Like many people, we’ve been having lots of conversations about remote working over the past 8 weeks. And even though remote working and collaboration isn’t new to the WiserLife team, many people have been finding working in a remote environment a new experience.
One particular discussion we’ve had over this period was around how to onboard a new team member when they and or their team are a working remotely from the main office.
Employee onboarding is the foundational component of the employee experience, whether they are based in a central office or remote working. Just like an organisation’s customers, you want new employees to have a positive experience of their new employer, feeling connected to the brand and key people in the organisation right from the signing of the employment contract.
According to a 2007 study by the Wynhurst Group, when employees go through structured onboarding, they are 58% more likely to remain with the organisation after three years.
When onboarding remote employees, building trust early through clear and regular communication, together with deliberate action, builds the foundations for employee engagement and a long and successful career with your organisation.
Each phase of the onboarding process needs to cover three elements, so that new employees clearly understand how things work and set them up well for success.
Understanding both the big picture and the small details that only other employees would know provides context. Help new employees assimilate through understanding:
- the history,
- organisational values and norms,
- tribes and teams,
- where they fit with that matrix of delivery and reporting lines.
Then teach them how things work, so they understand how to get things done, the language and jargon used and what’s expected across the business. Also vitally important is how to access information or resources and who can help with a question or to escalate a problem.
Clarity and confidence are vital for any employee to be productive and work autonomously. Clearly define what they were employed to do, and what success looks like, including a roadmap for early and mid term goals. Define what good looks like in your organisation and how success is measured. One of the areas that can set your remote employee up for success is an open awareness of known pitfalls, how to avoid them or recover if they experience one.
Even with physical distance and multiple timezones, building a sense of belonging fulfils a basic human need. Through connection with their team, senior members of the organisation and other teams across the organisation, the new employee can develop a strong sense of connection no matter how far apart. Actions to develop social connection in the first few weeks could include welcome messages from members of their team, weekly lunch catch ups with different team members, or a coffee chat with team leaders from different functions of the organisation. This all helps explain how their part of the organisation works, and open up the channels of communication and productive working relationships.
Every person involved in the onboarding needs to understand the purpose of a positive, structured onboarding process to set up a new employee for success. With the team invested, you can ensure the onboarding process is rolled out smoothly. Below is an outline of the onboarding process we recommend to our clients.
After signing an employment contract, roll out the welcome mat by staggering communication during the weeks prior to commencing to share key information and help new employees feel connected.
After the official hiring process is complete, send them a welcome email expressing the positive decision and looking forward to welcoming them on board. Include the organisation chart (so the new employee can start familiarising themselves with the team) and any process and documentation requirements to ensure they have secure access to payroll, email and collaboration systems. Remember to send a celebratory care package to welcome them to the team and give them a physical interaction with the company on their first day.
Whether you’re using an office or remote, use the organisation’s collaboration platform to show the first day agenda. This allows a centralised point of information and can be the first step in familiarisation with systems and communication methods. Include welcome messages, meetings, documents, presentations and down times.
The first day orientation should set the tone for how your organisation operates and demonstrates the value of employees.
The first day orientation should include:
- Direct manager meeting
- Recorded presentation from CEO
- Workplace Preferences survey
- Welcome messages from the team
- Assigning a workplace buddy
- Access to company documentation
- Connect over Lunch – even if you are remote you can still share a sandwich together for a casual discussion
Within the first week, set out an early roadmap of training and clear first project or core work they will be involved with. Knowing what they’ll be involved in will also allow the team meetings to have more context. In the first two weeks, arrange additional ways to help them assimilate into the company.
- Set early wins and expectations
- Team meetings
- Mentor Matching
- Check In’s
- Setting productivity and synchronous hours
- HR or Payroll Meeting
- Tech Meeting
Learning and Contribution
Following orientation and then moving into the first weeks of their role, the new employee is involved in regular team meetings, contribution to ideas and clear on the early project or goals they are working towards. During the second and third months, the Learning and Contribution phase is an important phase in the employee experience as it takes the employee from conscious unknowing to conscious knowing. Be sure to include elements that cover:
- A roadmap that sets out and agrees their objectives and how they may achieve those over the next 1, 3 and 6 months.
- In this first few months schedule a conversation to discuss how the organisation approaches career development, annual reviews, professional development plans, learning portals and different forms of learning and development employees can engage in and how to request courses or experiences.
- Agree with the team member the right frequency for Check In conversations that works for them, based on their work style and nature work.
- Once the new employee has started to settle in, make sure they are encouraged to get involved in the teams social activities and banter. Invite them to virtual social events and encourage them to contribute to office banter. This is the equivalent of the water cooler conversation on a messaging platform or a dedicated area of the your collaboration software when team members may share memes or jokes.
Every new employee wants to know ‘how are they doing’. Within the third month, just as you would with an office based employee, schedule a meeting to reflect on the agreed accountabilities and progress that were outlined in their roadmap. Allow the employee to reflect on their experience so far, share what they are looking forward to and development they’d like to undertake.
The onboarding process, particularly in a remote environment, sets the foundations for the employee experience working for a new employer and provide a springboard for their productivity and positive contribution.
WiserLife and some of our team members have more than a decade onboarding new employees, so if you have any questions on what works or how to do things better, just drop us a question.