For most companies, onboarding new hires in the office is a familiar process—you greet them with a welcome package, walk them to their desk, and take them out to lunch with the team.
Onboarding remote workers is different—and in some ways, more challenging. Confined to screens and separated by distance and time zones, they can have a harder time connecting with coworkers, grasping corporate culture, and learning your systems. Here are some tips for helping your remote employees succeed.
Have a plan for the employee’s first day; doing so will make a big difference. Set up a one-on-one call to greet them. It will give you a chance to explain what to expect and answer any questions. Arrange for the new hire to receive any necessary paperwork to log in to company portals, get paid, and more broadly, do their job. Schedule time for them to meet with IT to set up their tech. Finally, mail them a swag package; a personal touch is essential to making someone feel welcome.
Meet and greet
Go beyond the standard announcement email. Schedule a virtual meeting—with the entire company or specific teams—to introduce new employees and help them get to know who’s who. Before that meeting, ask them for a brief bio so you can accurately introduce them. After the meeting, encourage existing team members to email, message, or call their new colleague to say hello.
Give new hires a list of contacts they can reach out to with questions, including operations, IT, HR, and anyone else they might rely on. They’ll feel more at ease knowing who to turn to when questions inevitably come up.
If you don’t already have one, create a mentorship program that matches new remote employees with colleagues who can help them with everything from corporate culture to expense reports. It’s a great way to encourage community. Plus, new hires will feel like their coworkers are looking out for them.
The virtual watercooler
Social channels like Slack® or Microsoft Teams® are the heartbeat of remote work. Be sure new hires are not only set up on the platform you use but also know how it functions. If you don’t already have channels for nonwork topics—like movies or pets—create them. It’s a great way to add fun and levity to the workday.
Re-create the kind of impromptu social connections people have in offices by hosting regular virtual coffee meetings. They can be mandatory or voluntary, and they can be prearranged (like matching a junior employee with a senior leader) or casual (some video conferencing apps let you randomly pair attendees in breakout rooms). Either way, these meetings can introduce new employees to company culture and bring teams together.
Look for creative ways to celebrate new hires, birthdays, and work milestones, among other events. Keep it simple and personal. Ship party hats and baked goods to your team to celebrate a new team member joining the company. If you’re looking to make more of an impact, consider a virtual game night or monthly icebreaker games.
When the pandemic is over, encourage remote employees living in the same cities and towns to meet new employees for coffee or lunch. It’s a great way to help them feel welcome. Anything you can do to bring remote workers together will make a difference.
Even if you follow all of the suggestions above, new hires will inevitably have questions, forget colleagues’ names, or stumble over who to contact about certain topics. So think about onboarding as an ongoing process: HR managers and team leaders should touch base with new employees weeks, even months later, whether by email, instant message, or video chat. It goes a long way toward making them feel seen and heard at work, and can help leaders address minor issues in a timely fashion.