Digital onboarding - tips for training new employees remotely

Successful onboarding is all about helping new employees to feel comfortable and supported so they can settle into their new working environment as quickly as possible. While there’s bound to be lots of training and information to go through, one of the most important aspects of onboarding is allowing social connections to be established from the get-go.

So, during these challenging times, companies are faced with a challenge. How can you create a successful digital onboarding process? We pulled together a few tips to help you out.


Onboarding completely digital - is it possible?

For most companies, a purely digital recruitment process presents a major challenge. Job interviews via Skype may have become relatively common, but it’s unlikely that complete digital onboarding processes will be ingrained into a company’s infrastructure.


Firstly, consider the different phases of onboarding…


Depending on the specifics of the role, the onboarding period can last from a few weeks to several months. However, it should always consist of the following phases:

Preboarding: Pre-boarding is all about social integration – allowing your new employee to feel welcomed into the new team and company – you want to make sure your new employee feels cared for and supported. You should also ensure to give out technical information and let them know a little bit more about how your company works on a daily basis (e.g. working hours, break times, work clothes, etc.).

Orientation: This part of all about ensuring a successful first few days. First impressions last and it’s important to proactively introduce your new start to team members and relevant management. Above all, you should be putting plans in place that allow you to provide the right level of support.

Integration: After you’ve let your new employee settle in, it’s important that the right training documents are all in place so that your new start feels empowered to hit the ground running and properly can understand what’s expected of them.


So, how can you make this happen remotely?


  1. Think about logistics

Remote onboarding throws up challenges in making sure all new employees have the relevant equipment to get started and hit the ground running on Day 1. Exactly what your new start will need is likely going to vary from company to company and project to project, but make sure you leave enough time so that your new team member is left unable to do their job.

  1. Stay organised

Document your onboarding process so that it can be easily adapted and digitally implemented. Try putting together an onboarding document in the form of a to-do list. Once completed, share it with your new employee right from the start to ensure that you’re both on the same page. It’s also a good idea to divide the document should into different sections to efficiently track progress.


Items on this list could include:


  • Things to do before the new employee starts work – a welcome email with relevant documents to be completed (e.g. tax, salary, and insurance forms)


  • Relevant information to fully introduce the new employee to the company – try including some facts about the business, an introduction to relevant tools and software, login/password/security information, and perhaps a list of employees they’ll need to get in touch with


  • Descriptions of recurring tasks or meeting invites – think about scheduling regular catch ups with a manager to make your new employee feel like a valued member of your team despite the lack of personal contact.


  1. Schedule regular video catchups

New employees should be welcomed personally – as this can’t be done face to face, it’s important to take extra effort to do this virtually. You want to give the new team member the opportunity to introduce themselves, ask questions, and memorize the names of new colleagues faster by looking at their faces and actively engaging with them.

By integrating video conferencing into your onboarding process, you bring the office to your new colleagues. Try and get creative with this – maybe a group team lunch on the first day? Or a quick tour of everyone’s home offices?


  1. Set clear expectations and objectives


It’s especially important for the new employee that you communicate clear goals and expectations from the outset - a lack of direct contact can easily lead to misunderstandings and people may be less inclined to speak out and ask questions if they’re confused.

Why not assign your new employee a mentor or buddy from their team? It can be their responsibility to make sure the new employee feels like a member of the working family despite the lack of personal contact.


  1. Socializing with the new team


This is perhaps the most difficult part of the digital onboarding process. It’s easy to make bonds when you’re constantly spending time with new colleagues on site. But how can this be done remotely?


A little work is required, but it’s certainly not impossible - building relationships remotely is well worth the effort, and communication is the key. Talking "face-to-face" via video chats, instant messaging, and conference calls helps to maintain connections. Always remember to include employees in meetings from other locations and encourage them to share their ideas and opinions.


  1. Get feedback regularly

Constant evaluation is really important. After onboarding, ask new employees for feedback on the process and try to find out how they felt about their first few weeks at the company.

What could or should you have done better or differently? What questions were asked that weren’t expected? Did you offer enough support to make your new employees feel comfortable working remotely? Every company’s different, so the more feedback you receive, the better.


Effective onboarding allows an increase in productivity


Digital onboarding is an important step towards maintaining the normal working day in many companies. Allowing for a digital hiring and training process means that new employees can still start at the beginning of their contract. If your business is equipped for this, it can prevent hiring freezes and allow BAU to continue. And as we move out of the current situation, it could be that aspects of digital onboarding are integrated into many businesses current processes.

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