It’s only natural that a smooth employee onboarding process will make the new hire feel welcomed, happy, and productive. They’ve probably had bad first day experiences before that consisted of just filling out forms and getting sat down at their desk, so now’s the chance to show them you’re a different kind of employer.
Whilst some candidates will naturally perform better and be more motivated, focusing on this process will not only increase loyalty amongst your workforce, but also make the integration into your company smoother and cause them to be more productive overall.
Essentially, the better your employee onboarding, the less time and money it will effectively cost to bring your new hire up to their full potential. This is especially true when concerning remote employees. In an office environment, employees can become naturally familiar with their team through physical proximity and watercooler chats, but once you remove that by employing remotely, special care must be taken to replace it with something better.
Focus on Communication
First up, you need to make sure that the new hire is fully aware of who everyone is, what they are responsible for, and who they can ask for help. It’s vital, too, that you are completely confident that they are comfortable asking the right person for help — they need to be able to get over any initial roadblocks quickly in order to have the smoothest onboarding procedure possible.
Make sure that the employee is introduced to the rest of the team on any communication platforms you use, such as Slack or Google Hangouts. They need to be shown that there are approachable people behind the names on their screen so as to fight the isolation that can so easily set in with a new remote worker.
You should also avoid the practice of reeling off a list of names and responsibilities; this will not be memorable or make the rest of the team feel like people to the hire. Instead, encourage everyone to reach out on their own for a casual “hello” and introduction.
For example, back at Process Street, we introduce our new hires in the general Slack channel and the rest of the team replies with a slew of random gifs. This helps to present each and every team member as immediately approachable, as everyone is generating random gifs with Slack’s Giphy integration and having a little fun whilst introducing themselves.
Get Everyone Collaborating
Another way to combat the biggest danger to remote employees (isolation and general lack of engagement with the team) is to get everyone collaborating at some point or another. This can be a little more difficult than pure communication, as collaboration isn’t something which can be forced.
Sure, you can assign a group project and make everyone to work together, but the best collaboration is often unplanned, such as brainstorming sessions between the content creation and promotion teams.
Make sure that everyone is welcome and able to chat with anyone else (or at least send a message easily to anyone on your team if they get an idea). You can help break the ice with events such as a happy hour on Google Hangouts, where everyone can bring a beer to the Hangout after work and have a casual chat.
Introduce Them Into Your Company Culture
Company culture can be either the biggest boon or hindrance to your onboarding efforts, so you need to make sure that yours is watertight and inclusive. Strong (positive) organizational cultures can even almost perform your employee onboarding process for you.
One of the best ways to utilize your culture is to carry out events to make sure that the new hire truly feels like one of the team, or just include them in your existing ones. For example, my personal favorites from my own team are our bad movie challenge and Hearthstone (soon to be Overwatch) tournament. Hearthstone (an online card game from Blizzard) gives the opportunity for some friendly competition and banter, whilst the terrible movies recommended by a different team member every week give everyone a good laugh.
This goes beyond the basic bullet points on onboarding — utilizing your culture allows you to make the hire see everyone as a person, rather than a name on Skype, and start to make some personal bonds with their team. Anyone for higher employee retention?
Create a Solid Feedback Loop
The final onboarding advice I have to give is a pretty basic one; you need to introduce the new hire to a feedback loop and actually listen to them. Make their voice matter and you may even see areas in which your company can improve from a fresh perspective.
Weekly meetings (or even twice weekly) are a must, especially in the early days of the employee’s hire. These give you a chance to review the goals set out at the beginning of the onboarding process and give feedback on the employee’s progress. In turn, the new hire can then give their feedback of the various aspects of your company that they have experienced and maybe even improve some of your internal processes whilst they’re at it.
So there you have it — although onboarding a remote employee may seem like a daunting task with the added challenges it presents, a little extra care and consideration can render those issues moot and can even improve your existing company processes and culture whilst you’re at it.
Why not pair up these tips with some direct questions to the new hire about their onboarding to get the most out of the process?