All around the world, leaders and managers are currently welcoming new starters to their teams remotely. As such, the onboarding process is being done entirely from home – this is unchartered territory for most, and interestingly, it’s a scenario that will likely become more common, with hybrid teams set to become more prevalent in the next era of work, post-crisis.
Why is a positive remote onboarding experience so important?
These new joiners have probably been through enormous emotional upheaval in the past few weeks – whilst experiencing the normal mix of excitement and trepidation that comes with starting a new role, they have also been faced with huge uncertainty about job security and a very different, remote onboarding experience. So, if you have someone new joining your remote or hybrid team, what can you do to help them get off to the best start possible?
If we think about on-boarding as the first few months in a role, it’s critically important – done well, it helps the person to hit the ground running and to want to stay. Great on-boarding achieves two core things:
- Belonging – the new team member feels as if they are part of things, not just sat on the side-lines. They know ‘who is who’, start to build relationships and feel that this is a place where they can enjoy their work – they feel surer that they made the right decision to join.
- Contribution – the new team member has gained knowledge and understanding, and are starting to contribute. They are adding value to the rest of the team or the organisation by completing tasks, sharing thoughts and shaping how they can increase their contribution going forward.
Five ways to onboard your remote employees well
These goals are the same whether you’re talking about a team that’s always located in the same office, a totally remote team, a geographically dispersed or a hybrid team. The difference is that when people aren’t working together you have to be much more proactive – you have to consciously make sure that you’re doing everything right, because you won’t be having the same mini-check-ins together as you grab a coffee, pass their desk etc.
So, here are five actions you can take to achieve these goals:
- Get to know them. Spend time getting to know them, asking what they want from their on-boarding, what they think will be more difficult because of the current working arrangements and how you can work together during this time. Be willing to share your experiences too – this is about building a strong, trusting working relationship, it’s not a second part of the interview!
- Make introductions. Help them to build relationships with the team and the wider organisation. Set up calls to introduce them to people and involve them straight away in any team activities such as quizzes, communication calls etc. so they become part of the team. It helps to prioritise the people they need to work with most – if they meet 50 people in the first week, they probably won’t remember many of them!
- Conduct a formal orientation. Often the first half day of an induction helps the new joiner to understand some of the fundamentals – how the email works, what the company’s overall mission and purpose is, who the key customers are, organisational structure, information on products, processes, compliance and culture. Remember to put this in the diary as an initial briefing – make it easy for the person to review the information, for example, by saving all core documents in a file that they can easily find.
- Set up a knowledge buddy. One thing that’s difficult about changing jobs is that you don’t know how things are done. Yes, it might be written up in processes and documents, it might be covered in the formal orientation, but there’s lots of little stuff that no one thinks to tell you. Mostly we find these things out by asking other people – it’s quicker and tells you how things are really done, not how they’re meant to be done! In an office, it’s easy for the new starter to informally ask people how to book a meeting room, where the shared documents are stored, who to contact if they’ve got technology issues, how to submit expenses etc. In a more remote environment it helps to pair them up with a buddy – someone who they can go to and ask any question, no matter how basic it seems.
- Do the management basics – really well. At the moment, more than ever, managers need to be setting clear expectations, listening to team members, checking in with them, giving them feedback and engaging them. These become even more important for new employees – helping them to make that contribution and see that they are adding value. As they start to settle in you can work with them to develop a plan of deliverables for the next few months, and make sure that they have the tools, resources and motivation to succeed.
Doing these things will help your new team member to quickly achieve that sense of belonging and be able to start making a contribution. As they become more established, you can carry on doing lots of these actions, but the focus will change as you continue to engage and motivate your team.
Maggi is an experienced consultant and coach with international experience across a wide range of sectors including professional services, financial services, retail and FMCG. She is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and combines research and practice to develop practical solutions to drive business improvement. Maggi has been a consultant for over 20 years, specialising in talent strategy and talent development. She has a reputation as an insightful consultant, helping clients to reduce the ‘noise’ around an issue so they can focus and act on key issues which will make a difference. Maggi is on a mission to help organisations, leaders and individuals to liberate talent. Her first book ‘From Talent Management to Talent Liberation’ has recently been published.