Onboarding is all about helping new employees make connections – with the organization, with co-workers, with managers, and with their role.
Having an effective onboarding process can make all the difference regarding employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. In fact, data indicates that one-third of new hires quit their job after about six months. Proper onboarding can help prevent that.
Onboarding requires time, effort, and a plan. What about if you’re hiring remote employees? If a new employee works remotely, onboarding is just as important—but the process might require some additional steps. Here’s a step-by-step guide to onboarding a remote employee:
Create a support network
Meeting and connecting with co-workers can be tough if you’re not in the same location. Most importantly, let everyone know a new remote employee is joining the team. Before the employee starts, schedule meetings with principal co-workers so that on the new employee's first day they have a list of the people they'll connect with.
Encourage current employees to reach out by phone, email, or instant messenger to welcome the new employee. Finally, try to match this employee with a peer mentor who can offer insight and suggestions about how to get work done in the organization. The car service Lyft has a mentor program for their drivers to help with onboarding an entirely remote workforce.
An article in Forbes highlighted the tendency of remote workers to work beyond 40 hours a week than their in-office counterparts.
There is speculation that this is due to a desire—or perceived need—to demonstrate commitment and a good work ethic. But if you don't want your workers to burn out, set expectations early on for how they should work. Discuss hours of business and how you want to be updated about their progress towards delivering against the defined objectives. Having these conversations in advance will help avoid employee dissatisfaction and burnout.
Chris Byers, CEO of Formstack, didn’t want his remote employees to burn out or feel unappreciated, so from the get-go the company set expectations by setting schedules and developing routines for with their new hires. This process allows remote employees work the hours they prefer while giving them time to recharge when needed and better engage with the company.
Establish communication methods
You’re not going to have hallway conversations with this employee or be able to drop by their desk, so you need to determine how you’ll communicate. Set up a regular phone call; make plans for how the remote employee can join meetings virtually; and talk about what communication methods work best for you and the employee.
Nothing burns bridges more than when a new employee isn't set up with the systems they need to succeed. That's even more true for a remote employee—when systems don’t work they’re stuck without anything to do and don’t know who to call for help.
Be sure your new employees have the technology access they need on the first day of work. That might include a mobile phone, laptop, an email account, and network access. Is there software that's required for them to perform job duties? Make sure it’s installed and ready to go. If you have a new employee checklist, follow it—but keep unique needs of your remote employee in mind.
Your recognition efforts need to be just as thoughtful as if you were expressing appreciation in person. An online tool can help immensely by making it easy to facilitate recognition moments and also build on the power of social sharing. While any employee appreciates an email from their manager saying “great job,” only two people know about it.
When recognition is posted in a social setting, it gives co-workers an opportunity to offer kudos, congrats, and reinforcement of the original message, which helps make powerful connections for a remote employee.
Continue the connection
The length of time it takes to onboard an employee depends on the organization and the employee’s role, among other factors. But in general, it will take at least three months for an employee to feel comfortable.
Your efforts to onboard and connect the employee with the organization shouldn’t stop after a week on the job—continue with a phased approach, like IBM that offers Succeeding@IBM: Getting Oriented. This continual online learning program provides new hires with all they need to succeed, i.e. an understanding of the company’s core values, overview of the specific role employees play to drive growth, and connections with other IBMers.
“Using a phased onboarding approach rather than a one-stop, one-time approach helps to avoid the ‘information overload’ problem, and enables employees to build relationships…with those who teach, coach, and mentor them during the entire onboarding program,” writes Doris Sims, author of Creative Onboarding Programs.
Going the extra mile to onboard a remote employee is a significant step in ensuring they are motivated, happy, productive, and successful for the long term.