As we tentatively ease out of lockdown, it’s time to switch from crisis to recovery mode1. For many businesses, this means starting to hire again. However, the prospect of onboarding new hires remotely can be daunting. Many hiring managers worry they can’t recreate a great experience from a distance. That need not be the case.
Remote onboarding can still be highly successful if you empower your new hires by putting them in the driver’s seat for their onboarding journey.
Rule No. 1 of remote onboarding is not to try and replicate what you used to do face-to-face. It simply will not work. Induction meetings over video conference will quickly result in Zoom fatigue. Your new joiner will find themselves waiting around for the next set of instructions; your learning platform will languish as an after-thought or, worse, become an exercise in box-ticking for the new hire and their overstretched manager.
Here’s how to get remote onboarding right:
1. Start by building a relationship.
To help new joiners feel at home, start by building an environment of trust and community. Creativity, innovation and collaboration all require a feeling of psychological safety – and this can be hard to do via Slack chat!2
Get started by inviting every team member to create a short “About Me” video and post it in a central hub or workspace (such as the Learn Amp platform). Ask each new joiner to do the same. They can then watch the videos of their team-mates before they start working together. This can be a great way to get to know people, who they are and how they like to communicate and work.
Require the new joiner to set up a non-work casual chat with a colleague they don’t usually work with. For the rest of the team, let them know they should schedule a one-to-one remote “coffee” with the new hire within the month.
You might want to invite employees to create an “empathy guide” – a kind of personal “user manual” that they upload to Learn Amp and share with teammates and their manager. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What gives you energy at work?
- What do you find draining?
- How do you prefer to communicate?
- How will you let people know not to contact you?
- What are your hobbies and passions?
- Where do you work from? What’s your home office like?
Colleagues can then refer to these responses to judge the best way to communicate with the new hire and how much contact they’re likely to want.
2. Keep the mission going.
You learn so much about a candidate during their recruitment process. Then by the time they have finished their notice period at their current job and joined you, it’s all been lost.
Remote working requires you to build a cohesive and engaging employee journey, from first point of contact to exit interview. Too many companies nail the recruitment, but then fail to successfully nurture the new hire they spent all that time and money finding.
Instead of treating recruitment and induction as two separate processes, consider them as part of a continuous relationship between you and the person you hired.
For example, at Learn Amp we ask people to complete a task as part of their recruitment process, which we then build into their onboarding process. Here’s how that works:
- We ask the candidate to consider a series of questions (which we call a “mission”), present back their thoughts and discuss them in their initial interview. Here’s an example of a mission we’ve used:
Operations can be broad ranging and mean different things to different people.
- What does it mean to you? What do you feel should fall under this remit?
- What do you feel should be your focus in the first three months; and
- How would you anticipate we measure the success of this over this period?
- What might you need from Learn Amp to help you be successful?
- We then encourage new joiners to reflect on their mission - and take onboard any feedback they received during the interview process.
- These feedback areas are then built into their personal development pathways via our online learning platform.
- The Learn Amp platform allows line managers to review these personal objectives and automatically schedule a digital check-in with new hires each week.
This way, we build a continuous employee journey from recruitment to onboarding and beyond.
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3. Help yourself
High-performing new hires are, by nature, self-starters. It’s critical therefore that you don’t make them sit around waiting for you. Design your new remote onboarding process to support top talent by allowing them to onboard themselves.
This is an obvious win-win – new hires feel good if they can control their induction process, and you benefit from employees who are up to speed faster. Self-service onboarding takes the administrative burden off HR teams, while providing a consistent experience for all new hires without involving overstretched hiring managers.
From Day 1, let your new joiner plan their own days by providing access to self-service onboarding content. Use your learning platform to set up a dynamic onboarding journey with checkpoints and milestones.
Offer clear guides and step-by-step instructions so they can set themselves up with the basic tools they’ll need for work – your technology platforms, an internal email account, and so on.
As a next step, create fun tasks that will help them familiarise themselves with the tools they’ll need to get started. For example, invite them to watch a sales demo video, and then have a go at recording one themselves, to be submitted for review by the line manager. By applying the knowledge themselves, they are more likely to retain it, and will also have the resources available to hand further down the line if they need to refresh their memories.
As a general rule of thumb, think about how you can empower your new hire to take ownership of the onboarding process. Trust them from the get-go. You’ve presumably hired people who take the initiative and are driven to perform well. Make sure you enable them to do just that!
4. Surprise and delight
New remote hires can sometimes feel as if they’re invisible. Make sure they know that you’re there to help, and that you’re pleased they’ve joined. For example:
- Line managers should aim to check in with new hires daily, even if it’s only via Slack.
- Mention new joiners during company meetings and via group chats.3
- Some company swag is always welcome – a t-shirt, a water bottle and a notepad go a long way!
- Surprise them with an edible treat at the end of week 1. These perks are inexpensive but can mean a lot to a new hire.
- A team social event can be a great way to make the newest recruits feel welcome. For instance, schedule a game, quiz, costume conference call during the first few weeks or months.
Onboarding an employee via your laptop isn’t easy. When you can’t see people, it can be hard to get a sense of how they’re really doing.4
But putting your new hires in control of their own induction process, building a continuous journey from recruitment to onboarding, and investing time and energy into making them feel welcome, will pay dividends in employee performance and retention in the first months, and for years to come.
A user-friendly learning platform is critical for building a rich, engaging online experience for new hires.
Find out more about how Learn Amp can help you onboard remote employees: