Best Practices for Onboarding New Employees Remotely

From pet cameos on video calls to virtual office parties, the ‘new normal’ of remote work comes with some interesting realities. With many teams continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future, remote onboarding of new team members is becoming inevitable for growing companies. It’s no minor task considering the way you choose to welcome an employee can have a lasting impact on their job satisfaction and ability to excel.

But without the usual in-person introductions, office tours and welcome lunches, how can you make your new hire feel comfortable and connected to their workplace?

Here are best practices for onboarding in a remote world.

Develop and Share a Remote Onboarding Plan
Whether you’ve brought on employees ad hoc in the past or had an in-office plan in place, remote onboarding requires a fresh strategy. Before your new hire’s first day, set up a virtual meeting with everyone who will be involved in the onboarding process and create a plan that outlines key activities, milestones and timelines. It’s easy for miscommunication to happen, particularly when your team is working remotely, so a step-by-step plan of action is essential to ensure your new hire feels supported throughout the process and important information doesn’t fall through the cracks.

We all know how overwhelming the first day at a new job can be and the isolation of remote work can exacerbate that feeling. Make sure you build in time for the new hire to ask questions and process the information they’re learning. Balance formal meetings and presentations with more relaxed activities and icebreaker games.

Share the onboarding plan with your new hire on their first day, so they know what to expect in the coming weeks. The structure and clarity can help ease their nervousness about adjusting to the new role and provide reassurance throughout the onboarding process that their progress is on track.

Create Personal Connections
Meeting a new team can be intimidating even in-person, so make sure the employee gets plenty of (virtual) face time to get to know everyone. Set up a series of meet and greet video calls and introduce a few colleagues each day. Keep the calls casual and short (10 to 15 minutes is ideal), so your new hire doesn’t feel too put on the spot. These calls can also be a great way to break up the more formal elements of your remote onboarding process.

Another easy way to create a personal connection is to give your new hire an onboarding mentor or buddy. A study by Microsoft found 23 per cent of new hires that were given buddies were more satisfied with their onboarding experience than those without. It can be comforting for new hires to know they have a go-to person for information and advice, so they’re not left feeling uncertain who to contact when questions arise.

Build a Positive Virtual Company Culture
A LinkedIn survey of more than 3,000 professionals found that 70 per cent would leave a leading company if they didn’t enjoy the workplace culture. It’s clear company culture is essential to keeping employees (both new and old) happy and engaged.

The remote onboarding process is a key time to fully immerse your new hire in your company culture. Consider sending the employee company-branded swag items, such as T-shirts, totes or notebooks. Host a remote welcome party on their first day and have the entire team virtually share a delivered lunch or snack to celebrate.

Start these team-building activities early and continue them as your new hire integrates into the company. Whether that means hosting virtual escape rooms, game times or mindfulness and wellness classes, activities that bring the team together will help your new hire feel connected and valued.

Think Beyond the First Few Weeks

Consider how you can carry the sense of welcome for your new hire beyond the initial onboarding period. After the process is complete, set up regular virtual check-ins to talk about their progress and offer additional support, if needed.

Consider breaking up your check-ins with a timeline: one month in, find out how they are integrating to virtual work; after three months, see how things are going with their job/performance; and between six and nine months, review professional development goals.

Onboarding is also a perfect time to kick-off early conversations about your new employee’s long-term professional growth. Make time to talk about your company’s programs for development and outline a potential career path for your new hire within the company.

If you’re new to remote onboarding, be sure to get feedback from your new hire toward the end of the process. Whether you prefer to send a survey or have a casual discussion, there’s no better person to help improve your remote onboarding plan than a team member who has been through it.

Belu Maffei is senior marketing manager at Thriver, an enabler of workplace culture and wellness programs that engage employees. The Thriver technology platform promotes thriving workplaces by making it easy for businesses to provide corporate food and culture initiatives that connect, engage and motivate individuals and teams, wherever they are. Belu can be reached at [email protected].


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