Are you onboarding remote employees in the right way? (Updated For 2022)

September 7, 2020
June 26, 2023
Employee Onboarding

Is your remote onboarding process going to be smooth and enjoyable or a lonely and difficult experience? It might sound extreme, but you do really have a choice! The word itself has two connotations, one good and one bad. If a travel agent told you an island was remote, you’d probably love the sound of it, but if a sceptical estate agent warned you off a property that was too far from civilisation, you probably wouldn’t move in.

The numbers back up this idea too! While a CoSo Cloud report revealed that 42% of remote employees feel just as connected, Buffer’s research revealed that 19% and 17% struggle with loneliness and collaborating and/or communication, respectively. It all depends on the experience, hence why we’ve put together our advice to make sure your remote onboarding is more holiday than house-hunting.

How you onboard remote staff will impact their experience.

Get your house in order before their first day

A first impression is even more important with remote employees because there’s no human interaction to ease any technical issues or delays. You’ve got to make sure they have the right tools and accounts accessible from day one, with a clear timeline and schedule for at least the first week or two. It’s easier to prepare those passwords and plan coffee catch-ups in advance.

In general, you should also decide on how long the employee onboarding experience will last, determine any milestones or goals during that period, and communicate that clearly. You can’t underestimate the effect of lingering anxiety or uncertainty, so it’s best to banish that with a structured plan.

Don’t bother with a checklist (in the literal sense)

The thing with a physical onboarding checklist is that somebody’s going to need to tick all those boxes. Wouldn’t it be better to use software or a platform that connects employees with the resources they need and measures their progress? That’s how we do things at HowNow!

Creating a custom onboarding or training course for a new joiner enables them to learn what they need at their own pace while making their progress visible to. It’s like a checklist, just without the effort. And it means they’ll have to ask fewer questions, which can a bit daunting for new staff and remote employees. Maybe that time saved could be used to connect more personally?

You also have to think about which approach fits your company culture and values. Would a rigid schedule of meetings with each department really reflect the fun and fluid nature of how your people work? Are you a distributed team that requires a new hire to (virtually) meet people across the globe? Make these considerations before you default to tried and trusted with hybrid and remote employees!

Mix business with pleasure

That brings us nicely to the idea that getting to know the people and company culture is just as important as understanding how to perform their role. Remember, those that struggled with remote onboarding cited loneliness and collaboration as the key issues. Combat this by ensuring personal connections are made during those early days.

You can ask staff to leave a welcome message in whichever platform they’ll be using on their first morning, schedule meetings that are solely about getting to know each other or even ask that new team member to send a personal introduction to create some talking points. The importance of these exercises in breaking down communication barriers for work-related issues shouldn’t be underestimated either.

Connect them with the right resources

We touched on this already, and you might have wondered what the right resources are? Honestly, it depends on the employee and the role they’ll be performing, and it’s why it’s so important that your onboarding plan is customised for each person. For example, if somebody is joining your customer service team, but they’ll be focused on a particular industry or type of customer, they’d arguably benefit from slightly different materials, guides and resources than the last person that joined.

This is about your new remote workers and not us, but we can help make this process a little less daunting or complicated. In HowNow, you can combine your best internal resources with top-notch external learning materials and create courses that wow the newest members of your team and old heads alike.

Assess the skills developed and things learned

What’s more important during the onboarding period, the employee’s tangible work output or the skills they’re developing and things they’re learning? Arguably, it’s the latter in the long-term, but remote onboarding adds the challenge of being unable to see their progress for yourself or pick up feedback from their colleagues.

It’s why assessments are so important! How you do this is entirely up to you, you can use your LMS or an intelligent learning platform like HowNow to combine the learning materials and tests in one place, hop on a call or send over a form. The first option sounds best to us…

Catch up regularly and collect feedback

Ask for feedback and do it regularly, especially when your remote workers are fresh to the company. Firstly, you can catch any of their concerns or struggles and adjust before they become bigger issues, and you’ll capture outside insights before they enter your company’s bubble. Additionally, by collecting their thoughts at the end of the onboarding process, you can use that to refine your approach for the future.

We could tell you to ask some fairly mundane questions, like what could we have done to improve the experience? or how do you feel it went? But surely there are more specific questions that could give you better insights! And how about collecting responses in a way that reflects your brand and company culture? Maybe some kind of feedback speed dating with multiple people or a group session following on from the one-to-one chats…

It would be a shame for your amazing onboarding experience to end on such an uninspiring note, so be sure to add some personality!

The quality of answers is often dictated by the quality of your questions. Why not ask them what advice they’d give to the next remote employee? Or the resource and meeting they found to be most useful in settling in? Which platform was most difficult to get to grips with? You get the picture.

Reading this in 2022 (or later)? Here are some key stats you need to know

We wrote this in September 2020, when the pandemic was still causing disruption to how we worked, and we’d not quite figured out our remote onboarding processes.

Well, while a lot has changed since, plenty has stayed the same – or at least remained on the same trajectory to bring some of the points above to even more importance (or disregard).

Let’s take that mixing business with pleasure point as an example. Relationships have slipped right down the pecking order since we started working in more hybrid ways. In a Capterra report published in Summer 2022, only 11% ranked relationships with managers or co-workers as an important factor. Compensation, working flexibility and doing interesting things were streaks ahead, meaning that you might choose to give relationship building a delayed or back seat role in remote onboarding.

Especially with 50% of remote employees ‘minimally’ or ‘not likely to’ attend employer-organised voluntary events in the future.

Only 11% of employees rank relationships with managers and co-workers as top factors in job satisfaction

Source: Capterra

On the other side of the coin, connecting people to the right resources has never been more crucial! 2021 and 2022 research have both shown that people are struggling to find the information they need in remote and hybrid settings.

In 2022, 56% of employees said they were unable to locate digital documents while working remotely, only down slightly from the 59% reported in 2021.

So if there was ever a sign that you needed to make resources more relevant, easy to find and even easier to apply, this is it…

Nobody said remote onboarding was easy, but perhaps we can help make it a lot easier? Drop us a message today and we’ll get in touch to discuss how.

Employee onboarding The complete guide for fast-growing companies (1)

Managing remote employees isn’t the only onboarding for fast-growing companies! From setting the right objectives to finding the right tools to do it effectively, it can be a touch process to navigate. That’s why we wrote the complete guide for fast-growing companies.

Check out our other employee onboarding resources