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Remote onboarding – best practices for your team

Remote onboarding – best practices for your team

Remote onboarding may be the new norm, but conveying all of what you used to do in person through a screen can still be challenging. At Charlie, we do hybrid working since 2020, and that’s why we’d like to share how we do remote onboarding and what we learned from it.

What is remote onboarding?

Remote onboarding is when new workers start their role from another location than the office – onboarding is a process used within their first weeks to get them familiar with their job, the company’s policies and ways of working so they’re off to a great start. All of it is done online and through video or phone calls.

The concept has become increasingly popular in the last few years, and it’s essential to make sure your remote employees can efficiently and easily settle into their roles.

Many companies now choose to either have no office at all or an office that team members can use at their leisure, making a great remote onboarding process essential.

What should your remote onboarding process include?

Having a clear plan in place when welcoming new hires to your company is crucial – here's a list of what you should include in it:

  • Getting the right equipment and tools to set new hires up for success
  • Completing paperwork and signing contracts online and on time
  • Sending a welcome email to your new employee
  • Preparing an onboarding checklist for each person involved in the onboarding process: line manager, new employee, operations, etc. (don't forget about an offboarding checklist either when they leave)
  • Ordering laptop and equipment to their house to make sure it arrives on time (perhaps get in touch with them to double check if they need other equipment)
  • Creating a company email address, logins and access to any software or platform they need to use
  • Giving new employees a clear understanding of what business output is expected of them despite not being in the office
  • Making new team members feel part of the team by sharing the same company values and creating connections

Why is remote onboarding crucial for your small business or startup?

Remote onboarding (and onboarding itself) is one of the most crucial aspects of your employer's strategy for retention and attracting new hires. That’s why you should carefully craft your remote onboarding process and review it regularly as your company grows.

At Charlie, we’ve refined every onboarding step of our remote onboarding process over and over, gathering feedback from new starters as well as leavers to build a truly effective experience.

But first, let’s see why remote onboarding matters and what we learned about its importance:

  • It makes team members feel valued and confident they’ve made the right decision by choosing to work for your company
  • It sparks engagement by getting your team inspired by the work they do, why they do it and who they do it with
  • It optimises productivity and performance with clear expectations to progress and tackle challenges when they arise

4 best practices for remote onboarding

1.Give new hires a proper welcome

Since your new hire is not sitting right next to you, it’ll be harder to connect with them. You won’t get the opportunity to go for lunch or have coffee, so you’ll have to think of alternatives.

It’s not because they’re starting online that you’re going to ignore them, so first things first, book a video-call welcome chat in their calendar first thing in the morning (perhaps give them a nudge so they know it’s coming).

Once you’ve made sure their tools are up and running, encourage them to post a message on a Slack channel (or send an email) so the rest of the team knows who they are. You’ll, of course, make sure you introduce them during one of the company-wide meetings so everyone has a chance to say hello.

That’s also why you should think about putting together a buddy program – assign a team member to look after your new hire.

The buddy’s role will be simple:

  • Regularly checking in with the new hire during a casual chat
  • Answer any questions that are not directly related to their day-to-day work
  • Be their point of reference and introduce them to other members of the team

It’ll create a warm environment for the new hire and allow them to rely on a familiar face before making their own connections.

Finally, and because getting to know everyone remotely can feel a bit daunting, redirect them to your HR software’s directory – this will be a good way to put a name on every face and understand who does what for more context.

Software directory for remote onboarding

2. Ensure line managers have thorough training lined up

Line managers will be the first point of contact for the new hire, and that’s why they should be organised when it comes to welcoming them.

However, it can be difficult for some managers to create an onboarding plan whilst having a heavy workload, especially if they’ve never done it before. That’s where you should chip in for support.

Perhaps create some guidance around what will be useful and what seems like a reasonable plan for the first few weeks of the new hire, and review it with the line manager if necessary,

Here are a few guidelines I usually share with them:

  • Book one-on-ones regularly, especially in the first month. For example, one every day for the first week and twice per week in the following
  • Talk the new hire through their role description so they’re familiar with it and you make sure there’s no confusion as to what’s expected of them
  • Slowly introduce KPIs and company objectives so they can later participate
  • Complete a “manual of me, share it with new hires and ask them to complete one so you can both productively work better together even if remotely
  • Get them involved in day-to-day work, ask them to shadow team members and put them in charge of small projects
  • Have a clear onboarding checklist template at the ready so they understand the different touchpoints of the process
  • Give expectations and feedback when it comes to probation and address issues straight away – a new hire should always know whether they’re doing well or if they need to adjust their performance

Maybe you can even schedule extra meetings with line managers through the probation period to talk them through any doubts they’re having and ensure it’s going well.

3. Promote autonomy and optimise performance in the long run

You can share all the written documentation you have, but it won’t always do the trick and you’ll need more than this to retain and engage your new hires.

One thing I’d encourage you to do is to always keep your finger on the pulse and ask them for feedback at different times to understand more about their onboarding experience.

Another aspect you might want to think about is to avoid giving the impression you’re micro-managing them – most people choose remote jobs because they like the sense of autonomy it gives, so give them plenty of space and let them take it at their own pace.

Here’s how you can concretely do this:

  • Investing in the right tools to collect information, store documents and process onboarding swiftly (maybe have an employee details form, for example)
  • Giving new hires access to one platform where they can look for information by themselves without having to ask for help (think HR policies, processes and information about the company)
  • Schedule regular check-ins where they’ll get the opportunity to speak to you without your presence becoming overbearing

4. Use HR technology to deal with remote onboarding

This may not be an aspect of your remote onboarding that you think about straight away, but it will be difficult to do without.

HR software is designed to help you get rid of most of your admin and ensure your team member gets the remote onboarding experience they deserve.

Here's what you should be looking for when trying to find the right onboarding software for your team:

  • Self-service onboarding where team members can upload their own documents and fill in their information without going through you
  • Company handbook and directory so they never have to look for information elsewhere
  • Working location so everyone knows where they're working from
  • Integrations with other HR tools that remove all your copy-pasting efforts and provide a seamless experience

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