How to Ensure Successful Onboarding of Staff who are Working Remotely

The recent Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many businesses work, with most office workers being encouraged to work from home. According the Office for National Statistics, 86% of those who were working from home in some capacity, did so as a result of the COVID-19. Even when the pandemic comes to an end, many businesses will either be forced or choose to operate on a remote or semi-remote basis. For many, the pandemic has been an eye-opener to how business owners can utilise the skills of people from across the globe. In many cases, there is no real need to work together in an office. The same work can be completed efficiently with remote workers.

The obstacle in all of this is the recruitment and on-boarding of new recruits. How do you onboard new staff without ever meeting them face to face? Is it even possible?

It is possible, but you need to be prepared to alter your current onboarding strategy to adapt it to the remote worker while ensuring they feel welcome and part of the community. These are some tips for the successful onboarding of remote staff.

Develop a Plan

Starting a new job is nerve-wracking enough, but the thought of working remotely can make it feel even more stressful. To ensure new recruits are not worrying about the impending start date, make sure you develop a plan and send it to them at least a few days before they start. The onboarding process should not last a day or two, it should last at least two weeks. This gives the recruit ample time for training, learning the ropes, and settling in. The plan should include what they will do each day, including training, meetings, etc. Do not make the first two weeks heavy for the new start, go easy on them. There is a lot of information to absorb, and you want to ensure they return the next day!

Set Expectations

This is one of the difficulties of remote working and the aspect that business owners find the most difficult to manage. How do you set expectations when you are not in the office together? Consider the following:

What time should their shift commence? If it’s 9 am, for instance, do you want them to be logged in and ready for 9 or do you expect them to start logging in at 9? It may seem pedantic, but it is important to cover your exact requirements with any new starts.

When is the lunch break? Advise them how long they have for lunch and when they should take it. If you don’t have a set time, inform them of this. Do they need to let anyone before logging off or can they suit themselves?

Do you have targets? If you have set targets you expect them to achieve each day, let them know what these are.

Can they work flexibly? What is the general culture of the company? Do you expect them to work rigid hours or are you flexible if the targets are achieved? Some businesses require workers to be at their desk and available during normal working hours, while others don’t care if you work at 4 in the morning if you do the work! It may even be beneficial if you are a global company.

What is the culture? As you are not working face to face, it can be difficult for new starts to get a feel for the culture, so it’s worth giving them some information on this. For example, it may be quite a chatty, relaxed environment or it could be a head down, get on with the work culture. They must understand how they are expected to operate within the business.

Provide Equipment

You should always ensure that the new start has all the necessary equipment. Don’t just assume they have broadband or a laptop. If you are hiring a permanent employee, you should always supply them with a computer/laptop, etc. Not only is this better for the security of files and documents, but they shouldn’t have to use their equipment for work purposes. Also, consider any stationery they may need and a comfortable chair.

Regular Communication

Communication is the most important part of the onboarding process. You don’t have the luxury of speaking to the recruit whenever you want, and it can be easy for people to feel isolated when they are working alone. Make sure you speak to the new start daily during the onboarding process and check that they are getting on well. Find out if they have any questions or concerns. It is a good idea to set up instant messaging or a forum so that employees can get help with any questions they have, quickly and easily. Making your new start feel welcome and part of the company from day one is imperative for successful onboarding.

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