The biggest problems with remote onboarding and how to prevent them

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.

Effective employee onboarding helps new team members feel like a critical part of your organization and increases their engagement and retention. However, recently it has taken a bit of a twist given the current remote work environment.

Farnaz Ronaghi, co-founder and CTO at NovoEd, has extensive experience with remote onboarding and has provided actionable insight into some of the biggest problems employers face.

Four best practices to combat remote onboarding challenges

Here are the best practices she recommends regarding remotely onboarding new employees, especially in this unique remote work setting.

1. Contextualize your onboarding

Custom-fit your remote employee onboarding process to business priorities to instill the know-how, the context, and the unique ways of your organization into your new hires. 

Contextualized learning with opportunities to practice, apply learning and look at practice done by other people in a similar role is vital to turn knowledge into what drives daily decisions and actions at work.

2. Shorten time to impact

By quickly and effectively instilling your critical culture and values into remote onboarding training sessions, new employees will be better prepared to tackle their new role and feel more ingrained in the company from day one. Creating enthusiasm and commitment to the company’s ethos and goals will also form more powerful connections with peers, coaches, and the entire business.

3. Enable and engage managers or senior practitioners in the team to add value effectively

Feedback and context from a leader, a manager, or a team member who has been in the organization longer is one of the most effective ways of onboarding new employees in person. Onboarding buddies help answer questions faster, provide feedback and make the new member feel more welcome. 

Technology can enable you to create moments of feedback, reflection, and proactive Q&A from the new team member to a designated onboarding buddy in an effective, efficient way instead of the default zoom meeting that introduces hardship and lacks structured goals.

4. Get creative with learning experiences

Look at the content you usually give your new hires – including organization history, HR information, mission, vision, and values. Then think about what you might have them do with that information. 

Instead of a quiz on the organization’s mission, perhaps have them record a video explaining the mission as they would explain it to a friend. Find ways to get new hires to interact with others and use the materials as they would use that information in real life.

Moving to a positive remote onboarding experience

The sudden shift to remote work has eliminated most in-person training options for the foreseeable future, including onboarding processes where new employees traditionally get their first opportunity to connect with their new managers and colleagues. 

Remote work has presented significant challenges for HR professionals, as it has become increasingly clear that video conference calls are not an adequate replacement for in-person experiences. This is where managers, HR professionals, and learning and development specialists need to collaborate with their technology specialists. 

Working with IT and technology-focused colleagues to investigate and implement new tech-enabled learning methods and technologies can help employees apply their skills within their employer’s strategy practices in a remote work environment. 

By using the onboarding process as a way to provide information and as an opportunity to create connections while we work from our own homes, new hires can immediately engage with their managers, mentors, and leadership through peer team experiences. Remote onboarding processes need to evolve creative ways for new hires to create those connections with their managers, established co-workers, and other new hires. 

Remote onboarding is an effective alternative

The remote setting is an easy way to achieve this through all of the online tools available today. When done right, your new hire may wind up with an even more valuable network than your employees who remained in the office. This is because their networking will not be limited to the people who just happen to sit nearby.

Although onboarding employees remotely may seem like a daunting task, companies can’t afford to get it wrong, or they risk losing out on the general talent they’ve gained. Thankfully, there are easy ways to get the onboarding process up and running quickly and effectively in this remote setting. 

To start, consider repurposing existing content whenever possible. Additionally, developing a clear plan, identifying your team, and clarifying learning objectives are crucial steps to establish the importance of learning and development to employees, even before determining the appropriate technology solution, the timeline, and the desired content. 

Getting managers in on the action will allow for further engagement and insight into how new hires feel as they get onboarded and promote a more welcoming environment for them.