Remember that old saying, out of sight, out of mind? Remote work has blown that adage out of the water. Out of sight can’t be out of mind anymore, especially when some — or all — of your team members are only seeing each other through a computer screen.
This is especially true for your newest employees. They’re figuring out the job, getting to know the team and learning how your company does things, all without ever being in the same room with their coworkers.
These new remote team members need to be out of sight but in mind. They need a remote onboarding experience that’s as comprehensive and welcoming, if not more so, than any they’d get in the office.
Onboarding is one of the most important factors in an employee’s future success. Consider these statistics:
Companies with standard onboarding have 54% better new hire productivity and 50% better new hire retention
Companies with the longest onboarding processes get employees up to full proficiency 34% faster
77% of employees that reach their first performance milestone had comprehensive onboarding
You can onboard remote employees just as well as in-office employees. Sometimes, the remote format lets you be even more efficient. You get to streamline your communications, sending information in batches and scheduling check-ins as necessary, so your new employees can focus on getting up to speed quickly.
Here’s how to make that happen:
If your company provides remote employees with tech setups, send them the required hardware as far in advance as possible. Include a clear setup guide with contact information for an IT representative in case the new employee has any trouble. Keep a detailed list of what you’ve sent and invest in package tracking so you know when it arrives.
Then, after a day or two, follow up with your new employee and make sure they’ve received and unpacked the hardware. Ask if they’ve set it up, and, if they haven’t, remind them that they can contact IT for support.
There’s a lot of tech involved in starting a new job, from email logins to desktop setup, and it’s normal for people to have questions. That can be hard for a new employee to understand, though, especially when they’re sitting in their home office and thinking, I should be able to do this.
To help them feel more supported, make IT support a normal part of your onboarding process. If possible, provide an IT consult for each new remote employee right away, not just “if you need it.” If that’s not possible, send an email inviting them to contact IT if they have any problems and show them how to do so. If possible, let them reach out to a tech support professional from that email with a single click.
It’s important that, right from the first day, new people on your team have an easy experience with tech support. If you use Calendly for your IT support scheduling, employees can choose an appointment time easily with no email back-and-forth.
All you have to do is create a link with your IT team, showing the time slots when your IT department is available. The employee then clicks on that link and chooses the time that works for them. Calendly will auto-assign the slot to an available representative or send it to the person with the right expertise, whichever you and your team prefer.
The more your new employees know about how to get in touch with colleagues, the more comfortable they’ll feel in their first few days and weeks on the job. If you don’t already have one, create a simple reference sheet that explains:
How to get in touch with specific people (Slack for inter-team project communications, email for permissions from the executive suite, etc.)
How to sign up for and log in to each channel
What to do in the event of trouble with a channel
A guide like this will be an invaluable resource for your new remote employees, who can then easily contact anyone they need to reach. Again, make sure that you’re clear about how to troubleshoot and include a way to contact the right person at IT.
If you’ve ever started a meeting and realized that you couldn’t see or hear the other people on the call, or that they couldn’t see or hear you, you know how important it is to test your video conferencing in advance.
As part of your standard remote onboarding process, schedule a video call on the platform or platforms that your company uses. Cover all of them — if you use Zoom with some clients and GoToMeeting with others, test them both.
Make sure that the new employee has all of the tools they need to schedule a video call, log on to the call and use value-added tools like screen sharing, markup and closed captioning. These tools are important to remote employees, who depend on virtual tools to stay connected.
Schedule your video conferencing test run through Calendly, especially if you use Zoom, GoToMeeting or Join.me. All three platforms have integrations — Join.me through Zapier — that will automatically add login information to the Calendly events. You won’t have to worry about your new employee losing their login, and neither will they.
Onboarding paperwork can be one of the biggest difficulties for remote employees. Not everyone owns a printer, and, even if they do, it can be inconvenient to print out paperwork only to sign it and scan it back into electronic form.
E-signatures are more convenient and efficient since they don’t require people to go through the process of printing and scanning. They’re also more environmentally friendly, which is an important concern in the current era of environmental awareness.
An e-signature is legally binding, thanks to the ESIGN Act of 2000, as long as you use a compliant software. If you don’t already have a solution in place, make sure you choose one that clearly states its compliance with the ESIGN Act.
Check whether your e-sign tool — or the one you’re considering using — integrates with systems you already have in place. Many popular tools connect with widely-used communication, scheduling and record-keeping software.
One standout example is SignRequest, which integrates with tools like Slack, Gmail, Google Drive and Dropbox. SignRequest also offers more than 2,000 integrations through Zapier.
If you use Calendly, Zapier lets you easily add documents to your appointments and collect signatures in advance. No more starting an onboarding call without knowing if the person has completed their paperwork — Calendly and SignRequest tell you whether it’s done.
Within the first week, or two if necessary, a new remote employee should meet virtually with the person they will report to, any employees who will report to them and any direct co-workers. These can be individual or group meetings depending on what makes the most sense for the people involved.
Also, make sure there’s room in the new employee’s schedule for any trainings they need to complete. By necessity, most to all of this training will be online, so make sure your training programs are as engaging and interactive as possible.
The new remote employee will have a full calendar in their first weeks. Scheduling all of these events can easily get overwhelming if done via email, which tends to involve a lot of back-and-forth as everyone tries to find mutually convenient times.
Instead, set your new employee up with a Calendly account. That way, they can enter their availability and use the link to set up meetings and training times. This works best if everyone else on your team has a Calendly account too. Trainers, colleagues and managers can send their links to the new employee, who can choose the most convenient slot. No one gets double-booked or loses time to endless scheduling messages.
Everyone should be able to start work knowing what is expected of them and what their short-term and long-term goals are. Start with a check-in meeting during the employee’s first week and go over the person’s first set of tasks, including requirements and due dates, plus any goals or benchmarks they need to hit.
Once an employee has signed all of their paperwork, set up their tech and completed the required training, it’s easy to feel like onboarding is complete. There’s still a learning curve, though, and it’s longer than many companies might think.
It takes new employees up to a year to become as proficient as their experienced colleagues. Make it the norm to check in with new remote employees every week or so for the first month, then scale back to every two weeks or every month. Keep the lines of communication open so that every remote employee feels supported, included and able to do their jobs well.
About the Author
When your schedule is tight, it's easy to let hiring fall to the bottom of the to-do list.
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