how to onboard remote employees

How to Onboard New Hires in a Distributed World

Most businesses have been operating remotely and many companies will stay remote for the foreseeable future. Hiring processes will need to evolve and adapt to this remote environment.

We’ve had the opportunity to sit down with Kat Rumbles of Two Sigma Ventures and discuss how to help new hires get settled in their new work environment.

1) Group new employees into hiring classes

Hiring classes are a common practice in the talent landscape. It provides a sense of community and allows culture-building among new hires. This is especially important at a time where everyone in your team is distributed and physical interaction is not a possibility.

If you are planning to hire more than one person and the roles don’t need to be filled urgently, try to put them in a hiring class if you can work out the logistics for that. Aside from giving new hires a sense of community, it will save you a lot of time in doing the same orientation spiels over and over. Additionally, the rest of your team members won’t have to be interrupted as often for introductions.

 

2) Make necessary preparations prior to the new hire’s first day

Onboarding begins as soon as that job offer is signed by the candidate. Think about the new hire’s experience from that moment until their first day and try to make that process more convenient for them. Send out a welcome packet along with your company handbooks and some swag. If you need to send out pieces of equipment that are necessary for the new hires to function in their roles, it’s best to get that over with as early as possible. It sends a message that you’re excited for them to be part of the team and you want them to be as prepared as possible.

If sending out a physical box isn’t possible, a folder of digital resources should be enough. Send them out at least a week before their official Day 1. It would help to send them an email with their schedule along with their login credentials a couple days before they start as well.

 

3) Structure Day 1 such that new hires are properly oriented without being overwhelmed

Planning out your new hire’s first day can be different in a virtual environment. Before, company walk-throughs are literally an activity where you walk the new hires through different departments, getting them set up on their own work desk, and introducing them to the rest of the team. It’s an entirely different experience over just the four corners of your computer screen.

Start the day by making sure they’re logged in on time. Send them a welcome email with instructions for setting up their emails and other necessary tools. Give them a couple hours to go through emails and watch a pre-made presentation about the company and the team if that’s an available resource. Structure the rest of the day with a couple of coffee chats in between to break things up a bit. Also, schedule a team meeting to introduce the new hires and for them to get to know the rest of the team. Ask your team members beforehand to include some fun facts about themselves to make the introduction less formal.

 

4) Schedule introductory meetings and get them familiar with the tools on the first week

Ideally, your new hires should be introduced to their immediate team members within a couple of days. If you have other departments that your team is constantly in communication with, get the new hires acquainted with them as well. And if it’s part of your culture to involve your executives in the onboarding process, a quick introduction with them will be great.

Make sure they’re all set up and familiar with the main tools they will be using. One of the reasons why hiring classes are convenient is because you won’t have to do this part with another new hire who’s coming in a week or two later.

 

5) Set up a cadence for checking in on your new hires

Ramp is a tough term to nail down as an exact timeline, mostly because it can be different for each role. Statistically, three months is a good amount of time to get a sense of whether or not someone is a good fit for the role.

Create a cadence for checking in on new hires to see how they’re doing and if they’re finding success. A good rhythm for employee checkups is weekly one-on-ones for 30mins to an hour depending on the number of things to be discussed. The main KPI to rely on for these conversations is the goals you set up for a specific set of time and the individual KPIs that are a part of that.

Aside from asking how they’re doing at work, what their roadblocks are, and other work updates, check-in on their physical, emotional, and mental health in your 1:1s.

 

6) Find creative ways to integrate company culture into the onboarding process

One thing that managers have to consider when onboarding new hires during a time where everyone is distributed is how to integrate company culture in the onboarding process. It’s important because culture is one of the things that candidates consider when joining a company. And it’s hard to demonstrate the dynamics of your company’s work environment when there is zero physical interaction. Here are some ideas:

Break down normally long meetings into smaller chunks to allow more exposure for the new hires with the rest of the team.
Plan virtual team activities where new hires can be as involved as everyone else. Getting the team together to get to know each other is the point of these things. So even if it’s just a zoom happy hour where everybody answers questions about the company and gets to know the new hire, that’s great too.
Facilitate connections by having new hires shadow members of the team. Designate team members to explain or show specific tasks to them.

 

7) Conduct an employee survey post-onboarding to determine how the process can be improved

There are free resources online that you can use to build your employee survey. Make sure they’re anonymous to encourage honesty from your new hires. Animosity obviously won’t work if you’re only onboarding one or two employees. But if they’re in a class, you’ll have better chances of getting more honest feedback from them.

Final words

Hiring and onboarding processes have been forced to evolve over the past few months as companies adapt to operating remotely. There are some adjustments when it comes to the logistics of things but the general goal is to help new hires transition easily and smoothly. Working from home is a challenge for everyone, but it’s even more daunting as a new employee. Try to make this experience better for them in any way possible.

James Meincke

Director of Marketing @ CloserIQ. Previously Recruiter @ ManpowerGroup & Freelance Social Media Strategist. University of Wisconsin Journalism & Strategic Communication Grad.