Having an effective onboarding process is key to integrating new starters into your business, and it contributes to their success in the new role.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the new focus on homeworking, many employees are starting their jobs remotely, meaning that the traditional onboarding process within the workplace cannot be completed.

We outline below the unique requirements and challenges involved as well as our top tips for remote onboarding.

What is onboarding?

Onboarding is the process through which a new starter settles into the business during their first weeks or months of employment.

This allows the individual to get to know the work culture and their colleagues and understand the nature of their role and how this fits in with the rest of the business.

Onboarding typically consists of both formal and informal elements.

Formal aspects of onboarding may include organised training sessions and workshops, whereas informal onboarding often involves things like shadowing other team members and getting advice from colleagues.

The importance of onboarding is not to be underestimated, as it significantly impacts employee retention and job satisfaction.

An effective onboarding process will help the individual grasp the requirements of their new role to perform to the best of their ability.

It will also integrate them into the team to work effectively with colleagues and fit within the business culture.

Most businesses will already have their own traditional onboarding process, which involves showing new staff around the workplace, explaining the key processes and principles, and answering any questions they may have.

How does remote onboarding differ?

The traditional onboarding process needs to be revised when taking on employees remotely as a different approach is required.

You may need to adapt your usual process by holding any training sessions online using platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and arranging video calls to introduce the new member to the rest of the team.

Remote onboarding presents unique challenges as it can be challenging to introduce a new starter to the rest of the team and show them the ropes virtually.

The greatest difficulty is getting across the culture of the business and making personal connections without working together in the same space.

However, with time and practice, you will be able to adapt current approaches to the needs of remote onboarding so that new staff are effectively integrated into the business.   

Top tips for remote onboarding

Here are our top tips on how to get the most out of remote onboarding:

Make sure you are prepared

Firstly, you should ensure that the new employee has all the equipment they need to perform their role before they start.

If you provide employees with laptops or computers, you should deliver these and any other equipment, such as a mouse, keyboard, and headset, a few days before the start date, so that everything can be set up in advance.

It is also advisable to install any software or programmes the company uses onto the device before giving it to the employee so that it is ready to go and providing the details of IT support in case there are any problems.

This will allow the employee to focus on the scheduled tasks for their first day, rather than wasting time trying to get technology to work.

We also advise testing any virtual platforms you plan to use to resolve any technical difficulties and ensure the onboarding process runs smoothly.

Communication is key 

A key aspect of the onboarding process is open communication between the new starter and other employees.

In the workplace, new employees will be shown around, and there will always be someone on hand to help.

This is not possible when an employee joins a business remotely, so managers must take a more proactive approach.

It is easy for a remote worker to feel overwhelmed and isolated when they first start, so their manager must provide them with access to support and maintains regular communication, for example, checking in every few days.

Provide support 

It is now more important than ever to support employees’ mental wellbeing.

Starting a new job is often stressful, and starting work remotely can place extra pressure upon employees, especially if they feel isolated and don’t know how to get help.

Before a remote employee starts, you should provide them with resources and make sure they know how to obtain support whenever they need it, to not suffer alone.

You can also help remote employees by clearly setting out your expectations for the role in terms of hours of work and deadlines.

We advise taking a flexible approach with remote employees and communicating with them to work out the best working arrangements for both of you.

All employees are different, so taking their preferences into account will support their wellbeing and improve their performance by allowing them to work in a way that they find most productive.

Facilitate socialising amongst remote employees

The social side of onboarding is just as important as the more formal aspects, as this is what makes the new starter feel part of the team.

When a new employee joins the workplace, they will naturally socialise with colleagues from the moment they meet without any need for management involvement.

However, there is not the same opportunity for such personal connections to be made when an employee joins the business remotely, so social interactions must be formally arranged.

For example, when a remote employee starts, you might decide to set up a team video call so that everyone can be introduced.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.