Learn about the unique challenges of onboarding remote employees and get strategic insights on how to onboard new hires effectively.
Maintaining top talent is a priority for employers. Shakeups of working practices within the job market have transformed employee expectations in the last three years. In particular, the Great Resignation saw 44% of U.S. employees seeking new employment.
One of the leading reasons why employees are searching for new positions is remote working opportunities. Many people are choosing remote over in-person jobs because of their flexibility. According to Hawaii.gov, 42% of private sector payroll employees were working remotely as of August 2021.
Additionally, job seekers want to prioritize work-life balance, and these positions offer the ability to do just that. Some individuals have even found that they are more productive in remote environments.
Companies choosing to provide remote working must consider how existing working processes must change. In particular, onboarding new employees remotely and bringing them up to speed using next-generation tools and best practices are critical.
Learn the challenges of remote employee onboarding, ways to overcome these challenges, and how to onboard remote employees in a new working environment.
The Challenges of Remote Employee Onboarding
Remote working long predates the COVID-19 pandemic, but the adoption rate of this model accelerated from 2020 to 2022. According to McKinsey, 87% of employees with remote working opportunities have embraced the concept.
Most proponents of remote working emphasize the benefits from the employee’s perspective without acknowledging the challenges posed to companies, such as onboarding remote employees.
Investing in a high-quality onboarding program can boost employee retention by 82% and improve productivity by 70%.
Overcoming the Technology Problem
Onboarding remotely begins with setting up the appropriate technology. Remote hires must become acquainted with new equipment, technology, and platforms without in-person help.
It is the most significant difference between in-person and remote onboarding. New hires must unbox their workstations and set up essential systems before they can begin learning and connecting with their colleagues.
Overcoming this problem means allowing extra time for remote workers to complete the setup process, offering support from a dedicated point of contact, and providing detailed instructions without overwhelming your new hire.
Creating a Productive Culture
Onboarding in the office often involves team members individually introducing themselves and welcoming new employees to the team. These little interactions are all part of what creates a positive company culture.
The most significant risk to remote workers is feeling isolated from day one. According to a Zippia study, 50% of remote workers felt lonely at least once per week. Full-time remote workers are more likely to feel disconnected from their colleagues because they never have the opportunity to come into the office once or twice per week.
Employees must strike a balance between productivity and giving new members of their teams a chance to connect with their colleagues.
Nailing Virtual Communication
Need something in the office? It is a matter of wandering down the hall or poking your head into a colleague’s cubicle. Employers working out remote employee onboarding quickly find that virtual communication is not as straightforward as it seems.
Any good business lives or dies based on the quality of its internal communication strategies. Fully remote workers require creative solutions to maintain effective communication channels.
Employers must lay out the standards for how their teams communicate, including the tools they use, communication plans, and expectations surrounding how employees interact.
Preventing Information Overload
Most remote employees will either read or watch a selection of material to familiarize themselves with how a company operates and what will be expected of them. However, it takes little time for remote workers to feel swamped and overwhelmed with the array of materials available.
With no in-person accessibility, employers can get more from onboarding remote employees by taking a step back and reviewing the strategies that are currently in place.
Virtual Onboarding Checklist
The virtual onboarding process does not have to follow defined steps. Every company will have varying approaches to getting the best out of their new hires and integrating them into existing workflows.
Regardless, having an onboarding guide in place is something that every business can benefit from. Follow this remote employee onboarding checklist to get your virtual workers onboard seamlessly.
Set Up Account and Send Paperwork
Avoid running into problems throughout the onboarding process by laying the groundwork for everything your virtual employees need to work optimally.
Create relevant user accounts and ensure your HR department has checked and submitted all the necessary paperwork.
Share an Onboarding Schedule
Onboarding schedules map the process new hires go through before becoming fully-fledged team members. Set expectations without putting unnecessary pressure on new hires. Quality always beats speed in the long run.
Start your onboarding schedule as early as possible, including sending introduction videos, setting up your new hire with a mentor, and getting them online fast.
For example, you may introduce new hires to your team a few weeks before their official start date.
Extending your onboarding schedule offers some additional breathing room if there are any snags.
Build Strong Relationships
Connect remote workers with mentors early. Ensure that everyone has a point of contact they can turn to if they have any queries or concerns.
Set up virtual meetings with the people a remote employee can expect to work with after completing the onboarding process.
If you have the time, recreate in-person office activities virtually. For example, consider holding a welcome virtual hangout where everyone can jump on a video call over a casual lunch.
Provide a Path to Professional Development
Most employers make the mistake of assuming professional development opportunities come later. Starting professional development and personal growth programs shows your commitment to your virtual employees from day one.
All workers value professional development opportunities. According to a CNBC report, 94% of employees would be more likely to remain with their current company if they had access to valuable training opportunities.
Check-In With New Faces
Always offer new hires adequate support channels. Schedule regular meetings to discuss their process in an open, transparent environment.
Many starting employees may be afraid of raising issues or looking incompetent. Welcoming feedback and encouraging new faces to share their challenges offers teachable moments and the chance to access vital guidance during the first months of employment.
Cross-Train to Enhance Understanding
Siloed workers are typically less effective. One study reveals that teams waste 20 hours every month due to poor collaboration. Breaking existing silos and preventing new ones from forming must be a priority.
Focus on cross-training as part of the onboarding process. For example, pairing a new sales rep with a marketing or support team member will broaden their knowledge of your company’s workflows.
Moreover, cross-training builds those connections that virtual workers will come to rely on after finishing their onboarding schedule.
If you are onboarding multiple remote workers simultaneously, consider training them together to alleviate feelings of isolation and intimidation.
Personalize, Redirect, and Achieve Better Results
The point of an onboarding checklist for remote employees is to provide a basic framework. Yet every employee is different.
Some people may be skilled at their jobs but struggle to adapt to next-generation communication tools. Others may need to learn how to collaborate outside of the office.
Initiate a constant review process and maintain flexibility when onboarding remote employees. Tailor each onboarding journey to every hire according to their needs and how they are progressing.
Remote Onboarding Best Practices
Your checklist can provide a framework for how to onboard remote employees and how to welcome those who have never worked remotely before.
Focus on continuous improvement to get the best out of your onboarding pipeline. Here are some expert tips for refining how you onboard virtual employees.
Anticipation anxiety can make starting with a new company as a virtual employee an overwhelming experience. As much as employers want to see new additions hit the ground running from day one, the reality differs from the ideal.
Approximately 83% of companies will start onboarding before an employee’s official start date. It begins with shipping any necessary hardware weeks in advance. Giving remote workers more time to get acquainted with hardware and software can alleviate anticipation anxiety.
Encourage employees to introduce themselves within your company’s communication channels, like Slack, a few weeks in advance so they can build bonds early.
Not everything has to be about work. Colleagues learn about each other naturally in an office by spending so much time together. You must work harder with a virtual workforce to recreate those casual moments.
Encourage employees to share things about their personal lives. For example, posting pictures of their pets or spending a few minutes discussing their weekend plans.
Aim to create a more casual atmosphere within your virtual office.
Tailor to Different Learning Styles
People learn in different ways. Creating a suite of standardized materials forces people to learn in a specific way that might not suit them.
Some employees are audio learners, while others are more visual. Some may prefer to take a more active role and pick things up along the way.
Figure out how you can provide multiple options for your onboarding system.
Start with a Small Project
Onboarding is designed to nail down the basics. It is unlikely that your employee will be ready to jump into an existing project within a few weeks of onboarding.
Flatten the learning curve by introducing a new virtual worker through a smaller project they can tackle under the guidance of an experienced employee. Build their confidence so they can transition into your existing setup with ease.
How much autonomy you provide as part of an initial project depends on how quickly your new team member has adapted to how your organization operates.
Focus on the Workstation
Think about the space your employee has to work in at home.
Remote employees working from small apartments have different challenges to those who have selected a dedicated co-working space.
Talk to your virtual workers about how you can help them maximize the workspace they have. The more comfortable they are with where they work, the more you can expect from them.
Break Down Information
Make information simple to digest by avoiding large blocks of text. Stick to bullet points, infographics, and videos. Building various PowerPoints and PDFs for employees to read is far from ideal because the information is harder to retain.
Set goals for each day and week of the onboarding schedule. You may even want to get creative by encouraging active learning through gamification.
Gamification is the concept of turning work into a game. With each module completed, employees receive virtual rewards, which you can even turn into company swag and other perks. It is a proven method of enhancing engagement and achieving lasting results.
Every employee is busy. Managers may get tempted to shift too much toward virtual worker autonomy. While autonomy is beneficial, it can leave virtual workers feeling lost.
Throughout the onboarding journey, try to remain as available as possible. Two-way communication is pivotal to successful onboarding during those first few weeks.
Switch up the availability of different figures within your organization. One-to-one meetings with the head of the department are valuable, but it is also important to create connections with team leaders, managers, and other senior personnel.
If things are hectic, ask your new hire about their availability and try to coordinate with their schedules, especially before their official start dates.
Get Expert HR Services with ProService Hawaii
Onboarding remote employees is a process that will look different for every company and position. Prioritize building a sense of community and creating clear communication channels to stave off isolation and information overload.
Smaller businesses often need help to juggle these processes. Outsourcing can offer valuable breathing room without degrading the quality of your new employee onboarding system.
At ProService Hawaii, we specialize in providing payroll and HR outsourcing services to take the strain away from businesses. When you partner with an HR services provider, you no longer need to stress about handling the hiring process on your own.
Contact the team to learn more about how our outsourcing services can support your needs.