A young man having an onboarding video call in his home office
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1 in 4 professional jobs are expected to be remote this year. Here's how to onboard employees from afar

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August 12, 2022
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1 in 4 professional jobs are expected to be remote this year. Here's how to onboard employees from afar

Starting any new job can be intimidating, but starting remotely comes with unique challenges. Without a shared office location, you can't stop by someone's desk to ask for help or get to know the office culture. There's a new team that is already busy with projects and deadlines, a new company culture, and established work procedures to learn without ever meeting your colleagues in person.

There are actions that managers can take to ensure their new remote hires feel like a valued part of the team from day one. It's important to think of onboarding as a journey that includes the whole team rather than an HR exercise to be dealt with swiftly so the "real work" can begin. In a job-seekers' market, employee retention is paramount. It costs 0.5 to 2 times an employee's annual salary to recruit and onboard a replacement, and employee retention starts with an outstanding onboarding process.

With a quarter of professional jobs projected to be remote by the end of 2022, it's clear that the remote and hybrid office is here to stay. Tovuti LMS compiled a list of tips on how companies can support new hires onboarding remotely.

A new employee installing a monitor into their home office
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Prepare technical needs ahead of start date

It's important that a new employee has a good first impression of the company. In a remote setting, that means all equipment must work seamlessly from day one. Sending any laptops, monitors, and related accessories ahead of time will mitigate a first day full of tech problems or worse: feeling isolated with no equipment to do the job.

It's also a good idea to send a hard copy welcome packet with a first-day checklist, reading materials (in case there are tech issues), and the names and contact information for key colleagues on their team—plus those in HR, IT, and leadership roles. Keeping in touch between recruitment and onboarding can help new recruits feel part of the team, excited for their new role, and know who to contact if they have tech issues on their first day.

A new employee meeting virtually with her assigned mentor
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Set up a buddy system

Having a friend at work improves employee engagement and may also help with employee retention. Assigning a buddy to each new recruit can help reduce anxiety and teach new team members about company culture, workflow, key people and their roles, and the specifics about their responsibilities. A good buddy will ensure a good first impression of the company, one where employers care about their employees and address their concerns.

Having a formal buddy system with scheduled check-ins for the first few weeks or months can help a new recruit feel connected in the sometimes isolating remote workplace. Asking the new hire to evaluate the buddy system at the end of the formal mentoring cycle will help it evolve to meet the needs of future new recruits.

An employee eating lunch during a virtual welcome lunch
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Host a welcome lunch

Even—or perhaps especially—if your team is fully remote and scattered across time zones, it's important to schedule time for employees to get to know one another in a casual setting. Offering new recruits a team lunch delivery paid for by the company can help set the tone and give everyone some unstructured time to chat about interests, hobbies, or family. It will lighten the first day, which can feel overwhelming and lonely for new fully remote employees.

Managers who are concerned that natural conversation will fizzle can prepare conversation starters in advance to guide the team toward more substantive topics than sports or television. Who knows, you may like the team-building ritual so much that it becomes a mainstay after the newbies have settled in.

An employee reviewing onboarding documentation
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Share documentation that can recap trainings

Trainings should be more than a slide deck listing a company's mission and vision. Gallup's onboarding perspective paper notes that trainings should express an organization's culture in an immersive experience that demonstrates values in actions rather than simply listing them. To organize a company's "knowledgement management" assets—all the documentation and information about processes, trainings, frequently asked questions, employee resources, and more—many businesses have centralized locations in the form of an intranet site or an online learning management system. One centralized location helps employees easily find and access information. It also helps managers create interactive training sessions, announce employee successes, and offer role-playing scenarios to make memorable experiences that will help onboard—and make a memorable impression—for new hires.

Documentation recapping trainings can list important takeaways while also making reference to immersive experiences that will undoubtedly be more engaging than watching a PowerPoint presentation. Using recap notes as a springboard for goal-setting can make the onboarding experience more interactive and memorable.

 

A remote worker reviewing their weekly calendar
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Don't overwhelm new hires with too many meetings

It can be tempting to overload a new hire's calendar with back-to-back trainings, meet-and-greets, and other virtual gatherings to expedite the onboarding process. While many managers see onboarding as a week- to month-long process, it takes a year or more for a new hire to fully shine. The onboarding process should offer check-ins and development opportunities throughout the first year to reduce turnover and keep new hires invested.

Spacing out meetings allows for better information retention and reduces the risk of "Zoom fatigue." Avoid the Mere Urgency Effect—completing urgent yet unimportant tasks first—by intentionally scheduling onboarding meetings over the course of weeks or months, while prioritizing what is actually urgent and giving new hires plenty of meeting-free time for deep work.

This story originally appeared on Tovuti and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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