Working remotely has become the new norm, and companies are still trying to adjust their practices appropriately. One of the processes most impacted by the switch to remote work is onboarding — workers are still getting hired, but integrating them into their teams has become particularly challenging.
While the standard onboarding procedure may include orientations, meetings, and networking opportunities, doing these remotely may not be feasible for all businesses. Even so, a few simple adjustments can make remote onboarding just as effective as your in-person experience. Here’s how:
1. Share your company wiki.
Send your new hire a link to the company wiki as soon as possible. This gives them an opportunity to start seeing your company from the inside out, a nice alternative to the traditional “office tour” you may expect in a normal onboarding process.
Sharing the company wiki can also save time during onboarding. Ask your new hire to read some sections of the company wiki that you’ve highlighted. Doing so can bring them up to speed on things you’d have to explain to them otherwise, allowing the actual onboarding process to be devoted to more advanced concepts and introductions.
2. Set clear expectations.
Do you have a Zoom dress code for employees? A preference for a plain background? A desire for people to mute their microphones unless they are speaking? If you do, a new hire won’t be aware unless you tell them. You need to establish a policy of clear, firm guidelines and communication from the get-go.
While this may feel like overcommunication on your part, remember that the new employee still has an entire company culture to become acclimated to. You need to bring them up to speed, and sharing your expectations is the best way to start.
3. Send all paperwork in advance.
If you have any documentation that an employee cannot sign digitally as part of their onboarding process, make sure you send it ahead of time. Unsigned documents can cause unexpected snags while onboarding, wasting time better spent on more important tasks.
Having the paperwork sent in advance also allows your new employee to review it thoroughly, giving them the space they need to ask questions or voice concerns. If you haven’t already, move as much of the signing process onto digital platforms as possible — getting remote workers to sign physical copies is a headache all its own.
4. Stick to an agenda.
Remote meetings are difficult enough to follow as it is; the last thing you need is one that moves along in an unplanned and haphazard fashion. The number of distractions associated with remote work means that creating and sticking to a meeting agenda in all of your onboarding sessions is not optional.
Your new employee will know exactly what will be covered in each meeting, allowing them to plan their day and request changes if necessary. Going agenda-less sends a message of carelessness to your new hire, setting the wrong tone for their new role to come.
5. Provide breaks.
Expecting your new employee to sit in front of a computer for a full day of onboarding is simply not realistic. Schedule breaks throughout the onboarding process and encourage everyone taking part to step away from their screens regularly in order to prevent unwanted Zoom fatigue.
Mix up your breaks throughout the onboarding process. Having a 10 minute break every 45 minutes can feel too regimented, turning the day into individual chunks instead of a cohesive experience. Aim for a mix of longer and shorter breaks away from screens as well as some opportunities for casual chatter in between the more serious moments.
6. Spread it out.
Breaks shouldn’t just be momentary pauses in the action — they should give you flexibility to spread out the onboarding process as much as you need to. Don’t try and fit 16 hours of meetings into two full days on a video chat. Consider spreading out the onboarding process over a week of shorter meetings so that engagement stays high.
Spreading out these meetings ensures that you’re not overwhelming your new employee with hours and hours of meetings at once. Employees helping with onboarding will also have additional time to get other work done, reducing their burden in the process.
7. Set the right tone.
The things you say and do during the onboarding process will have a lasting impact on how your new hire understands your business. Take the time to make introductions and create a welcoming environment, just like you would in person.
Doing so is particularly important when all of your meetings are digital — Zoom, emails, and Slack are all hardly made for effectively communicating company culture. Figure out exactly what tone you want to get across to your new hire and work hard to implement it consistently.
8. Be engaging.
Just because you have an agenda of things you want to accomplish during onboarding doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice human connection in the process. Help your new workers feel connected from the start by taking time for friendly, casual moments.
Ask them about their goals in their new role, how they feel about working for you remotely, and if they have any concerns you can help allay — questions like these are the foundations of a positive relationship. Engagement isn’t just about asking questions, though — it’s also about how you ask them. Be direct and friendly, and make sure you keep good eye contact.
9. Be clear and concise.
Remote onboarding brings with it the unique challenge of digital communication. Zoom calls can be notoriously slow and choppy, so be sure to speak slowly and clearly whenever you’re covering key information. Speaking too quickly in a video conference can cause audio clipping, allowing important insights to slip through the cracks.
If at all possible, invest in high-dollar webcams and microphones for everyone involved in the onboarding process. It may seem wasteful, but the value of smoothly integrating new hires into your business is difficult to overstate.
The first few days a new employee is with your company are critical to their future success. Remote onboarding may be a challenge, but the benefits of a smooth process are well worth the effort.