If you think onboarding a remote worker is tricky – your right! Onboarding can be stressful enough when everyone is working in the same office. And onboarding a remote worker poses its own unique challenges.
Onboarding is a hugely important process for any new employee. Efficiently doing so increases employee performance, engagement, productivity and reduces turnover. Just because an employee won’t physically be in your office doesn’t mean their onboarding is any less critical.
Here are 10 steps to consider when onboarding a remote worker to ensure they receive a thoughtful experience.
1. Set expectations during the recruitment process
Onboarding a remote worker starts long before their first day – it starts during the recruitment process. When hiring a remote role, and it’s essential to keep in mind struggles they may encounter. Managing workloads, unclear work hours, lack of accountability, and isolation from co-workers are all common in remote positions.
You will want to ensure that you are clear about workload, hours of work, and how their success will be measured. Doing so will help avoid burn-out, overworking and confusion around expectations.
By clarifying these areas during the recruitment process, you avoid any misinterpretation later.
2. Have a remote worker checklist
Before onboarding a remote worker, you will need a checklist. One for you and one for them. There is a good chance you already have one, but it should look different for onsite and remote workers.
Your checklist should cover everything you have to complete before their start. It is all about ensuring the first day goes smoothly for a remote worker. Be as detailed as possible – even include names of the employees in IT and HR who will help you complete your checklist tasks.
A remote workers checklist will be similar to onsite employees but be specific to their remote role. It should help them feel comfortable and know what they need to do. It may take a few days or weeks to complete depending on timelines involved.
Any onboarding checklist should be department specific and modified slightly for each new hire.
3. Send a welcome package
Your welcome package should include all necessary equipment, training material, and even style guides. Some items can be sent digitally, while others need to be sent by post or courier. Sending these items will require advanced planning when onboarding a remote worker.
It should also include some fun things that get remote workers excited about joining the team. Include a short personalised welcome letter, branded merchandise (like a t-shirt or coffee mug), or a gift card to your team’s favourite coffee shop. Whatever best says, “Welcome to the team!”
Remember to check weekend and non-delivery days to ensure their welcome package arrives in advance and on time. You do not want it showing up late. That would be a terrible first impression.
4. Digitise all paperwork
Signing employment contracts and other legal documents can be time-consuming. They must be printed, signed, scanned and emailed/posted back. It can also be an expensive process, especially as many people working from home don’t have printers, scanners or fax machines in their home.
If you are still doing onboarding a remote worker using the old school paper way, its time to go digital when you onboard a remote worker. Software like HelloSign and DocuSign are legitimate and legally binding. Both allow employees to sign documents digitally, keep a copy, and share documents back in a secure environment.
If you do need documents to be physically verified, consider covering any costs incurred for notary services.
5. Introduce them and the team
Nothing beats a friendly in-person introduction. This is trickier when onboarding a remote worker. As they can’t easily go around the office introducing themselves, you will need to help them make introductions.
Make your team aware a new remote worker is joining you, give an overview of their work history, and how they will fit in with the wider team. Introductions need to be done before their official start date.
On the day they start, use your team’s internal communication tool and welcome them. Encourage co-workers to message and introduce themselves. It can be awkward to be the new person; a warm personal welcome will prevent this feeling when onboarding a remote worker.
Set up short strategic one-on-one video calls with the team. Make sure remote workers connect with the people they will need to know. Beyond meeting with HR, IT and Payroll, think about who they will be working with the most. Make sure they get to know them personally.
6. Assign a work friend
Learning processes, procedures and company standards doesn’t happen overnight. Even after you finish onboarding a remote worker, they will have a lot of questions to ask.
For onsite employees, it is easier for them to figure things out or ask a co-worker. However, remote newbies can find it challenging to know where to find documents, and even who to direct their questions too. For this reason, it is essential to assign a “work friend” as part of your process when onboarding a remote worker.
An assigned work friend shouldn’t be a direct manager, but someone senior on the team who has been with the company for a good amount of time. It will be their job to show the new hire the ropes and act as a point of contact for questions or concerns.
7. Organise a virtual coffee or lunch
While you can’t go out for lunch together as a team when a new remote worker starts, you can do the virtual equivalent. Have the group log in to a video call – cameras and microphones on. Don’t forget to remind your team about good video call etiquette to set a good impression.
The video call should be about getting to know one another rather than being all about work. Connecting on a personal level allows remote workers to get a feel of team dynamics.
Getting to know co-workers by putting a “face to the name” will help their nerves about reaching out to people, alleviate loneliness, and help remote workers feel like part of the team straight away.
8. Schedule one-on-ones and team meetings
Schedule first week, one month, and quarterly touch bases when onboarding a remote worker. These calls will help identify any difficulties they are facing and how they are adjusting to their role.
Scheduled one-on-ones are your opportunity to get to know them better as a person. You’ll miss opportunities for daily coffee chats with remote workers. Don’t only check-in on work during these calls; take a personal interest in their lives.
Make sure remote workers understand they are expected to attend all team meetings, just as any other employee would. Ensure video conference facilities are set-up so they can see the team and interact with them.
Check that remote workers get included in every team meeting, even the ones called last minute. Doing so ensures they are aware of the decisions taken and allows them the opportunity to contribute. Not only will this build comradery but will guarantee their expertise and opinion add to the fuller picture.
9. Have a clear work plan
Everyone works better when they know what is expected of them, and they have metrics to measure their success. This is critically important for remote workers who cannot see how their co-workers behave.
After onboarding, a remote worker and they get settled in, take some time to go over individual KPIs. Define short-term and long-term goals they can work towards. Don’t forget to explain team budgets and expectations. Don’t do this in a way that adds pressure to their role. Instead, do so in a way that illustrates how their work helps contributes to the team’s goals.
Once they have completed a few simple tasks, extend tasks into their full responsibilities. Provide context for projects, set expectations, and give them points of contact they may need. Make sure they have a list of tasks to work through. Remote workers shouldn’t have to wait for a manager to come online to start working.
10. Follow up and refine your process for onboarding a remote worker
Onboarding a remote worker isn’t a one-and-done process. It generally takes a couple of months to help a new hire acclimatise and set them on the path to success.
Encourage feedback throughout the onboarding process. Be open to listening. Your remote workers can tell you exactly how you can improve the process for your next group of remote hires.
How you go about onboarding a remote worker sets the tone for every interaction you have moving forward. Get it right, and you have an engaged and trusting remote worker. Get it wrong, and you might find yourself rehiring for this role sooner than you expected.
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