First impressions are important—especially when it comes to the workplace. A new employee’s experience during their initial days on the job can make or break their perception of the company.
Without a strong onboarding process in place, new employees may come to resent their job—they’ll be unsure of what their role is, unaware of whom to talk to, and ultimately unable to start on the right foot.
When it comes to remote work, onboarding can be even more challenging. Managers aren’t there to welcome new workers into the workspace physically, and therefore have to go the extra mile to help them get up and running.
If you’re looking to onboard members of your remote team, we’ve got you covered. This article acts as a remote onboarding checklist, so you’ll have everything you need to build a seamless and simple onboarding experience for your telecommuting employees.
What is virtual onboarding?
Virtual onboarding is the process companies follow to welcome a new employee into a remote role. Unlike traditional onboarding, which is usually done in person in the office, virtual onboarding is done over video conferencing software and collaboration tools.
A good onboarding process will include:
- An overview of the employee’s role
- An introduction to the employee’s most important colleagues
- A rundown of all internal systems necessary for the job
- A review of the company handbook
- An introduction of company culture
Why is virtual onboarding important, even when remote?
Onboarding is important in any workplace, to give a new staff member confidence in their role and a deep understanding of the organisation. It also saves time in the long run—managers won’t need to spend as much time answering questions and explaining things if an employee is given all of the right information up front.
In the world of remote working, onboarding becomes even more important. James Mitchell, Founder at Leonid Group (a London-based recruitment business) reveals why:
Employees working from home can’t simply lean over to their colleague and ask a quick question. And without in-person work events, it can be hard for them to feel like they’re a part of company culture.
Fortunately, thanks to modern technology and some creative solutions, there are ways to improve the virtual onboarding process so that new employees feel welcome and secure on their first day.
What tools work well for a virtual onboarding program?
The first step to creating a strong remote employee onboarding system is to get the right tools and tech into place. Overall, there are five key types of software you’ll need to have up and running before you can begin onboarding your remote workers properly, and some of them are also used for online teaching as a way to keep students engaged while studying remotely.
First and foremost, you’ll need collaboration software that is used across your company. Programs like Monday.com and Asana allow employees to work together remotely on projects, organise their work flow, and provide transparency to one another about the state of tasks. In fact, Monday.com even has an employee onboarding template you can use to get started on your own process.
Working remotely can feel isolating sometimes, but this can be assuaged if you are using web conferencing software. With platforms like Zoom or Webex, you can meet face to face with your new employee on their first day. This will help them connect with you and other colleagues in a more intimate way.
Web conferencing is good for meetings, but sometimes during the onboarding process, new staff members will have quick questions they need to ask. This is where live chat comes in handy—with software like Slack or Workplace by Facebook, new staff can get the answers they need, from the right people, in real time.
Your human resources department will have a large role to play in onboarding remote employees. To help them keep track of everything from work leave tracking to employee contracts, they will need a software system like BambooHR or Calamari.
In a traditional office, much of an employee’s first day on the job is spent signing on the dotted line of contracts and forms. This can be a challenge to do remotely, unless you have digital signature software like eSign Genie or Docusign. With these platforms, you don’t have to scan or print anything—signatures can be securely placed on forms with the click of a button.
6 Considerations for virtual onboarding and the new hire experience
1. Put in the face time
Though you likely won’t be able to meet with your new remote employees in person, making sure they can put a face to a name is important. Don’t be afraid to schedule plenty of video calls, with you or anyone else they’ll be working with, during their first days on the job.
2. Spread the responsibilities
A good onboarding process shouldn’t be managed by only one person. Delegate different aspects of the training to employees who will be working with the new staff member, so the new hire gets to meet many people and learn different skills from experts in the business.
3. Include culture and social life
With all of the admin and training tasks that need to happen during virtual onboarding, it can be easy to forget about the cultural aspects of your business. Jonny Edser, Founder and Managing Director of Wildgoose, works with virtual companies to run team building activities. He gave his advice to first-time remote businesses:
“Presentations about culture and working practices can be delivered just as effectively in the virtual space. It’s also important to set up conference calls with each department head so that a new employee can get to know team members as well as getting a sense of the company.”
4. Build-in contingency plans
A good onboarding process will include contingencies when something goes wrong. Perhaps one of the people running the training will be unavailable, or dodgy internet connections won’t allow for a web conference. Have contingency plans in place for such circumstances. For example, you may give your new employee phone numbers they can call if web conferencing fails.
5. Offer some in-person training if possible
Depending on the nature of your remote working environment, you may be able to give your new staff member a chance to meet fellow colleagues in person. This could involve a single day of training on-site at company headquarters, or linking them up with employees in their region so they can form closer social bonds with other workers.
6. Refocus the content so it is relevant to a home office
Claire Williams, director of people and services at CIPHR, a UK provider of HR software explains how they’ve adapted their virtual onboarding program:
“We’ve refocused the health and safety elements of the onboarding process to focus on homeworking, rather than the office environment. There’s little point in explaining the fire alarm procedure right now, for example, but it is important that we go over how to set up a comfortable and safe home working environment.”
Setting new starters up for success
Virtual onboarding is a different game than traditional onboarding. Though the lack of in-person contact presents new challenges, tech innovations like collaboration software make all the difference. With the right software on your side and a firm process in place, you’ll find bringing on new remote workers to be smooth sailing.