How to successfully onboard new employees remotely

The goal of successful onboarding is to familiarise your new employees with their new role through targeted training and discussion. This will get them accustom to their new working environment, so that they can settle into their new role as quickly as possible. This includes not only professional input but also regular social contacts with the new team.

During these uncertain times, companies are faced with an additional challenge in this context: a purely digital onboarding. How can this process function effectively without direct personal contact? Below we have compiled the most important tips for you.

Digital onboarding - is it possible?

For both companies and employees, a purely digital recruitment process is a challenge. Video job interviews via Skype have become a common method when neither party can attend the interview in person. However, complete digital onboarding is not yet so common.

Some companies that have worked a lot in the past with remote freelancers or employees from other countries have already been able to gain experience with digital onboarding. But you don't need just the technical skills for such a process; you also need to consider the skills and responsibilities of a new employee and their integration into the new team.

Phases of onboarding

The onboarding period can last from a few weeks to several months, depending on the new employee's role and other factors. However, it always consists of the following phases:

  • Pre-boarding: Pre-boarding places emphasis on social integration into the new team and company. The employee should feel that their employer cares for them. In this phase, in addition to initial technical information, organisational aspects should also be communicated (e.g. working hours, break times, appropriate work attire, etc.).
  • Orientation: This phase should offer a great start in the new company from the first working day. The first impression of the team, superiors and company counts for more than you may think. This phase lasts roughly a few weeks of the new employee starting.
  • Training and integration: This involves an induction to the business and then the following of a training plan to get new starters up to speed with the various technologies and systems relevant for their role

Practical tips for digital onboarding

In the following paragraphs you will find practical tips for the digital induction of new employees:

1- Organisation is everything

Document your onboarding process so that it can be easily adapted and digitally implemented. Your onboarding document should take the form of a to-do list. Share it with your new employee right from the start to ensure that you share expectations and are both on the same page. The document should also be divided into different sections to track the employee's progress and increase motivation. Items on this list may include:

  • Things to do before the new employee starts work, including an e-mail to welcome the team and documents to be completed (e.g. tax, salary and insurance forms).
  • Information to fully introduce the new employee to the company, product or service. For example, with facts about the company, an introduction to relevant tools and software, login/password/security information and a list of employees and how to contact them.
  • Descriptions of recurring tasks, inviting them to meetings to introduce them, include them in regular catch-ups with the manager and anything else you can think of to make your new employee feel like a valued member of your team despite the lack of personal contact.

2- Making it personalised

With all the video conferencing tools available at the moment and despite personal contact being prohibited, personal communication most certainly isn’t. As well as having an introductory video call with your new starter, they should also have individual ones with anyone whom they will be working directly with, as well as a group call to meet the extended team. Why not make these as social as possible by organising a virtual team lunch, coffee date or even beers on a Friday afternoon? You are essentially bringing the office, and so the general office activities, to the comfort of their own home.

3- Set clear expectations and objectives

It is especially important for a new employee that you communicate clear goals and expectations from the beginning. The lack of direct and personal contact can easily lead to misunderstanding or confusion. If, on the other hand, you sit together in the office as a team, the inhibition threshold to ask questions is lower. You might not ask these questions remotely, because you would have to write an e-mail or make a phone call.

If an employee’s direct manager is in a senior role then it is a good idea to appoint someone in your team as a mentor or coach for them. Their goal is to make the new employee feel like a member of the working family despite the lack of personal contact.

4- Socialise with the new team

This is perhaps the most difficult part of the digital onboarding process. The corporate culture is easily conveyed when new employees spend time in the office and interact with their colleagues on site. But how do employees learn about a company's professional and social norms remotely?

A little work is required but building relationships between local and remote colleagues is well worth the effort. 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.

5- Feedback regularly

Constant evaluation and adjustments are important. After onboarding, ask new employees for feedback on the process and the first weeks in the new company. What could or should you have done better or differently? What questions were asked that you did not expect? Did you offer enough support to make your new employees feel comfortable working remotely?

The more feedback you receive, the better, because every company is different. This applies not only to the service and product offered, but also to the way the employees act and communicate with each other.

Digital onboarding – will it soon become routine?

Digital onboarding is an important step towards maintaining the normal working day in many companies, especially in the current climate. As the hiring process and the training of the new employee is digital, companies do not have to order a hiring pause for fear of not being able to onboard the new employees. New employees can also still start their employment with little delay.

The following weeks will reveal to what extent digital onboarding will be integrated into normal company processes. However, the digitalisation trend speaks in favour of it, as home offices, video conferencing and other digital processes are increasingly becoming part of the everyday lives of UK and Irish employees.

Do you have questions about the digital onboarding process and the training of new employees in your company? Our consultants will be happy to assist you - you can contact us here.

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