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Get Ready To Successfully Onboard Remote Workers


16th June 2020

Onboarding, or induction, is the process of welcoming, integrating and training a new worker. It's a vital process because it contributes significantly to productivity and retention.

Covid-19 has temporarily robbed us of the most effective way of building relationships and maintaining employee engagement – in person interactions. This makes effective onboarding more challenging but not impossible! Don't be daunted - learn from the experience of recent home working and adapt existing onboarding procedures.

As you start your planning, think about:

  • What makes your business a great place to work and how are you going to ensure it isn't lost when your team is scattered remotely?
  • When does onboarding start?
  • How long will it last?
  • Who should be involved?
  • What information must be disseminated and how?
  • What goals should be set?
  • How are you going to gather feedback?

Answers to these questions will differ in every company, but they apply whether you are a small business or a large organisation.

1. Recruitment

Use the recruitment process to ensure there are no surprises once employment begins. Reiterate your company's vision, values and culture, set expectations around workload, performance management and accountability. Ensure the job description is an accurate reflection of the role and don't mislead candidates with inaccurate information on your company website or career pages.

2. Accepting The Job Offer

When a candidate accepts your job offer it's the trigger to begin integration and to build rapport. Count back from the intended start date and clearly communicate when hardware, team tools and stationery will arrive, and when passwords and access to the intranet, company handbook and training will be enabled.

3. Policies & Procedures

Not the most exciting thing in the world but it is critical to provide documented guidance to remote workers. As a minimum provide a glossary of terms for your company specific language; key point of contact information; how to access technical help desks and a work-flow that clearly identifies each stage of the onboarding process. To help this new person succeed you have to provide them with the tools and support.

4. Expectation Setting & Schedule

Day 1 is all about reinforcing the duties and responsibilities that were outlined during the recruitment process and discussing how performance is measured.

Set longer term objectives and short-term goals by setting "quick wins" for 3 months and 6 months to enable the employee to make an impact, know their purpose and build confidence in their new environment.

5. Meeting The Team

If it is possible, have a safe, socially distanced 1:1 meeting in person. But if not, video meetings facilitate individual introductions and larger team gatherings. Mix up the introductions with a combination of more formal sessions with informal group chat.

In our blog on making a new start feel welcome during induction we shared the experience of Andrew Buchan. Making someone feel welcome doesn't just happen by accident, it takes planning and co-ordination to ensure all the right people are included and that people play to their strengths. For example, choose someone who is a great story teller to share the culture; ensure the person who can explain the social side of the business is an active participant themselves.

Within the team, everyone should understand the role of the new start, what they are accountable for and their decision making authority – this will facilitate the integration process.

We love the idea from memory.ai that every member of staff creates a personal video introduction which is stored in a video library and is accessible to everyone, anytime. To widen the network of contacts beyond the immediate team and line report we also like the idea of identifying people by the end of Month 1 that the new employee can support or be supported by. For example, a mentor, a tech buddy, or a peer – by connecting on a 1:1 basis it's another opportunity to learn or ask for guidance.

6. Intentional Communication & Behaviour

The biggest issues remote workers struggle with are loneliness, collaboration and communication.

When people work in the same place, a lot of meaningful communication happens "on the hoof" or incidentally. Building relationships remotely takes conscious, continual effort. A really effective way to do this is through psychometric analysis, which you probably used during the recruitment process. Dig out these reports and discover what motivates your new start, the behaviours to watch out for if things aren't going so well and the type of communication that they need to thrive.

7. Training

Training will be an ongoing process but Week 1 is a concentrated learning period. Ultimately, training will depend on the role and the tools that are used to perform the job, nevertheless, even familiar tools and tech will require some explanation of how they are deployed in your business. Knowing how to use all the relevant communication channels is invaluable too.

8. Feedback

Ask for feedback. It's really important to know if your new employee has everything they need to do their job (believe it or not they may not like to tell you if you don't ask). Their feedback will help you to continually improve the remote onboarding process for others and deal quickly with niggles that could lead to bigger problems if not resolved quickly.

9. Continuity

At the beginning of this blog we asked how long onboarding should last. What did you decide? Keep in touch meetings, performance updates and development discussions should happen regularly, every 3 months or so, throughout the first 12 months.

10. Surprises

We all appreciate being appreciated. Highlighting work well done and success in the early weeks and months shows that you value this person and their contributions. This is particularly important for remote workers where peer recognition and support may be harder to attain.

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