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Remote Onboarding Changes the New Hire Experience

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As organisations make remote working more and more the norm, the employee onboarding experience needs to change to engage new people with their colleagues and the organisation effectively. Water cooler conversations, serendipitous opportunities to connect with new colleagues and get a feel for the organisation's culture don’t just happen organically when onboarding remotely. The onboarding experience needs to be designed to engage the new employee and actively make them feel welcome and a part of the team, according to Christina Pavlou of TalentLMS.

She states that the three most common challenges that new employees will face are

  • A sense of isolation
  • Getting to know their new team members (3 out of 4 tools they use are communication apps)
  • Not being able to get on-the-spot answers

These factors align with advice from Barbara Z. Larson , Susan R. Vroman and Erin E. Makarius in an HBR article A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers which lists the following challenges remote workers face:

  • Lack of face-to-face supervision
  • Lack of access to information
  • Social isolation
  • Distractions at home

The HBR authors provide the following suggestions to managers to overcome the challenges:

  • Establish structured daily check-ins
  • Provide several different communication technology options
  • And then establish "rules of engagement"
  • Provide opportunities for remote social interaction
  • Offer encouragement and emotional support

Pavlou provides advice on three key factors to address when designing the onboarding experience:

1. Have virtual introductions for your new hires and their team

Give them useful resources they can revisit to refresh their memory about who is who. For example, you can provide new remote hires with a user-friendly document (with photos!) that lays out the organizational structure and reporting lines. You can even include contact details, like Skype addresses, for each person in the organizational chart.

2. Set up remote communication channels

Start with the ones used more broadly by the entire company (e.g., a video conference platform or a messaging app) and the ones they’ll mostly need for their job (e.g., a project management platform or a design collaboration tool). It’s also important to explain your company’s communication etiquette, like the best channel to ask a question or when it’s better to send an email instead of an instant message.

3. Set clear onboarding goals

When onboarding remote employees you might have to create a more detailed list of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to do it so that nothing falls between the cracks. Keep in mind that not being in the same room (often not being in the same time zone, as well), might make new hires feel uncomfortable asking questions via emails or instant messages.

PromoLeaf recently published a survey of 1005 people who changed jobs during COVID-19 about their expectations and expectations of remote onboarding. Key finding from that survey include

  • When asked, What frequency of video calls would you prefer with your manager for the first few weeks of employment? nearly 35% of respondents wanted to be contacted by video at least once a day. Another 26% preferred contact two to four times weekly, and another 18% wanted weekly calls. Only 7% wanted less frequent calls, and the remaining 14% didn’t want any video contact at all.
  • According to 80% of survey respondents, remote mentors are important.
  • Receiving company swag helps create a welcoming feeling, 91% of those who received swag felt effectively welcomed to their new company.
  • In addition to swag, a variety of activities were received well by new employees, including virtual happy hours, trivia games, and a buddy system at 86.5%, 88%, and nearly 89% respectively. In each case, the employee chose that their company was either very successful or somewhat successful at welcoming them to a new role.
  • When asked whether transparency is key when it comes to feeling a strong sense of job security during a pandemic, 48% agreed. Another 47% also said that they wanted to hear from CEOs, leadership, and others about how the company was being affected by current events, and what was being done to protect it, including their position.
  • 38% said their company needed to do more to keep employees informed. Despite the fact that over half of employees want their company to communicate clearly about the effect of the pandemic, over a third feel their company isn’t doing enough or should do better.

You can find more resources on working remotely in our recent guide.

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