Onboarding Remote Employees – Step-by-Step Guide

By Steven Cox

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The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has caused companies to adapt and rethink their business strategies, including those relating to sourcing new talent. As the need to do business remotely quickly became the new normal, employers had to find new and effective ways of hiring and onboarding new employees. This can seem like a daunting prospect at first, especially after years of face-to-face interviews and in-person training. Find out more about onboarding remote employees, and how to get the process right. 

6 Steps to Effectively Onboard a New Employee 

Once you have chosen your new recruit, after a process of video-interviews and calls, you need to think about how you will make sure they are properly welcomed and prepared to work. Six steps to help achieve this are: 

  1. Make sure all the digital applications they will need are set up 
  2. Call them regularly, including video calls 
  3. Arrange adequate role-specific training 
  4. Encourage digital conservation among staff 
  5. Put in place a ‘buddy’ scheme 
  6. Email and/or post copies of company policies 

We explore exactly what these entail, and the value of each step below.

1. Make sure all the digital applications they will need are set up

This is likely to feature on the to-do list anytime a new employee begins work, however, it’s even more vital when that employee will be based outside the office. This is because in an office if there are any delays to systems being set up and running, the new member of staff can simply explore the office or meet their new colleagues. When the new member of staff is a remote worker, however, this time will be wasted by simply waiting to get going. Avoid this issue by making a well-considered list of all the applications they will need, and check that all the required preparations are made a few days before they start.

2. Call them regularly, including video calls

A common complaint among remote workers is the feeling of loneliness and neglect. It’s important that a newly appointed remote employee does not feel this way, especially during their first week. Make sure they feel fully supported and properly welcomed by making a point of calling them on a regular basis. It should not only be their immediate senior who calls, but also other managers and their colleagues. A teamwide, welcoming video call will likely go a long way so that everyone can put faces to names.

3. Arrange adequate role-specific training

Thorough consideration should be given to how a new remote employee will be properly trained. Those who work outside the office do not have the same opportunity to ask questions and receive face-to-face feedback, which can make things more difficult when it comes to training. It might take some effort to find or put together the right training materials, however consider the following advice:

  • Ensure that every training session also includes a Q&A portion, so that those taking part have the option to clarify anything they’re not sure about. 
  • Wherever possible, record demonstrations of activities, so that visual learners can see exactly what’s being explained to them. 
  • Make training as interactive as possible, such as with games and quizzes, so that remote participants stay engaged.

4. Encourage digital conservation among staff 

Remote workers are unlikely to feel like part of a team unless they have regular communication with their colleagues. As they are out of the office this can be difficult to ensure, so the best approach is to make communication as easy as possible. Consider the use of an online digital chat platform, so that teammates can easily contact each other as much as they wish. This is particularly important during a new starter’s first week when they are likely to have all kinds of questions that they may not feel warrant a phone call. This could be anything from ‘what time can I go on lunch’, to ‘where is this document saved’.

5. Put in place a ‘buddy’ scheme 

A ‘buddy’ system can be hugely beneficial for remote workers because it offers them a point of contact for the smaller, or more social-related questions. Many new recruits feel uncomfortable ‘bothering’ their immediate bosses with questions that might seem trivial, so to have another colleague to speak to can offer great peace of mind. For a new remote worker, a buddy should be an experienced member of staff who is friendly and approachable.

6. Email and/or post copies of company policies 

When office-based workers begin their employment they are usually given a wealth of policies to look over and paperwork to sign. Remote workers need access to this same information, so make sure everything is clearly labeled and emailed over to them. It’s also good practice to save such policies in a shared location, and make sure that new recruits are aware of where to find them.  

When it comes to signatures, it’s possible to use software that has the option of a digital signature, otherwise, such paperwork should be sent via the post with a prepaid envelope for return. 

Good onboarding is known to help you retain staff, and this is even more true when that staff is working remotely. It’s important to find ways to ensure that those working outside of the office feel valued and involved, rather than out of sight and out of mind. Consultancy firm Gallup recently carried out research that revealed only 12% of employees feel that their company does a great job of onboarding. That means 88% of employees think that there is room for the onboarding process to improve. Concentrating efforts on ensuring that all employees are onboarded effectively will have substantial rewards in the long run, as those employees will feel motivated to work hard and deliver what’s expected of them – if not more. 

About the Author:  
Steven Cox, Chief Evangelist at FMP, a leading global outsourced payroll provider to SME organisations. 

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