it deserves. Increasingly, employers are becoming aware that the earliest experiences of their new employees mean a lot when it comes to their productivity and their willingness to stay with the company for longer.

In today’s world of diminishing employee loyalties, this is simply impossible to ignore.

However, is it possible to efficiently and successfully onboard remote employees, those who will not be coming in the office (in case you even have a traditional physical office)?

How does a company do it?

Well, here are a few tips.

1. Structure Matters

The first step in any successful business process is proper planning and structuring. It sounds very boring and corporate, but it is one of those basic business truths that you cannot work around. Your remote onboarding process is no different.

You should have the entire process laid out even before you make your first hire. Think about how you will be handling paperwork (there are parts of the world where paperwork cannot be done digitally). Think about supplying the equipment your new hires will need on their future job. Think about training them into the use of software and doing the actual job. Think about when and how you will hold the meetings with them. Think about how they will get to meet other people in your company.

It might take a while before you come up with a structure for the process and it is highly likely you will have to modify it as you hire new people. That being said, it will be easier to really perfect your remote onboarding if it is structured.

2. Training is Crucial

Some kind of training usually goes into every onboarding process, no matter how bad it is. That being said, there is no great onboarding without great training and this is where you need to go all-in, especially with remote workers who cannot ask for help by just turning around and asking the colleague behind them.

This is where companies like Sophaya can be of invaluable help, providing your employees with all and any training they will need to hit the ground running and become productive employees sooner than later. Also be sure to make their training an ongoing process instead of a three-day crash course as it will be far more effective.

3. Keep them Busy

One of the best sources of inside info on how some of the biggest tech companies onboard new hires is this Quora thread where people share their many insights. One thing that jumps out is that the majority of them keep their new hires as busy as possible from the very first day.

If you have ever worked in a “slow” company, you know how useless you feel when you don’t start working until a month has passed.

Instead, keep your new remote employees busy. Your structured process will ensure that they have all the equipment they need and your flawless training will give them skills that will enable them to become productive almost immediately. Your online project management system should already feature them as employees of the company, possibly even with a project already active.

In the end, it will not matter how much they actually do in those early days or even if they mess things up. The important thing is that this WWII D-day parachuting-smack-in-the-middle-of-the-action approach will make them feel like a part of a squad and not an outsider.

4. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

We live in an age where you can video chat with someone using your phone. Go back in time and tell that to someone from 1990 and they would lock you up for basically being Bruce Willis from 12 Monkeys.

But that’s not the point.

The point is that we live in an age where communication really is not a problem, no matter how remote your new hire is. You name it; you can use it – chat, audio conferencing, video calls, emails, PMs.

Make sure your new hire understands they can talk to you, their superiors and their team members anytime they want. Make sure this is actually the case.

If your company is fully remote, you might even consider a two-employee daily scheme where two random employees are in constant audio communication with each other for a whole day. They do not have to spend the day chatting, but they will definitely get to know each other better and it will feel more sociable.

5. Be Smart about Face-to-Face Meetups

Everyone loves a good face-to-face meetup. There is a whole culture of meetups and for a good reason – they can be fantastic for remote teams and employees. They can be even better for all-remote companies.

For example, if you have had a few remote hires recently, you might want to organize a meetup (if logistically possible) to meet them in person and have other members of your company do the same. This will make them feel like members of a team quicker than pretty much anything else. This is great onboarding.

That being said, you need to be smart about meetups. For example, if three employees from your 15-person all-remote company cannot attend, do not set it up. It’s either everyone comes or no one comes.

Also, you need to make sure you are not overdoing it. Your employees might enjoy a meetup here and there, but most people frown on being asked to go for a company outing every other month.

Closing Word

It is possible to successfully onboard your remote employees. It might require a bit more work, but it definitely beats simply hiring someone and hoping for the best.

About the Author: James D. Burbank has worked with small-to-medium companies for more than 15 years, usually looking in from the outside. He is the editor-in-chief at BizzMarkBlog.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez