Remote Onboarding: The Challenge
For many businesses, having remote employees offers a significant amount of flexibility. It allows them to scale and transform as a company in a much different way compared to those that focus on in-office employees.
At this time of Covid-19, the ability to have remote employees has been a vital lifeline. Many businesses are relying on, and finding out the benefits, of having employees work from home.
However, with new benefits also comes new challenges. General employee onboarding can be a headache, making it remote adds a new level of difficulty. Our essential checklist for remote employee onboarding is here to help you navigate such difficulty. Turning it into a smooth and worthwhile endeavour for both employee and employer.
Onboard in Cohorts
Save time and effort by grouping new hires together
Your team needs to invest a great deal of resources to effectively onboard a single new employee, you can save yourself a considerable amount of effort by onboarding in cohorts.
If your employment process allows for it, onboarding new employees (even from different departments) together in grouped cohorts helps tackle many of the necessary steps more quickly.
Rather than finding, editing and sending out employment contracts periodically, you can get a bunch sorted all in one go. Rather than conducting several initiation calls, you can group them together with all the new employees. While some tasks may still need to be done on a one-to-one, or a smaller group basis, many can be completed with all your new employees all at once.
Start Date and Times
Explain clearly to your new employee their start date and times.
Sometimes not having an office to go to, a person’s start date and times can be lost in translation.
Ensure your new recruit understands when your working day starts, ends and how long lunch time is. Also, do they have any vacations lined up? If so, how can your workload be structured around those soon-to-be missed days.
Know and collate all the important documents your employee needs to sign/provide copies of - all of which can be done digitally
Getting your new employee signing all the essential documents isn’t too much of an issue in an office - you can just drop it on their desk for when they’ve got a second. However, getting them signed and stored virtually can be more difficult.
Try to ensure all new employee documents are available virtually. There are many services which help make signing and storing documents easier.
Contracts and forms that may need filling in include:
- Tax forms for your country/state (e.g. W-4 (US))
- Job contract
- Letter of job offer
- Employment information form (personal details, social security, etc., potential medical needs)
- I-9 employment eligibility form (US)
- Any relevant insurance forms
- Any relevant direct deposit forms
- Retirement plan/pension enrolment contract
- Non-disclosure agreement
You may also need copies of identity documents, which again are easier in an office with a photocopier. There are a number of mobile apps that allow you to scan documents easily. Ask your new employee to use any of these when you need them to send you those documents.
Potential identity documents include:
- United States
- Driver’s license
- Proof of address
- Social security card
- Banking information
- United Kingdom
- National insurance card
- Driving license
- Proof of address
- UK visa
- Banking information
While moving training online can be an investment, it’s one that is essential for any businesses working with remote employees.
For some companies training starts on their official first day of work, for others they require employees to complete some training before starting any tasks. Whichever method you may use, getting your new starter set up and aware of the training process is important.
Training can become significantly more difficult for a remote employee; in-person learning has to move online, a dialogue has to take place over a video call as opposed to face-to-face. To ensure your training process is just as effective, make use of specifically designed training software.
Your business is a community of people, knowing who’s who is a vital part of any employees onboarding.
When a new employee joins your company, you need to remember one new name. For that new employee, they have to learn everyones. Getting an understanding of who’s who can be a challenge at the best of times, when you don’t actually get to meet those people, it makes it a lot harder.
Not knowing your team not only leads to awkward encounters, it can drastically affect productivity. Be sure to provide your new employee with a contact sheet, listing each employee in each department. Make it personable by including photos. Help streamline your new employees work by highlighting who they’ll be working with the most and who they should go to for what specific reason.
With remote employees also take note of different timezones, it can be awkward if your new employee schedules a meeting with someone in HR at what is their 3am.
Not only does your new employee need to know the people of your company, they also need to understand how your company is structured. List each department, a short brief of what they do and how they integrate into the wider business. Not only does this give your new hire a better understanding of their role in the company, it also helps them troubleshoot issues - helping to figure out which team can help best with which problem.
Many onboarding processes benefit from having an “onboarding buddy”. This is an individual that your new hire can come to with any issues. While the onboarding buddy may not be able to solve them all, they’ll be able to direct your new hire to the best person for the job.
For technical issues they’ll know who in IT can help, for vacation days they’ll know how to formally apply for time off, for challenging work tasks they’ll be available to try and give assistance.
An onboarding buddy can be a superior or general colleague, they just need to be on-hand when needed.
Again, an office space makes setting up a work equipment pretty easy, with remote employees it can become a challenge.
It’s difficult to do a job if you don’t have the right tools. In an office setting getting your new hire set up with their own workstation is relatively simple, with remote employees you’re likely going to need to send them their necessary tools.
Start early with this, as missing equipment can make an employee’s work effectiveness literally zero. Create a list of essential equipment, not only for your new employee but plan for the future by also including employees in different departments. For workstations, liaise with your IT department on exactly what’s needed.
Ensure your employee has high speed, reliable internet. It can sometimes take time to rectify any slow or poor internet connection issues, so starting early is important.
The equipment you may need to send include:
- Mobile or landline phone
- Computer accessories (router, printer)
- General office supplies
Some important things to keep in mind are:
- Ensure the delivery can be tracked and verified, whether you’re shipping personally or from a third party supplier
- Provide instructions on correct set up as incorrect installation can cause damage to equipment
- Check with your insurer if the equipment is still covered outside of your usual workplace
- Have a process in place for the return of the items, ensure your new employee keeps all packaging if needed
Getting Set Up on Software and Getting Secure
Your business likely makes use of several systems that your new hire may need access.
If one doesn’t exist already, there should be a master list of all the software systems your company uses. These should include internal systems and third party SaaS platforms.
Before your new hire starts, check over this list and identify all the systems they will need access to and what level permissions should be set. Create an account for your new hire on each of these platforms now, so when they start they only need to finish the account verification process or just login.
Effective online communication systems are essential for remote workers, a simple phone call once in a while is unlikely to be sufficient. If you don’t have a go-to communication platform, research the ones below and pick one for your business:
While it’s important your new hire has access to all the systems they require, remember that each access point is another potential security threat. The more logins, PCs and employees, the more ways someone with malicious intent can access your private company information or make damaging changes. This is even more important for remote working, where keeping track of all security weak points is harder.
Ensure your new employee follows appropriate security measures. While they may be free to work outside the home, explain the importance of not using public hotspots/wi-fi. Do not allow work activity to take place on any device that isn’t managed by the company. Ask yourself if work equipment is at risk of theft or does the employee understand that laptops, phones, etc. should not be left unattended in public or appropriately locked away when at home. Avoid using USB storage devices where possible, as they are easy to steal or lose. If you must, try utilising encryption software or frequently wiping the drives of unneeded data.
Create an Itinerary
You should know exactly what your employee will be doing on their first day, so they can hit the ground running.
For most of your employees, it’s unlikely that you plan every hour of their day. They have their designated tasks, which they action in a way they see fit. For your new hire, you should create a basic itinerary of what they’ll be doing on their first day, and a more broad plan of what they’ll be doing over their first week.
Find and assign them a task for their first day, this should be reflective of what they’ll be doing once they’ve been there a while but shouldn’t be as large or important. A smaller, taster project to get them working from day one.
Organise your initial introductory call. Use this to introduce the key people they’ll be working with, explain this initial task, help them get access to everything they’ll need and go through any questions they may have. This call will also cover the goals and expectations you both should have for their work output. Cover where you think the employee will be after one week, one month and three months. What skills and training should they have gained, what projects should they be working on/completed, etc.
For non-remote workers, a team lunch/coffee would be recommended. This is an informal way to integrate the new employee into the community they’ll be working with. While that may not be possible, do still try to have a short team video call. Keep it very informal, it’s an opportunity for the new hire to explain a little bit about who they are and get comfortable talking with their new colleagues.
Schedule check in meetings at the end of their first day, first week and first month. The first of which is just to check your new hire has acclimated well to their new work environment and to answer any questions. The check in meetings at the end of their first week and month are to review work progress, assess what has gone well or what may need improvement. It’s an opportunity to compare the employee’s progression against the goals set on their first week. While these may have developed, it’s important to understand how your new hire is fitting in with their team’s work process.
For remote employees, it’s also good to have short check in’s daily on their first week, these are informal just to check everything’s ok, the employee understands what they need to be doing that day and to answer any questions they have.
Out of Office Work Benefits
Making your new hire feel valued and appreciated is just as important as their work output
In office employees likely receive a number of small benefits, from free coffee to the odd complimentary lunch. Possibly they have access to a break room with games to unwind or are invited to events or take part in work days out.
However, your remote employees may not have access to these benefits. Small incentives such as these are important, they are a way to reward employees, breeding a more positive work environment. Try to find alternatives for your remote workers, so that they do not feel left out and harbour less positive feelings about their work position.
Remote incentives schemes include: