If you think new employee onboarding is tricky, you’re right! Not only do you have to coordinate various people, schedules, and multiple moving parts, but you’re expected to make the whole thing feel effortless and seamless for new hires.
This is hard enough to do when everyone is based in the same office, but when you have a distributed company, it becomes even more complicated.
Whether you’re onboarding employees at a satellite office, opening a new branch from afar, or bringing at-home workers onto the team, it’s important to offer a warm welcome, even if you can’t do it in person. First impressions are a big deal—some studies find that 90% of employees make the decision to stick around long-term within the first six months of employment.
“Just like you are able to prep for and welcome your in-office new hires, it should be the same with your remote employees. Be sure to have a timeline and checklist to get things done when they need to be done,” says Patty Santos, a People Operations pro who has set up onboarding programs at multiple startups.
Here are some tips and tools to make sure that your remote employees receive a thoughtful onboarding experience:
Services like DocuSign and HelloSign are legitimately and legally binding, which makes them lifesavers for remotely signing paperwork.
In some states, like California, it is required to physically verify the original documents to complete Form I-9. Luckily, there are plenty of on-demand services. Don’t be afraid to authorize and deploy a notary
Having new hires receive equipment like laptops and phones a little early is okay, but don’t ever let it show up late.
Keep an eye on weekend and holiday non-delivery days and take advantage of premium shipping services with guaranteed transit and delivery times.
FedEx is great for reliability. It can pick up same-day requests and guarantee transit and delivery times, inclusive of date and even time.
If you’re super trusting, you can simply provide your company’s Amazon account information and ask new hires to order their own preferred equipment before their official start date.
Put together a care package that includes what you’d regularly give a new hire, and maybe something extra to show that even if they are out-of-office, they are very much a part of the team. Review the previous section for shipping & timing tips.
Involvement and face time with the team
Since remote employees aren’t in the office day after day, they are missing the crucial aspect of a team’s culture—being there!
It’s important to capitalize on opportunities for them to interact with their teammates. Always be thinking about innovative ways you can facilitate this.
Make it your goal to over-communicate. Given the nature of remote situations, anything less could quickly and easily lead to a sense of isolation.
Team meetings / all-hands
Make sure remote employees understand that they are expected to attend these meetings just as any other employee would.
Be sure to have a video conference platform set up for them to easily access and be a part of the meeting. For something simple and direct, try appear.in. It’s super easy to set up, browser and mobile-friendly, and you can create and own your personalized URL for free!
When setting up the laptop or camera, try to set it at eye-level (rather than above participants) so remote employees feel like they’re being included and it’s easier for them to join the conversation.
If you regularly hold these for your in-office employees, it shouldn’t be any different for your remote employees. “The beauty of today’s technology is that it’s fully mobile and accessible,” says Patty. “There’s no distance a phone call or video chat can’t cover!"
Outings and get-togethers
It may not always be realistic, but you should try to invite remote employees out with the team as much as possible. Extend invitations to company-sponsored team events or maybe just to casual gatherings when they’re available. Even just sending the invitation is a big gesture and will make them feel more a part of the team.
If you know that remote employees will be visiting the office, do your best to schedule some type of social outing, even if it’s just a simple group lunch or casual happy hour. Make their presence feel special!
Out of sight, still top of mind
Make a conscious effort to show remote employees they are still considered part of the team even if they are out of the office.
Reach out to them personally if there is anything going on directly related to them or relevant to their role, even if it’s just to ask their opinion or give them a heads up that X, Y, and Z will be happening.
Make it clear that your virtual door is always open and you welcome contact from them at any time.
When onboarding remote employees, you face all the same challenges as when onboarding new hires on-site, plus a few more. For a successful remote employee onboarding program, Patty recommends prioritizing inclusion and uniformity. Aim to make everyone feel like they’re a part of the team and that you’re doing everything you can to treat them the same way you treat all the other employees. It won’t always be easy, but you’ll see the rewards when your remote team is full of happy, engaged people.
Want to create an unforgettable experience for all your new hires? Be sure to download the New Hire Onboarding Guide for practical tips, advice from industry leaders, and templates you can use right away.
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