The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has changed just about every aspect of our existence as individuals, but also as employees and employers. From managing projects and timelines to recruiting new team members, navigating work life in the midst of COVID-19 has been a challenge, to say the least.
As many businesses are reopening their doors or are starting to hire remotely, HR professionals are left to train and onboard in an entirely new way. Instead of greeting new employees with a handshake and hands-on training, most of us will be opting for video chats and screen-shared training sessions for the foreseeable future. While these solutions offer up convenience and functionality despite our unique circumstances, they tend to feel a little less personal than we might have hoped.
In this post, we’ll share five ways you can enhance your remote onboarding process to make it feel more human while still being as safe and effective as possible.
1. Start onboarding early
The earlier you can begin the onboarding process, the better, especially when you’re bringing on a fully-remote employee. Not only does this get your new hire primed and ready to hit the ground running, but it also creates space for them to feel welcomed and connected at their new workplace, even if they’re miles apart from their nearest colleague.
Here are a few agenda items to add to your early onboarding stage:
- Add your new hire to internal messaging systems up to 3 weeks prior to their official start date
- Send them a care package of company swag items to foster a sense of belonging
- Pair up your new hire with a mentor that they can direct general questions to
- Reach out with all pertinent contact information, including: manager and HR
- Send out must-have HR documents ahead of time so there’s no delay on start times
- Include information on how they can redeem any company-issued technology or office supplies
- Send new hire all details regarding their start date, time, and training schedule
2. Create an engaging onboarding program
Whether you’re hiring on-site or remote employees, it’s important to build a well-balanced onboarding and training program. The onboarding process is key to employee retention and long term productivity — organizations with a strong onboarding program have 82% better retention — but without an engaging program, the process will not likely return the desired results.
So, what’s the secret to creating an effective and engaging onboarding program for your remote employees? Check out these best practices to find some inspiration:
- Rethink your existing strategy. Take a look at your current onboarding guide — how can you shift your current program to be virtual? If you already use slide decks to present information, these are very easy to transition to a remote onboarding program, but things like breakout sessions or ice breakers may take a little extra creativity to configure in a virtual setting.
- Find tools and alternatives to make it virtual. Because so many companies have transitioned to remote work in recent months, work-related technology is more accessible than ever before. What once were icebreakers and breakout sessions between conference rooms can now be virtual meeting sessions through apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
- Tailor your plan to different learning styles. It’s estimated that 65% of the population consider themselves to be visual learners, best understanding learning tools like images, maps, and whiteboards. 30% are auditory learners who prefer to take information in through listening, and 5% are kinesthetic learners who prefer action-based learning activities rather than sedentary ones. As you build your onboarding program, remember to keep these differing learning styles in mind. Varying your sessions, providing multiple resources, and inviting feedback are great stepping stones to begin with.
3. Embrace good communication and encourage questions
While remote work offers many perks, like, lack of commute, improved focus (for some), and no office attire, it also presents some communication challenges. Because the face-to-face aspect of communication is taken away, some workers find it harder to keep channels of communication clear and end up giving or receiving misinformation that can complicate workflow.
The onboarding period is the perfect place to set the tone for communication standards within your organization. By introducing the proper channels and encouraging questions from this stage on, you’ll be in a better position with your team moving forward!
4. Facilitate virtual group get-togethers
Another challenge that many remote workers face is the lack of a collaborative, social office environment. Without those daily interactions, buying into an organization and creating a rapport with colleagues can become much harder to do. To combat this side effect, consider setting up regularly-occurring virtual get-togethers in addition to meetings and standard check-ins.
These gatherings offer a welcoming and open setting for colleagues to get to know one another, welcome new hires, and unwind after a long workday. You can set up games like trivia, pictionary, or bingo and even send out prizes to winners if your budget allows!
5. Emphasize personal and professional development
When job seekers evaluate their opportunities, there are several key elements they’re likely looking for: competitive pay, cool company culture, desirable office environment or remote options , etc. But in order to really thrive within an organization, many employees will also be on the hunt for growth opportunities. Not only will developing new professional and personal skills help them succeed within your organization, but it will also help your new employees feel fulfilled.
As you discuss company culture in your onboarding process, make sure that you highlight personal and professional development initiatives!
Adjusting to remote work is either a breeze or a big challenge depending on your organizational setup and preferred work style. One of the most substantial changes you’ll notice in this transition is how you handle the remote onboarding and training process. Sure, it’s different training new staff over video chat, but it can be just as effective and enjoyable if you heed these five tips:
- Start the onboarding process early to get a headstart and establish a positive connection.
- Build an engaging training program by considering different learning styles.
- Focus on good communication habits and encourage questions.
- Facilitate virtual gatherings to establish a sense of belonging among coworkers.
- Highlight personal and professional development initiatives.
How has your onboarding process shifted as a result of remote work? Share your tips with us in the comment section below!
Samantha Rupp holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and is the managing editor for 365businesstips.com. She lives in San Diego, California and enjoys spending time on the beach, reading up on current industry trends, and traveling.