Onboarding remote starters

There’s a lot more to starting a new job than just doing what’s in the job description. Things like the environment, cultural fit and ways of working go a long way to convincing someone to join your business. In the last few weeks, most businesses have had to transform how their employees communicate with one another to maintain business output during the pandemic and keep their culture alive. That same transformation has been made with the hiring process, the virtual recruitment process that was once reserved for international or executive hires has now been brought to the masses.  

With a good recruiter at your side, that transition from a physical to a virtual process is relatively painless and, in some cases, even more efficient. However, latest statistics from Google Trends show that perhaps that same level of support isn’t being shown to companies when introducing a new starter into the business. 

When reviewing Google searches prior to April 1st we found that, although there were multiple searches for getting help onboarding employees, there was no mention of remote workers or people working from home. Since April 1st, a few weeks into the pandemic here in the UK, we’ve seen a big spike in searches and terms related to remote or home working, indicating that businesses are in need of a little help bringing new, remote starters in. 

Welcoming your new employees in person makes it easy to gauge how they’re feeling, introduce them to the team and field any questions they may have. Providing them with the same experience remotely to help them acclimate to the social and professional expectations of their new place of work is a challenge, but not impossible. Here’s our list of remote onboarding must-haves to make things a little easier for both sides working remotely: 

1. The setup: Before your new starter’s due in the business, make sure you leave plenty of time to get the right tech delivered to them and talk them through how they expect to work. Although cost is at the forefront of most businesses minds right now, comfort needs to be taken into account too. 

If they’re due to be video conferencing regularly or using multiple windows each day, is a laptop enough? Do you need to provide them with a second screen or a separate mouse and keyboard perhaps? This needs to be mapped out in advance, not only so you can get it sorted with your IT department, but so the new starter can plan out where they’ll set up at home. This kind of kit isn’t going to work on the corner of the kitchen table, give both parties enough time to plan what they’ll need and how it needs to be setup. 

2. Welcome pack: For the first few weeks (or months), your new starter is going to be working remotely with their only glimpse of company culture through video meetings and phone calls. Creating a welcome pack can help a new starter settle in and, if it’s full of useful information, become more productive from day one. What kind of things can you include? 

  • A welcome message from the founder or CEO 
  • An insight into the company, the history, vision and mission statement 
  • Company culture and values 
  • Org structure [optional: the team structure that the starter is joining – preferably with bios] 
  • Useful information regarding business behaviour : the tools and systems the individual will need to use, how they’re used along with logins 

3. Introductions: The first few days should be all about getting your new hire embedded within the team and setting expectations from both sides. This is usually done through an induction which will take your new starter through all the tools and systems, as well as meeting colleagues and getting involved in conversations to do with upcoming projects or work. With remote workers, it’s possibly even more important to have a structured induction plan to make sure they get involved and feel a part of the team from the get-go. Running a virtual induction is the easiest way to take your physical activities online. This is easily set up as a presentation from the HR/line manager and can be done via a video conference call using a screenshare. These typically include: 

  • Overview of the role and set expectations – working hours, flexibility etc. 
  • Introduction to the business area they’re working in – depending on the role this could include market information, or that could be reserved for a specialist colleague to discuss. 
  • Introduction to their colleagues – you might run through who the new starter will be working alongside and have a pre-prepared meeting schedule for one-to-one meetings with them. 
  • An overview of the projects that the team are currently working on and which ones the new starter is expected to contribute towards. 

This gives the new starter ample opportunity to ask any questions. We’d encourage them to be involved in the usual team meetings to get a feel for the culture and social interactions ahead of the one-to-ones. Also, remember to add them to any extra communication channels or groups you may have, such as WhatsApp or Slack. 

It’s important to make sure that you’ve given your team enough information about the new starter prior to them joining. This should include an introduction to them, their role and how you foresee them integrating with the team. It’s imperative that the new starter feels like a welcome part of the team from the off.  

4. Check-in: It’s important to maintain a good level of communication with your new starter throughout their first few days and weeks. Putting in a morning and end of day catch-up can help you to remain in contact and understand how they’re getting on and how well they’re integrating with the rest of the team in addition to allowing them to ask any questions no matter how trivial. It’s also a really good way of getting feedback on your induction process, new starters bring a fresh perspective so be open to improvements. 

First impressions count – both for the new starter and the business. A good onboarding plan will clearly set out expectations and provide all the help and support to make the transition for your new hire as smooth as possible. With a few tweaks, it’s easy to make your once physical process virtual and we guarantee both the candidate and the business will benefit from it. 

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Al Vickers

18th May