4 Key Steps to Improving the Remote Onboarding Experience
Updated: Dec 25, 2021
In light of the rapid spread of COVID-19, the necessary transition to Work From Home (WFH) policies has introduced new ways to stay connected and productive outside of the office. Though temporarily stunted, most businesses have not ceased operations and have even continued hiring under the circumstances of remote work. Virtual onboarding certainly poses its own challenges but can still be done successfully while taking an adapted approach.
What does remote onboarding entail?
Regardless of its format, onboarding describes the process of introducing a newly hired employee into an organization. This essential stage allows employees to fully understand the scope of their new position, including its requirements and expectations; but it’s also a vital opportunity for the new hire to be seamlessly integrated into the rest of their team and the company as a whole. Overall, onboarding presents new hires with the opportunity to fully prepare for day-to-day operations at an organization, which is why the process is usually composed of routine training and paperwork, as well as facility tours and team introductions.
Of course, while navigating a completely virtual workspace for the first time, there’s an added learning curve to traditional onboarding activities. Being able to understand essential software while effectively communicating with other team members may pose new challenges to employees–ones that were not present in physical workspaces.
Why is it a process worth improving?
Despite these widespread difficulties, three out of four employers consider WFH throughout the pandemic to have been a success. Whether a result of much-needed flexibility, increased employee satisfaction, or expanded hiring pools to gain access to more competitive talent, it looks as though remote work could be here to stay (or at least in some capacity). As it concerns the United States, a PwC Remote Work Survey estimated that around 83% of office workers would like to work remotely at least one day each week, and 10 to 20% could permanently switch to remote work after the pandemic.
This general enthusiasm for flexible working environments seems as though it will outlive the circumstances introduced by COVID-19, and employers should be prepared for the possibility of having to manage team members that are not located in a central office space. Better yet, improving a company’s remote onboarding instills practices that could enhance the quality of the same process in person.
Prepare technology in advance
If at all possible, designate some time before a new hire’s first day to handle all technology setup. Getting even just a brief rundown of video conferencing platforms, communication channels, and other company software and systems can allow employees to show up confident, engaged, and comfortable on day one.
If the company is providing and sending equipment for use, offer detailed guidance for setting it up–whether in the form of a written guide or an appointment with an IT representative to be there every step of the way. Having this kind of personable and helpful communication prior to an employee’s first day will alleviate anxiety and set them up for success.
Inform new hires of virtual etiquette
When in doubt, err on the side of communicating everything. It may be instinct for employees to operate with the knowledge of company history or norms, but what is left unspoken may be lost on new hires.
With that said, offer explicit guidance whenever possible–especially as it concerns virtual etiquette while videoconferencing, messaging, or using other company software or systems. The more seamless a new hire’s integration into company culture is, the better.
Provide an onboarding buddy
It always helps to have someone in your corner, so a company should offer new hires a friendly face by pairing them with a seasoned team member. This individual should be able to field any lingering questions about the work environment or take the time to debrief one-on-one after group meetings. Additionally, this valuable connection will likely make connecting with others in the company much less daunting.
Consistently check in
Onboarding processes can take weeks to months–sometimes up to a year for an employee to feel fully comfortable with company practices. Therefore, it’s vital to not consider the end of onboarding as a specific marker of progress, but rather as the time to continue offering guidance as needed. It’s natural for employees of any duration and experience to have questions about their role and responsibilities, all of which should be welcomed with understanding and insight.
Roughly a year of remote work has proved itself to be the future format of business communications and productivity. When considering WFH for your organization, it’s incredibly important to evaluate the ways to integrate new hires into a newly virtual work environment. All in all, investing in an efficient and welcoming remote onboarding process has the potential to revolutionize the way that your company expands and retains its workforce.