When it comes to new hires, onboarding accounts for much more than just job training – it’s your first proper experience with new team members. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many more jobs have become remote, which has made it more important than ever to take the right steps to integrate employees into your company despite never having face-to-face contact with them in a physical setting. 

By creating an efficient onboarding process, you can be sure that you’re setting your new recruits up for success. With that being said, creating a program that creates a positive impact can be difficult in remote settings. 

Given the lack of in-person interaction, it’s more essential than ever to focus on humanising your remote employee onboarding. 

(Image: Economic Modelling)

Here, we can see that remote job postings have accelerated across 2020 due to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. If your business hasn’t decided to transition towards remote work yet, it may still be worth taking a moment to consider how such a change would occur in the future. 

With this in mind, let’s explore five key ways of retaining a human element to your onboarding processes while recruiting remotely: 

1. Focus on Pre-Boarding

The first day at a new job can be both scary and exciting in equal measure. You don’t know who your coworkers will be or where to go at lunchtimes, but you can still be excited about the things you’ll learn or your opportunities for progression. 

However, when things move remote, your concerns and optimism can change. When you’re starting work remotely, you may feel disconnected from your team – even if you’re using modern collaborative tools. 

One way to aid new hires and to make them feel welcome and less overawed by it all is to create a pre-boarding package for them. This could involve anything from a welcome email to some company-branded items. Give them a clear idea of their team members and who they will be reporting to. It’s also imperative to let them know who they can reach out to should they have any questions.

Offering up this information before they get started can help to create a smooth onboarding process. Your new employees will know what’s expected of them and who to turn to if they’re feeling uncertain of something. 

2. Establish Clear Lines of Communication

Some new starters may be working in their environment alone and experiencing feelings of being cut off from the company without regular communication. This can be particularly pertinent considering that they are unlikely to have met any of their colleagues in person. 

It’s essential to set up regular video calls with key people in the business over the course of their first few days – as face-to-face screen time can significantly help in decreasing feelings of isolation while building trust. There are plenty of strong tools out there to utilise for this, and Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype are among the front runners in the video collaboration industry. 

By establishing these lines of communication, the new starter can gain a better understanding of how their role fits into the wider business strategy while helping them to create stronger relationships. Remember to be inclusive and create a virtual meeting that welcomes new recruits into their team within a group environment, and let them know that their mentor will always be on hand to help. 

3. Set Your Starters up With a Remote Buddy

Establishing a buddy program is a great means of helping new employees to familiarise themselves with your organisation. Buddies can help new recruits learn things like who to go to for IT support and how other employees utilise tools like Slack and Monday to communicate with one another. 

If you have a more hybrid workforce, matching remote workers with other remote employees can be highly useful. They can help to answer any questions that are more specific to this type of worker. For example, how to handle distractions or interruptions at home and how to use VPNs. These buddies can be a great resource for offering tips that you yourself as an employer may be unable to offer from experience. 

4. Build a Sense of Belonging

One of the most difficult things to do remotely is to create a sense of belonging within the company – however, making new hires feel welcome, wanted and needed is also among the most important ways of motivating and retaining them. In an office environment, this would be achieved by engaging new employees in social events and by ensuring that all team members have a chance to informally introduce themselves in more relaxed settings. 

However, when it comes to establishing a sense of belonging remotely, it comes down to a company’s ability to create an informal virtual space where employees can interact with each other. Games, quizzes and company-wide challenges can give all members of a team a common goal to work towards. This can be an effective way of bringing team members together and creating a sense of belonging straight away for new hires. 

5. Always Ask for Feedback

If your business isn’t heavily experienced in managing remote teams, there’s always the chance that you may experience some initial hiccups in implementing your onboarding process. 

Be sure to ask your new remote employees to pay close attention to the onboarding process and provide feedback on what they felt worked for them and what didn’t. This can allow you to continually improve the process for future hires. 

Feedback is also important in understanding how employees are interpreting the information you give them and could offer invaluable insight into whether you should adapt your processes for specific individuals. After all, all workers are different, and it’s through feedback that you can quickly alter your onboarding process to ensure that they’re comfortable at all times. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has instantaneously forced businesses into embracing remote work – whether they’re ready or not. In these rapid transitions, it can be difficult to recreate valuable onboarding processes that keep new employees happy and motivated. Through instilling a human element to your approach, you have the best chance of making workers feel as though they’re part of a team, and welcome every step of the way.