REMOTE ONBOARDING 101 FOR MANAGERS

By Natanya Rutstein

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The onboarding of new employees is a journey which begins from the time the job offer is accepted and continues well into the first three months of employment. Despite a common misconception that it is HR’s responsibility to welcome, inform and guide these new hires, the role of the line manager and team members is of the utmost importance in the success of the onboarding process. This is especially the case during the COVID-19 pandemic when new recruits no longer have the privilege of a warm and personalised welcome in the flesh. Research by Glassdoor shows that organisations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent.

A 2020 Buffer Study on Remote Work found that communication and collaboration, loneliness and a struggle to unplug from their work continue to be top challenges for remote workers.

What’s you biggest struggle with working remotely?

 

State of Remote Report 2020, Buffer.com/state-of-remote-2020

What can managers do to create a personalised remote onboarding experience?

Here are a few tips for managers to turn remote onboarding into a personalised and inclusive journey which leaves the new recruit feeling more connected to their community and supported to do their best work.

  1. Advance check-in. Make sure to connect ahead of the start date to touch base and answer any questions they may have. Try to include some informal conversation which may help you get to know each other better and put the recruit at ease. Ask your team members to send a picture of themselves with a short bio and some personal information prior to the recruit’s start date. By connecting with the team the new recruit will already feel more comfortable on his/her first day.

  2. All the right tools. Communicate with your new hire to determine all the tools and equipment they will need to work remotely. Make sure they are set up in advance of their first day and that all hardware has been delivered to them. It’s bad enough to arrive at the office on your first day with no computer and even worse if you’re sitting at home alone. Don’t forget the following:
  • Wi-Fi connection
  • Company software
  • Security protocol
  • Logins and access
  • VPN
  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  1. Tech check. Arrange with IT to make contact with the recruit for a test run to ensure they are set up for a successful connection on their first day. Make sure your new hire knows who to contact for urgent technical support.

  2. Create a structured roadmap. Prior to the start date, make sure they receive a 30/60/90 day plan which will guide them through the focus areas of the job for the first three months. This is always a time of uncertainty for new employees and even more so in a remote environment.

  3. Virtual Welcome. Agree on a time for a one-on-one welcome video call on the first day with yourself as well as a separate call with the whole team. A virtual lunch with the team is a great way to personalise their first day. Find out what kind of food they like and have it delivered to them on the day.

  4. Role clarity and setting expectations. Although this is an essential element of any onboarding process whether remote or in-person, it takes on far greater significance in a remote setting where there is no daily interaction. Schedule a video call on the recruit’s first day to establish clear job-role responsibilities, set goals, and outline specific performance metrics and milestones.

  5. Learning and Development. Show your commitment to your recruit’s development by jointly agreeing on a personal development plan for all necessary training as well as personal career development goals. Training often falls by the wayside during times of crisis and economic hardship. Don’t let this happen!

  6. Virtual buddy. Matching a carefully selected buddy from the team or department to the new recruit will assist them in their cultural assimilation as well as with the specific aspects of the job.

  7. Regular check-ins and feedback. Make a concerted effort to check-in daily with the recruit and schedule weekly feedback sessions to monitor their progress. This constant communication will replace the daily informal conversations you may have had at the office. It will also reduce their feelings of isolation, build rapport and demonstrate that you are there to support them.

  8. Get connected. Ensure that one-on-one calls are set up with key team members, direct reports and other key persons they will be working with. This will help them to start connecting socially with their co-workers and begin building internal networks. You never know they may develop stronger personal networks than if they were actually in the office. Many people find it easier to establish connections online as opposed to in person.

  9. Social engagement. Virtual lunches and happy hours via video link will provide the opportunity for the recruit to chat to and get to know their colleagues. Because of the lack of personal contact the new recruit is likely to find it more difficult to integrate and develop a sense of belonging to their team. Try to incorporate personal activities to encourage relationship building. One example would be to arrange a “Bring your pet to work day”. Why not have some fun especially if all or most of you are working from home.

  10. When to disconnect. With not being able to unplug being one of the top challenges for remote workers world -wide, help your new recruit with this dilemma by discussing and setting clear boundaries on when you expect him/her to be reachable and the same goes for you.

Successfully welcoming and immersing a remote employee into the company’s culture poses different challenges and requires managers to be more deliberate in their actions to facilitate a successful onboarding journey. Managers who are committed to creating a personalised onboarding experience for their new employees will be able to build a strong team and are more likely keep them engaged and motivated.

Contact The Talent Hub International at admin@tthinternational.co.za should you need any assistance with structuring your onboarding programme for remote workers. We have created some great onboarding programmes for our clients.

Natanya Rutstein
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