Remote Onboarding: How to Welcome New Hires Virtually

As companies around the globe transition to a more remote workforce, many businesses are having to adapt their hiring policies as a result. One of the biggest changes is the need to use remote onboarding to get new hires up to speed. How do you bring employees into your organization and make them feel welcomed, excited, and like valued members of your team?

“It’s about people,” says Kaelyn Phillips, Monster’s director of global talent development. “I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s about making connections and making sure the person feels that they have joined a place that wants them and a place that welcomes them.”

Try these strategies to ensure that your new employees feel the love even if you can’t see them face-to-face.

Make Them Feel Welcome

Someone’s first day on a new job via video call won’t be the same as the experience of reporting to the office, so you’ll have to create some of the vibes yourself. Beyond just a welcome email, some companies send a “swag” kit to new hires. Miro, a virtual whiteboarding platform, mails new employees a company hoodie, some stickers, and a branded water bottle, among other things. “Having those symbols of the culture and feeling like someone cared enough to do that [are important],” says AJ Josephson, Miro’s head of people.

It’s also a good step to make sure that new employees are equipped for what they need to do. If they need a laptop, ship it to them or have them pick it up ahead of time. If there’s proprietary software they need to get their job done, make sure they have access to it. This is just another way to demonstrate that you were expecting them and it will help them get up to speed quickly.

Help Them Meet Their Coworkers

It’s hard to introduce a new hire to people in the company if they’re not in the building, and a large Zoom call can be overwhelming. Consider how you’ll familiarize new talent with their team and vice versa. Send an email letting everyone know that a new hire has arrived. “Those introduction emails are big. They let everyone know who this person is, so when they’re on the call they’re not too shy to interact,” says Kylie Cimmino, a consultant with HR consulting firm Red Clover HR.

At Miro, the company breaks the larger Zoom calls into small groups to help people get to know each other. They even recently had everyone in their Amsterdam office play a board game together virtually.

Miro also onboards hires in groups of five or six, even from geographically separate offices. “Over three weeks, they go through different sessions together, they learn the company’s values, they give each other feedback, they meet role models, they learn key structures,” Josephson says. “From the beginning, they’re learning together and creating socialization.”

Another strategy: Set up a schedule so that every day for the first week or two, someone makes an appointment with the new hire and checks in and introduces themselves. “It doesn’t even need to be work-related,” Phillips says. “It’s a chance to get to know the person and to make sure everybody is acquainted. It’s making sure people feel connected.”

Solidify Your Remote Onboarding Processes

One of the challenges of working remotely is that things that would have been implicitly learned in a office setting must be explained to people who all are working from separate places. “Distributed teams need way more documentation to let people know what to do,” Josephson says. “That’s the stuff we’ve had to build out, particularly for our product development teams.”

Consider creating remote onboarding checklists or other safeguards to ensure that when you hand off new hires to their new teams, their new teams have created procedures to include them in ongoing operations.

Check-in Frequently

You can’t check on remote workers by strolling past their desks five times a day, so it’s important to stay in touch with them and make sure they have everything they need. One strategy: For at least the first week, there should be morning and evening check-in calls with their manager.

“Many people will say, ‘I don’t have time to have two phone calls with my new hire every day,’” Phillips says. “But if the manager doesn’t do that, the new hire is going to ping them [all day] and say, ‘I don’t understand this.’ Whereas the manager can say, ‘Log all your questions and ask them to me at the end of the day,’ and it gives everybody a chance to breathe, and the new hire knows there’s going to be a time when they can connect.”

Assign a Buddy

Another way to help a new employee get to know the company and its routines is to link them up with a buddy or an “insider” who can show them the ropes, so to speak. They can talk about company culture and help them get familiar with the ins and outs of working there. In a virtual environment, it’s even more important for this person to check in with the new hire frequently since they won’t have casual visual contact with them in the office.

“The insider has to go out of their way to schedule different times to meet with the person,” Phillips says. “They have to make a concerted effort to check in and to encourage the new hire to use them as a resource. There are a lot of people who are going to go, ‘I don’t want to bother them about this,’ and it’s really up to the insider to make sure they become the resource.” Another bonus: A buddy or insider is another connection who can loop a new hire into regular routines, such as making sure they know there’s a standing Thursday status meeting.

Embrace Technology

Joining a company comes with a certain amount of administrative paperwork. If you’re still working in paper forms and you haven’t adapted to the new distanced reality for your remote onboarding process, you may be behind the curve.

Many firms are using services like PandaDoc, HelloSign, or DocuSign to distribute paperwork that needs signatures. An intranet messaging service like Slack allows workers to communicate with each other as though they’re in the office together, with add-ons like Donut that can message new hires and keep them on track.

“Those companies who have embraced those kinds of processes because they were trying to be efficient and green—now those processes are benefiting them in a socially distanced, geographically dispersed time in our lives,” Calli says. “If you have that, you’re ahead of everybody who doesn’t.”

Follow Legal Guidelines for Remote Workers

The government has made allowances for remote onboarding in a time of social distancing, such as allowing employers to verify some employment documentation (like your ID) by seeing it via video call. But you should be aware of what’s required and how you can get it done—and how you may need to proceed once distancing requirements are relaxed.

SHRM has a variety of resources available on the Talent Acquisition part of their site, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has specific information about temporary policies related to COVID-19 as well.

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