How to remote onboard new employees: 3 essential tips

Welcome to our new series where we explore the most important industries, trends, and topics related to your career from every angle. This month we are exploring remote onboarding in 2021.

Now that remote onboarding is the name of the game for a ton of businesses all around the world, many companies are scrambling to figure out how to translate their on-site processes to the digital realm.

Gone is the ye olde workspace of 2020, having been replaced by the high-tech cyberspace of 2021. Showing new employees around the office? For most businesses, those days are over. Being able to tap a coworker on the shoulder to ask a question? Not happening anymore.

These limitations create an issue for the onboarding process, which is heavily dependent on human interaction. What’s the best way to facilitate remote onboarding so that it’s as effective as on-site onboarding?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, but there are most certainly a number of strategies to conquer the virtual barriers of remote onboarding. Let’s explore the options available to those looking to remote onboard new employees.

1. Be proactive

Handling the onboarding process effectively means doing more than just giving a new employee their forms, login info, and a virtual pat on the back. To effectively integrate a new hire into a company, it’s imperative that said hire recognizes there’s always someone ready to help them.

Be it via Zoom, Slack, or old-school emails, if a new hire sees that their manager, advisor, or on-the-job mentor is a button press away and eager to help, they’re more likely to feel supported than if they’re trapped in the digital void of remote work all by themselves. Reaching out to new hires via these means just to check in with them every so often is something to make a habit of.

This push for proactivity isn’t just theory, either. According to a survey by SilkRoad and CareerBuilder, almost one in ten (nine percent, to be precise) employees have left a company due to bad onboarding experiences. Equally bad was the statistic that thirty-seven percent of employees didn’t feel their manager played a key role in supporting them during onboarding. This was a survey from 2018, mind you.

Since it’s harder to communicate support in a remote environment, can you imagine what the aforementioned survey’s results would look like if they were collected in 2021? The lesson here is simple: don’t be a statistic. Help new employees by being a proactive supporter of their onboarding.

2. Be on top of operations

If your new remote hire has to ask for documents, files, login credentials, system permissions, employee manuals, and all the other materials that they need to perform their job, you have to up your game. The goal is to beat new hires to the punch on these questions and have all goods ready to go well before the incoming employee ever has to ask for them.

On a related note, be sure to keep your new remote hires in-sync with any on-site hires if you happen to be running a hybrid workplace. Having the two factions of new employees progressing at different paces is a recipe for headaches and can cut down on the effectiveness of onboarding packages designed to effectively integrate all employees at the same speed.

3. Place an emphasis on culture

In a remote world where no one has to meet face-to-face (outside of Zoom) or physically interact with coworkers, it’s hard to convey energy. And where there’s a lack of energy transmission, there’s very likely a lack of cultural diffusion.

Nothing starts a new hire off on the wrong foot like forgetting to help them understand why the company they’re working for is great. Make sure the remote onboarding process isn’t cold and focused purely on logistics; community building is as much a part of onboarding as any work-focused processees.

Depending on the size of your business, there are plenty of different ways to help emphasize company culture while remote onboarding. Movie and game nights over video conferencing services like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and even Discord (yes, Discord!) are great ways to invite new hires to have some fun and unwind with colleagues.

Andra Mircioiu, on behalf of Rise, has some excellent suggestions for how to keep company culture relevant in a remote environment. 

“Consider using Donut (an app which integrates with Slack) to help employees make new connections within your organization,” Mircioiu suggests. “Donut matches employees up randomly for a virtual coffee or lunch break, giving everyone in your organization the chance to make connections within many departments.”

Mircioiu also recommends getting inventive with team activities, which is a great idea if the aforementioned movie and game night suggestions don’t seem like they’ll be the right fit for your company’s crowd. Try something different! Midday yoga, meditation, or simple art (illustration, crafts, etc.) courses can all be ways to get new hires enlivened and excited about their place of work.

Just remember that even if you’re proactive and on top of the paperwork side of things, it’s helpful to be on top of the fun side as well. A new hire being invested in their company’s culture is invaluable.

Read more about remote onboarding in 2021 here.