If you hired someone just before social distancing measures came into effect—or if you’re actively hiring during the COVID-19 lockdown—your onboarding process is likely going to happen remotely, over video calls and instant messages and email threads.
Related reading: 6 Recommended Approaches for Remote Hiring
For a new employee, learning the ropes (memorizing names, reading up on company policies and knowing where everything “lives”) can be stressful enough without the added pressure of having to do it all remotely while working from home.
Read on for our best advice on onboarding remote employees, including a six-point onboarding checklist and which questions you should ask yourself and your new hire.
1. Handle the logistics
A week before your new hire starts, get in touch with your Payroll department to make sure they have everything they need to pay your new employee on time.
Contact your IT department to have them set up your new remote hire with equipment to work from home and any user logins.
Put together a list of the tools your team typically uses: your email client, instant messaging software and project tracking tools. If applicable, also include role-related software or spreadsheets and any associated login information.
Email this list to your new hire, along with any other instructions from Payroll or IT such as updating PAD information or temporary passwords. Ask your employee if they’re unfamiliar with any of the software you use and provide guidance/how-tos as needed.
2. Introduce your new hire
Ask your new hire for a short bio that includes not just professional details but also hobbies, some fun facts (favourite meal, last book they read, what kind of music they like) and photos if possible. Send it on to your team, and other relevant people in the organization, to help them “meet” the new person ahead of time.
Since a new hire might find it awkward to introduce themselves, especially by email or instant message, ask everyone on your team to reach out individually on the first day.
Give your team guidance around projects as well. Do they need to go to you (or the team manager) with project requests for the new hire or can they reach out directly? Having clarity around assigning projects can help keep your new remote employee from feeling overwhelmed or struggling to prioritize tasks.
3. Assign a work buddy
Another way to help your new remote hire feel a part of your digital workplace is to assign them a work buddy, meaning someone on the team that can help answer generic questions or connect them with other people or resources to help them find answers.
New employees might hesitate to interrupt (or “bother”) their manager with questions, especially when everyone is working remotely and not physically near each other. By assigning them a peer as a work buddy, you can help reduce the chance of your new remote hire feeling lost or without support.
4. Be clear on communication
Clear goals and transparency are the most effective ways to keep your remote team engaged and productive.
Related reading: 10 Tips For Staying Productive While Working From Home
When onboarding remote employees, make sure they understand how you and your team communicate. For example, how often should they check in? How does everyone report on their progress for the week? Do you use email or instant messaging mostly? How often do you schedule team meetings? What about 1:1s?
Share everything you can think of—regardless if you think something’s self-explanatory or obvious—to help your new employee find their footing and focus on their work rather than worry about making any professional faux pas.
5. Host a virtual team lunch
Even if you plan on having a team lunch together once everyone’s back in the office, it’s worth doing a virtual team lunch in the first week to help your new hire put names to faces.
Have your team join a Google Meet or Zoom meeting over lunch. Everyone can take turns introducing themselves, their role and what they prepared for lunch that day. Seed the conversation as needed with questions about weekend plans, any new shows to binge, and so on.
Or if your budget allows, order lunch for everyone from your team’s favourite restaurant and have it delivered to each employee’s home through a contactless meal delivery service such as SkipTheDishes. You can also consider sending them a new hire welcome kit, with lots of fun ideas from Promotion Resource Group.
6. Ask your new hire for feedback
Effective onboarding ends with feedback. Ask your new remote employee for feedback at the end of their first week, and again at the end of their first month.
You can ask for open-ended feedback or ask specific questions about your onboarding program and other important aspects such as: How clear are the company’s values to your new hire? Do they understand the company goals for the year? How do they feel about the support they’ve received so far? Do they have a good feel for your company culture yet?
Emphasize you’re looking for honesty and constructive criticism to help you tweak and streamline your remote onboarding process for future hires.
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