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Step into the World of Virtual Work: The Remote Onboarding

The topic of remote work has been widely discussed for years. At first glance, employers had thought it to be inefficient and unproductive, but real-life applications showed significant results.

Soon enough, whether you were with or against the idea of remote work didn’t matter anymore; 2020 has forced us all into the virtual world of remote work. As if that wasn’t difficult enough on its own, employers all around the globe met with an even more challenging task: welcoming their new hires remotely.

Step into the World of Virtual Work: The Remote Onboarding

On the surface, the remote onboarding process works similarly to how a typical employee onboarding would. It’s the phase in which employers welcome their new hires,  introduces them to their work responsibilities, the team, and the company’s culture and values.

The only catch is that the process is done virtually. That eventually forced employers to come up with more efficient ways to welcome their new hires without interacting physically with them.

If you’re about the step into the world of virtual work as well, here’s everything you need to know in order to carry out an effective remote onboarding process.

The Difference Between Remote Onboarding and Orientation

Before we dive into the best practices of remote onboarding, it’s important to point out the difference between onboarding and orientation. To put it simply, orientation is a one-day event during which new hires are welcomed onboard.

It allows the new hires to understand the company’s values, mission, history, structure, and culture while interacting with other employees. It’s also often the day when the new hires get acquainted with the company’s rules, protocols, and conduct code.

Meanwhile, the onboarding process extends over a more extended period and is divided over a series of events. The purpose of the onboarding process is to ease the new hires into their designated roles.

It may go on for about 2 to 3+ weeks, depending on the complexity of the positions they’ll be filling. During this period, the new hires will get training, small assignments, guidance, and feedback until they’re well qualified to carry out their job as required.

At the end of the onboarding process, the new hire should feel like a part of the team and that they belong to the company.

Remote Onboarding Best Practices

Although remote onboarding can be quite challenging, you can make the process much more efficient, for both you and the new hires, by following a few tips and tricks.

Here are some of the best practices that employers worldwide follow during their remote onboarding processes.

1. Plan for the Onboarding Schedule

Whether you’re forced to work remotely out of the blue, or you want to enjoy the benefits that come along with working from home, you’ll need to devise a plan for your remote onboarding process swiftly.

You’ll want to list down everything that should happen throughout the traditional onboarding process: the orientation, paperwork, training, team-building exercises, assignments, and follow-ups. If you’re hiring for more than one position, you should develop a plan for each position.

Once you’ve listed down the events, you’ll need to study the best way to carry them out in the remote work setting.

You should experiment with various programs and tools and narrow them down to the most efficient ones before introducing them to your team. You should also review your initial orientation program and make it more relevant to the new process.

For instance, if you’re used to discussing lunch-breaks, transportation, food and drink regulations, or any other items related to working in a physical office, you’ll need to remove them from the program.

Meanwhile, you’ll add topics that are more relevant to remote working.

2. Automate the Paperwork

Whether you’re used to finalizing paperwork on the first orientation day or during the first week of work, that will have to change once you enforce remote onboarding.

It is impractical to force the new hires to visit your headquarters in a remote job,  which may also not be possible due to the COVID-19 restrictions. That’s why you’ll need to look into onboarding programs that can automate the paperwork required for the new hires to start working with you.

The biggest problem you’ll face will be automating the parts of paperwork that require physical interactions and inspection, namely, Section 2 of the I-9 Form. Usually, Section 2 documents require the physical presence of the employee.

Earlier, the employer was required to inspect the documents in person, and remotely reviewing them was not approved. Luckily, that’s not the case anymore.

You’ll be able to get a 100% remote I-9 solution here through which your new hires can complete their paperwork most efficiently. This federally-compliant solution allows them to select an authorized representative to inspect their documents without visiting the office in person.

3. Get the Tech Sorted Out ASAP

In standard work settings, setting up the tech and equipment happens as soon as the new hire is designated an individual desk. However, the physical distance imposed in remote work may make this process a bit more complicated.

New hires can start working with their laptops or PCs until they get the equipment they need; however, you should have a plan ready to eliminate downtime.

Be sure to sort out your shipping strategy to send the new hires the needed equipment on time. It’s best to configure the equipment beforehand so that new hires can install the software required and programs once they enter their credentials.

In case they’ll be using their equipment, it’s crucial to explain the security and configuration protocols they need to follow while working. Usually, you’ll designate a hiring manager to stay connected to them on the phone and walk them through the configuration process.

4. Outline Your Values and Culture

One of the onboarding process’s main goals is to get your new hires familiar with your company.

The onboarding includes explaining the organizational structure, highlighting their job responsibilities, and introducing them to their teammates – but perhaps the most important things to discuss are your company’s values and work culture.

Around 70% of the professionals confessed that they would totally leave a large enterprise if its work culture were bad. 71% went as far as admitting they’ll be willing to accept a lower salary to work in a company that shares the work ethics, values, and mission they believe in.

Outlining your company’s culture and values will benefit both you and new hires on so many levels. It’s the best way to raise their excitement levels while letting them know what to expect throughout their journey with you.

It also sets the basic rules for communication, so everyone is on the same footing.

5. Make Sure to Accommodate the New Hire

Joining a new workplace is usually a stressful experience for most people. New hires often feel like they’re intruding on the existing employees.

They’d have issues with making new friends and getting familiar with the work culture in a normal work setting as it is, and that makes remote work even more stressful. With the absence of normal interactions and small networking opportunities, the new hires can feel out of place for an unforeseeable period. That’s why you’ll need to go the extra mile in making them feel at home.

Since you won’t be able to promote team-building over lunch breaks, dinners, or other networking events, you’ll need to come up with ice-breaking activities that you can implement remotely.

Moreover, you won’t have the opportunity to pass by their desk to check on them every few hours, so you should make a note of checking up on them via email or chatting every few hours instead. Be clear on the official and unofficial communication channels and make sure they’re well-acquainted with the programs of choice.

6. Assign A Hiring Manager and Designated Buddy for Each New Hire

You can only do so much on your own. No one expects you to hover around the new hires 24/7, but they shouldn’t be left all alone either.

The best way to fully accommodate them is to assign a hiring manager to each of the new hires, as well as a designated buddy.

The hiring manager will oversee their work, explain procedures, evaluate their progress, and teach them the ropes of their role. In short, they’ll do what managers have always done. It’s how they do their work which t will vary significantly.

They’ll start the onboarding process before the first day of work; they’ll welcome the new hires with a celebratory email, alert the team to the new teammates, and welcome them on the official work channels and coordinate with the IT department regarding the equipment and software programs. Each new hire will then be assigned a designated buddy.

Meanwhile, a designated buddy is another employee who’ll be responsible for befriending the new hire. They’ll virtually hang out during breaks, share advice, and guide them about the way things work in your company.

7. Get Your New Hires Engaged

Alongside giving each new hire the attention they need on an individual level, it’s important to get them engaged with the whole team as well. Be sure to use the breakout rooms in the middle of video conferences, and practice your presentation skills for the video conference sessions.

You’ll need to compensate for the lack of physical interactions by becoming more animated in your discussions. Practice by looking into the camera, train your body language, hand gestures, and facial expressions, and come up with fun topics to discuss during the breaks.

However, to be able to focus on the presentation entirely, you’ll need to delegate the IT work to another manager.

Moreover, allow the new hires to know each other. You can assign new hires together in breakout rooms so they can start networking together.

Many companies focus on introducing the new hires to the existing teammates, but there’s a sense of comradery that can only develop between new hires.

8. Always Ask for Feedback

At the end of each day, make sure to check up on the new hires and see how their day has gone. Whether you give them a survey to fill out or ask them verbally, be sure to get their feedback, answer their inquiries, and assure their concerns.

They may have unanswered questions or might have faced an issue with the remote process, so be sure to listen to what they have to say. Most importantly, make an effort to address their feedback and consider it. The worst thing that can happen is to ask for their opinion, only to ignore it.


The Challenges of Remote Onboarding

The way your new hires feel after their onboarding will leave an everlasting impression on them. If you manage to implement a successful and useful process, you’ll be sure to improve your retention rate, productivity, and overall profitability.

One study showed that companies who have optimized their onboarding process had experienced 250% revenue growth and a 190% profit margin compared to those with poor onboarding processes.

That said, implementing a successful onboarding strategy is no easy task, and switching to the virtual world creates even more challenges. You’ll need to find a way to achieve the purpose of onboarding while replacing the physical workplace with video-conferences, chats, and other communication channels.

Meanwhile, you should put yourself in the new hire’s shoes and make sure they’re not overloaded with information and rules. Perhaps an even more significant challenge is to manage to connect with them on an emotional level, which can be challenging to do from behind the screens and with miles in between.

The onboarding process, in general, demands a lot of planning and effort on the managers’ part.

Managers need to make the new hires feel welcomed and appreciated, so they take the extra step in setting up an onboarding schedule and perfecting every event. However, the purpose of remote onboarding remains the same, the “how” changes significantly.

You’ll need to adjust your processes to fit into the virtual work-frame and welcome your new hires as trends change alongside the changing times. It may be difficult, but it’s certainly worth the effort; you’ll experience better engagement, lower turnover rates, and significant talent branding.


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