What’s in this article
Since hiring is back at full throttle in some industries, it’s important to master remote onboarding for all your newcomers. Remember: just because things are a little different from in-office onboarding, it doesn’t stop you from being able to make every first day, a great first day. It just takes preparedness, creativity, and a little extra nurturing!
Scroll below for our top do’s (and don’ts!) on how to welcome new team members virtually and smoothly:
🗺️ Have a plan
Don’t leave onboarding up to chance.
We’re sure you can crank out the best jokes at any dinner party. That said, onboarding a new employee isn’t the time to flex your improv muscles. It’s important to make all new employees feel like their onboarding and integration into their new place of work is thoughtful and thought-through, and that starts with good planning.
Preparedness shows professionalism
First impressions matter, and the first impression you want a newcomer to have on their first day is the feeling that they are joining a company and team that is structured, capable and united. Disorganization is associated as a red flag of bad employers.
If you don’t map out a plan, you might forget some bits
Onboarding milestones can take place over the span of an entire year. It would be risky to walk into a year-long investment without some sort of plan to help guide both the new hire and manager along the way. Find some useful checklists here to help you not forget any of the basics.
Make time to prepare a welcome package
When you plan, you can make time for the right things. This can include having a personalized welcome video from colleagues, or a welcome kit with WFH essentials like a coffee mug and ergonomic mouse pad, all ready for the new hire’s first day.
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🎯 Set clear goals and expectations
Don’t undervalue progress tracking and touchpoints.
Setting up new employees for success considers the When, What, Why, and How of objectives. Sure, ensuring they have the right tools and knowledge to accomplish tasks is one thing (How). But it first starts with clearly defined goals and objectives (What), with time-bound milestones (When) and continued purpose through feedback (Why). Here’s how to ace that:
Create a short-term onboarding schedule
The first week at a new job might be the hardest for a newcomer, as they’re still getting acclimated to their tools, remembering names, and absorbing new information. Pre-scheduling meet-and-greet lunches and allocating time slots for training or filling out paperwork will take some of the pressure off while helping new employees prioritize tasks upon arrival.
Set long-term onboarding milestones
Once your newcomer becomes more autonomous, it’s important to continue with long-term guidance. As LinkedIn Contributing Editor Jeff Haden puts it, good onboarding breaks down large processes into manageable and comprehensive chunks (e.i. milestones and objectives) for newcomers, which in turn also provides you with opportunities for constructive feedback. Which brings us to our next point…
Plan for regular feedback
The same way milestones are set on a timeline, so should moments for feedback. In the beginning, touch bases may need to be more regular, but in the long-run touch bases should be planned to align with milestones in order to measure if objectives are being met, if there are areas to improve on, and to make sure the newcomer continues to feel valued.
📣 Promote communication
Don’t assume that not hearing much from a newcomer means all is going well.
Communication is an integral part of every stage of onboarding. But in a world where remote work is dominating, it’s important to not take communication for granted and to implement systems and channels to support strong communication in virtual spaces.
Push for universal communication
Left to their own devices, people will use their own tools. Which may not always be safe or compatible company-wide. So have available for all your employees and new hires the right modes of communication, like a secure chat channel such as Slack, Discord, or Chatwork.
Implement and/or share rituals
Never assume that just because you don’t hear from a newcomer, that everything is fine. Instating team rituals and regular 1:1 meetings allows you to ramp up communication, encourage exchange, and create opportunities for relationship building, no matter how busy schedules get.
Instate a human dynamic
With remote work, many colleagues speak every day but never meet in person. Thanks to email and instant message (IM) platforms like Teams or Slack, there’s no shortage of ways to get in touch. However, non-verbal communication remains an important aspect of communication, so encourage the use of video chat as much as you can, if face-to-face isn’t possible. This promotes better work relationships.
🤝 Assign each new hire to a mentor or a buddy
Don’t forget to orchestrate team and colleague introductions.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to onboard a newcomer. And managers need all the help they can get to onboard in the new normal. Plus, an assigned entourage can help curb the loneliness that new hires may experience working from home.
Assign a mentor
A mentor is an experienced employee that can help a new hire integrate within the company but also grow within their role. You should assign a mentor, usually in a senior position within a similar field of expertise, to each new hire and ensure a virtual meet-and-greet is scheduled during the first week.
Assign a buddy or reference contact
A buddy is a colleague, usually at a similar level to the newcomer, here to help contextualize the role and work environment, and support on things that may not be explicitly covered within the onboarding plan (like the most important Slack channels, the groups of interest to join, etc). 87% of employers say that buddy programs boost newcomer proficiency, so a virtual meet-and-greet should be planned for the first week too!
Organize team introductions
There’s no better way to hit several birds with one stone by organizing a team meet-and-greet so your new can be introduced to their colleagues at once. Yes, new hires organically pick up on names and faces throughout the many meetings they’ll be listening in to, but a virtual, informal gathering specially planned for this purpose is more thoughtful. We previously covered this topic here.
👓 Introduce your company’s spirit & culture from day one
A strong company culture attracts and retains talent. So incorporating your company’s spirit and values within every step of a newcomer’s onboarding is indispensable. Aside from what can already be read online and on your website, how should you go about spreading the spirit to new employees effectively?
Share the culture before the start date
We talked about how onboarding starts before the first day on the job. With this in mind, HR should include some fun facts about the company or their team at the time of hire. Call it a planting-the-seed strategy.
Showcase employee appreciation
Whether coming from the executive team or from other colleagues, giving props to employees is a good way to indirectly showcase the skills and traits that are valued at your company. These moments could be a part of weekly rituals or company-wide interactions which your new hire is invited to.
Turn the spotlight on soft skills
Onboarding is typically straightforward when it comes to hard skills (or technical skills) but a company’s spirit can usually be felt through the soft skills it values. Including soft skills development activities, like Nonviolent communication (NVC) workshops, as part of a new employee’s onboarding journey can help set the tone on what your company’s spirit is about.
✏️ Be creative with onboarding experiences
Don’t assume remote onboarding and on-site onboarding are the same thing.
You have to think outside the box when onboardings are happening remotely. All those little human moments that happen organically at a physical workplace, like office chat around the coffee machine or Friday’s free-to-grab donuts, are no longer. Thankfully, there’s ways you can create a fun, connected work-life vibe for new hires even if everyone is digital. Some ideas:
Personalize each onboarding
There are many ways to personalize an onboarding experience, from preparing personal videos to sending over a welcome gift or care package to the newcomer’s home, helping them feel excited about their “new” home office.
Make onboarding collaborative
Remember what we said about how it takes a village? Even if not assigned as mentors or buddies, ask other employees to participate in onboarding activities if their participation could be of added value. Better yet, get the assigned buddy to find out their favorite meal, and get it delivered to them as a first week’s lunch!
Adapt onboarding to remote or hybrid
No more office watering hole ice breakers, no problem. Why not create virtual happy hour meetings to encourage new employees to get to know their colleagues better outside of the formal meeting settings? Employee bonding activities, like online scavenger hunts, are also great to include during onboardings and benefit employee relationships overall.
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