Onboarding employees plays a major part in employee retention, satisfaction, and engagement. New hires who understand their tasks, have the tools to get them done, and communicate openly with team members tend to make happier, more productive workers.
And that’s not limited to in-office staff, either. Just because a new employee works remotely doesn’t mean that you can’t make their first few weeks at your company welcoming and inclusive. However, you may need to make some adjustments to your existing onboarding process to make it relevant to employees who work from home or farther afield.
How to Onboard Remote Employees
There are many different ways to make remote employees feel like part of your team, even from across the country or halfway around the world. Here are some of the ways you can make sure your new remote hires feel confident, included, and prepared.
1. Make an Onboarding Checklist
Before you do anything else, make an onboarding checklist. This should cover everything from the material you need to send to your new hire to each meeting that needs to be arranged.
Have a solid idea of what your new hire’s first day, week, and month will look like, and provide them with everything they will need to be successful from day one. Although this will involve a lot of planning, it’s part of a larger retention strategy that will help your employees to feel more satisfied and supported in their roles.
Using a checklist will ensure that you don’t miss any important onboarding steps and that you make a good impression on your new employee.
2. Get Input From Other Remote Hires
If you manage other remote workers, ask for input about their onboarding experience with your company. They may have useful suggestions about how to better communicate with remote workers, organize workflow, or provide training.
Your onboarding strategy should continuously evolve with each new hire, so make sure you keep it flexible and stay open to any advice or tips that your employees have to offer. This is especially useful to startups that are just beginning to develop a hiring process or onboarding strategy.
3. Handle Hardware in Advance
If you provide hardware to your employees, such as a laptop, keyboard, mouse, or headset, make sure you send it to your new employee before their first day. After all, if they don’t have it in advance, how are they supposed to do any work?
Whenever possible, ask whether your new hire prefers Mac or PC. Becoming familiar with a new operating system can be time-consuming and frustrating, and may cause your new employee to make mistakes or take longer to complete a task.
If the position requires specific hardware — like a laptop with a high-resolution screen for a design position or extra processing power for someone working with videos — take that into consideration.
If you can, let your new hire be part of the conversation about which hardware they’ll be using, especially if the quality of the laptop or equipment will affect their role. If you’re bringing on someone like a programmer, designer, or video specialist, ask them what brand and model of computer they would prefer to use.
You also have the option of giving new employees a hardware budget and allowing them to choose and purchase their own laptop or computer. Just make sure you make it clear that the equipment they buy with your budget has to be returned to the company or paid for when their employment ends.
If you offer other home office furniture or supplies like a desk and chair, or even a home office spending budget, make sure that your new hire is aware of it. Be clear about any limitations or rules so that they know what’s OK and what isn’t.
4. Set Up Software
Every remote employee needs some kind of software to do their job. While some will only need the basics, others will need more specific programs. You can divide software and applications into two categories: company-based and role-based. Company-based software is made up of programs and applications your entire team uses to communicate and plan projects. Role-based software consists of applications and programs specific to your new employee’s position.
Company-based software can include programs like:
- Communications and messaging tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams
- Project management applications like Asana and Trello
- Video meeting applications like Zoom and Google Meet
- Time tracking software like Harvest
- Microsoft Office
- Google Drive
- Antivirus/security subscriptions
Role-specific software depends on the role your new remote worker is in but can include apps and programs like:
Don’t forget to include login usernames and passwords when onboarding remote employees. It can help to create a company email address for your new hire and have all account-related emails, documentation, and instructions sent there to keep them all in one place.
Make sure to set up subscriptions and create new accounts before your remote employee’s start date. No one wants to be held up by waiting for account confirmation emails and going back and forth with a manager about accessing onboarding documents or basic software. Set yourself and your employee up for success by having everything prepared in advance.
5. Update Remote Onboarding Documentation
Onboarding documents help new employees to learn about your company’s unique processes and preferences. They also act as a resource that new hires can refer to when they are unsure of how to do something or want to confirm a standard procedure.
Remote employees don’t have the benefit of learning from their coworkers in the same way that in-office employees do. While it’s easy to ask a peer to explain how to enter your hours when they’re in the cubicle next to you, it’s harder for a remote employee because they don’t have the same initial face-to-face connections with team members. That’s why detailed, extensive documentation can be so helpful in a remote team.
Create clear, easy-to-read instructions for everyday tasks and processes, and update them every time you hire a new employee. Cover everything from setting up communications applications and work-related accounts to taking time off and calling in sick. New jobs often come with a lot of uncertainty, especially when you can’t ask team members questions face to face, so providing detailed instructions can help to reassure remote workers and give them clarity about processes and procedures unique to your team.
6. Personalize and Prepare HR Documents
Human resources documents have to be filled out by every employee you add to your company, whether it’s a virtual office or physical location. Make sure to prepare the following documents, if relevant, before your new remote hire’s first day:
- Employee handbook
- Employment contract
- Payment and direct deposit information
- Nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement
- Health insurance and other benefit details
- Retirement contribution setup forms and employer match details
- Stock and share plan details
Review HR documents together in a video meeting to make sure that your new employee understands which ones are optional to complete, which are required, and when you’d like them to be completed by.
7. Assign a Work Buddy to Onboard Remote Employees
Work buddies are great for in-office and remote employees alike. Ideally, you want to choose someone who is in a similar role to
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