Now that WFH has become the norm rather than the exception and many companies have moved to hiring new employees without ever meeting in person, the next step in adapting to the new World of Work is to build onboarding practices that can accommodate new hires starting from a home office.
Employee onboarding is essential to helping new hires integrate into the company, the culture and the team. On-site this happens organically, but in the case of a remote employee, it has to be even more carefully planned and facilitated. Here are a few tips that will help reduce first-day jitters:
Roll Out the Virtual Welcome Mat
At least a week before their start date, make sure new hires have all the basic equipment they’ll need to get started, such as a laptop with all of the tools and apps their team uses already installed. If your company provided stipends for employees to set up an at-home office when your team first went remote, make sure that new hires receive this funding as well, so that they can build a comfortable remote work environment and feel cared for from the start.
Along with a welcome email that includes an agenda overviewing what to expect from their first week on the job, send them a handbook that explains which tools they will be using and how, as well as their personal credentials. Finally, mail them something that is company-branded, no matter your budget. It’s fun to get a box of swag, but even a new mug or a simple company sticker for their laptop or notebook can help new employees instantly feel like part of the team.
Walk Through Corporate Operations
Take some time on their very first day to explain the company vision and mission, helping them understand how what they do will help achieve the overall company objectives and feel pride in their role. Provide information about work policies, and other guidelines they need to follow during working hours, and make sure that you’re maintaining and updating your employee handbook on your intranet site so that they can readily access information and find answers to their questions.
Assign a Mentor or a Buddy
Of course, it can be easy for a remote hire to spend their entire first week with HR and their direct supervisor discussing details and logistics; after all, these people are responsible for successfully onboarding them to the role. But it’s critical that new hires can also find a peer to connect with early — which doesn’t always happen organically when teams aren’t sharing a physical office space.
Assign your new hire a mentor or a buddy from their team, who isn’t their supervisor or manager. Schedule check-ins for this “buddy” to connect with their new teammate daily throughout their first week, so that the new employee can ask questions, confirm what they’ve learned, and build an ally. Once you’ve identified the mentor, set up a video call introduction on day one, so that the new hire feels supported from the start.
Introduce Them to the Team
Don’t end the team bonding there. Set up a video call with the new hire’s whole team and direct collaborators, so that everyone can individually introduce themselves and start to get to know each other. Provide a team structure or org chart in advance so they understand who everyone is and how they will work together, then encourage them to book individual follow-up calls to build rapport and understand how they can best collaborate with each member of their team.
Set Expectations From the Start
Clarifying individual goals for new hires is just as important as explaining the company and team values and objectives. Make sure they understand their responsibilities, what projects they’ll be involved in, and all anticipated deadlines.
Consider starting them with a small project that requires them to collaborate with others on the team in order to foster immediate working relationships, so that they can quickly learn how the team communicates remotely and build trust in their colleagues.
Keep Up the Communication
It’s very easy for remote new hires to feel isolated and disconnected. They haven’t had the benefit of on-site work prior to going remote so they never had the chance to develop the easy relationships that come with casual encounters in the office or to have a quick chat about something they’re working on.
Keep in mind that the extra hard work that goes into helping them feel like part of the team doesn’t end after their initial onboarding. Schedule regular check-ins to discuss their work progress and uncover any issues they might have come up for as long as your team is working remotely. Listen carefully to pick up clues on how they are adapting to their new position. Making an extra effort will pay off in terms of employee satisfaction and retention.
Remember that remote team members have career aspirations that need to be supported and fostered — and this requires a bit of extra creativity when you aren’t able to connect in person. The onboarding process sets the tone for their success and experience at your company, so you want to get this right and show them that their professional success and growth is important.