How to successfully onboard new starters – remotely

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As hybrid working rapidly becomes the norm, here’s how to make sure new additions to your team start strong

It seems a long time since businesses believed that the only way to get anything done was to have all their staff in the same building. In fact, the benefits of the hybrid approach are now so clear that global firms such as Google, HSBC, Ford and Citigroup have committed to it for the long term.

In most cases, hybrid workers will spend some time at home, some at the corporate HQ and some at a third location, such as a local flexible workspace. This model offers advantages for people, profitability and the planet, helping employees to maintain work-life balance, reducing business expenditure on real estate and cutting the carbon footprint of the workforce.

In this new world of work, companies are also empowered to hire the right candidate for a role – not necessarily the one who lives within an easy commute of the office. This broadening of the potential talent pool is a major win for business leaders and job hunters alike.

However, as many firms found during the pandemic, hiring and then onboarding a remote team member can be challenging. Here, we share five tips for successfully integrating new starters.

1. Always be prepared

If you want a new remote staff member to hit the ground running, preparing properly for their start date is key. Ensure that any equipment they need is delivered well before their first day, and get them set up with all the software, passwords and security information they’ll need.

Don’t forget that, for a remote employee, waiting for access to programmes such as Slack or Microsoft Teams will leave them temporarily isolated. On the other hand, having their account ready and waiting on day one will allow them to begin connecting with colleagues immediately.

Putting together a starter pack or an online information portal for new employees is a good idea. According to recruitment expert Nigel Wright Group, a resource like this offers “a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all onboarding administration, communication and induction materials, making remote workers’ early days in the business much easier.”

Sending a welcome gift to your new starter is a great idea, too, but put some thought into it. No one wants unnecessary branded merchandise they will put straight into the bin. Delivering your package with a hand-written note from the team leader or even the company CEO is a smart way to make someone feel valued from the very beginning.

2. Avoid information overload

Onboarding a remote worker is always going to involve virtual meetings, but packing too many into your new starter’s first few days will overwhelm them.

Create a plan that sets out what meetings are necessary and spread them over a week or two, then help your new starter make the most of these sessions by providing pre-read materials and a clear agenda for each meeting.

Weave in virtual ‘ice-breaker’ time such as group lunch breaks, too, so that new hires can start building informal relationships with their teammates.

3. Set up a mentoring system

Creating a mentoring system where long-serving members of staff support recent hires is another way to enhance the onboarding experience.

Mentors can offer virtual help with understanding company procedures and culture, making themselves available via IM software, email and video calls.

If they’re office based, mentors can also act as key contacts for your new remote employees when they come to company HQ, welcoming them on their first day and showing them around.

It can also be hugely beneficial to link up a new starter with other remote staff who are based nearby. Setting up small groups to work at the same flexspace, for example, is a brilliant way to build face-to-face time into the onboarding process – and potentially establish friendships – without the need for arduous commutes.

4. Create a clear plan

Providing a new remote employee with a set of well-defined tasks to focus on will empower them, providing a sense of purpose and allowing them to feel that they’re impactful.

Ideally, these tasks should involve collaboration across the business. Ensuring that new hires are involved in multi-disciplinary projects will help familiarise them with more colleagues, and is particularly important for remote workers who won’t regularly cross paths with people from different departments.

Providing your new starter with frequent feedback and giving them the opportunity to talk about how they’re settling in is also important in the early days – especially if your firm requires staff to pass a probationary period before their position becomes permanent.

5. Embed company culture

Michael D Watkins, Professor of Leadership and Organisational Change at the International Institute for Management Development, argues that the first 90 days of any change are critical. During their first quarter with a company, he says, people form impressions of their colleagues and organisation “based on limited information – and those opinions are sticky”.

In other words, if you want your new starter to feel connected to their teammates and your company’s wider culture, providing opportunities for engagement in the first few months is crucial.

While a trip to the corporate HQ may be possible, for workers who’ll primarily be based at home or at local flexspaces this will need to be augmented with virtual interactions. Aleksandra Sulimko, HR expert and Director at TheSoul Publishing, admits that: bringing a new joiner into a company culture is challenging if they often work remotely. However, she believes creative use of technology can make all the difference.

“After onboarding, new employees should understand the elements that make a company and its culture special,” Sulimko says. To meet this need, she continues, “We have our creative team develop onboarding videos for all new hires. This element of onboarding feels natural – even in a remote world – and is more effective than an office tour.”

While not all firms can boast in-house film departments, asking members of a new hire’s team to provide a one-minute video introduction to themselves is a low effort, high reward way to provide a personalised welcome to the business.

Unique content like this – however rough around the edges – adds colour and character to the onboarding experience.

Ultimately, it’s this focus on the personal that will make the most difference to a new hire who’ll be working remotely. Taking the time to connect with them and supporting them to build bonds with others will make the onboarding process enjoyable as well as effective.

With office solutions in thousands of neighbourhoods all over the world, find out how Regus can help your employees connect with one another outside the corporate HQ