The future of remote work: onboarding remote employees

17 Nov 22 | Blog

It’s your first day at a new job. You show up pressed and ironed, clutching a fresh notebook, and walk into the office – and towards your future. The next eight hours go by in a flurry of friendly faces, setting passwords, and reading handbooks – but before you know it, it’s 4pm on a Friday and you’re invited out for a pint of beer (or lime soda) to get to know the team. The next few weeks are full of introductory meetings, training sessions, maybe a free lunch out – and slowly but surely, over pizza and PowerPoint presentations, you become one of the team. Now… there’s not a lot of that you can do from your living room, sat in front of a laptop. So how do you approach hiring and onboarding new talent, while the company is working remotely?

Why having a successful onboarding process matters

They’ve got the job – and in this economy, shouldn’t that be enough? Well, no. It’s in your best interests to make sure new hires are onboarded successfully. 69% of staff will stay with you for longer if the initial stages go well – and if you draw out the process, giving room to learn and grow, that goes up to 94%. Since high turnover costs you, that’s worth remembering. Not to mention that organisations that nail onboarding boost growth by 2.5x and profit margins by 1.9x. Right now, onboarding should be even more of a priority. Whether your organisation is remote-first or reluctantly remote, you need to be better than ever at welcoming new hires.

Remote onboarding at Qlearsite: what we learnt

It’s been a difficult time for organisations across all industries. We’re thankful, and excited, to have been able to grow our team during lockdown – but it’s meant learning how to onboard people remotely, while still learning how to work from home as a team. We spoke to a couple of the talented people who’ve just joined the team, to find out what’s really important to remember when you’re onboarding remotely.

Remote Interviewing & Hiring

A good onboarding process starts before they’ve been sent an offer letter. Their opinion of your organisation starts to form during the interview process – are you considerate with your response times, are you asking too much of them during the earlier stages? It all counts. When it’s all done remotely, over video calls, there’s even more to take into account. And for some, going through the process virtually can actually be a positive.

It’s much easier interviewing remotely, you don’t have the stress and nerves on a long commute to the office, and don’t have the dreaded wait in reception waiting to be called in!

But there are restrictive aspects of video calls that can mean you don’t get a fair measure of someone – so cut prospective employees some slack. Internet issues, awkward silences, and accidental interruptions are par for the course – so don’t hold it against them.

And during this period of mass redundancies and a hyper-competitive job market, remember to give people peace of mind. We found that was a big factor in making the experience a good one:

“Being open about next steps and timelines was positive.”

Remote work

Onboarding a remote employee: the practicalities

In your offices, setting up a new starter is simple. They’re assigned a laptop or computer (you probably already have spares on site), you dig out some stationary from the supply cupboard, and IT can swing by their desk to set them up. But for remote workers, it’s more complex. Couriering essential equipment isn’t too hard, but including those little added extras might seem like too much of a faff – multiple deliveries just to drop off a notebook or branded water bottle might seem unnecessary. It may take some effort, but those touches are appreciated. Think of it like a welcome pack: we have it on good authority that anything from notebooks and pens, to a bottle of wine, can make the difference with forming first impressions. Finally, don’t forget that not everyone’s home has an ideal workspace. This wasn’t a problem for some of our new starters…

“I’m fortunate to have a spare room that we turned into an office space at the start of lockdown so it was easy to create a workspace.”

But others had their individual challenges to face:

“My main reservation was noise from family while on calls. I had two small children under three at the time, stuck in the house during lockdown – so very loud! Solved that with a noise cancelling headset” “I had nowhere to work. Ended up working the majority of time sitting on the sofa, which is uncomfortable.” Whether it’s offering additional equipment – from a full desk set-up to a headset – or finding ways to safely accommodate office working for those struggling, consider that everyone’s situation is different.

Onboarding in a remote company: the first few weeks

At Qlearsite, we quickly found out that structure was key. Map out the first few weeks in their diary, before they join, to make sure the onboarding process goes smoothly. Being sat alone in front of a laptop is a little jarring – especially when you’re eager to impress and prove your worth. While they’ll learn to be proactive in time, filling your new hire’s calendar with intro meetings and training sessions gives them some direction.

Having meetings scheduled in my diary, organised by someone else, was very helpful.

Onboarding in a remote company: culture and social life

One benefit of company-wide remote working is that you usually have a good grasp of where everyone is at any one time – at home. Where people would usually be out and about on sales calls, or in spontaneous meetings,  now it’s easier to find a spot in everyone’s calendar.

Use this to your advantage, and get your new starters to meet as many people as you can:

“I got introduced to lots of different people, and got a picture of the overall company”

Having sessions booked in with loads of different teams is a great way to overcome the remoteness of onboarding at home. The quicker you can meet people the better.

While setting up one-on-ones with as many people as possible is a great start, it doesn’t totally bridge that social gap. And that’s something you need to be aware of:

“The hardest thing is building rapport with new colleague”

“I think the biggest challenge for Qlearsite is that they didn’t previously have a remote-first culture, which means most people who already work there knew each other from the office. This makes it hard for new employees to integrate in the same way.”

Whatever your normal onboarding process, you need to work harder to find bonding opportunities. That doesn’t necessarily mean enforcing out-of-hours Zoom quizzes, but instead encouraging a more casual, conversational approach to working together. Make space for chatting – on dedicated Slack channels, or by setting up casual 121s with settled staff.

Onboarding ideas for remote employees

At Qlearsite, we’re strong believers in the power of listening. So we asked our new starters for their ideas, tips, and thoughts on onboarding remote employees:

1. Provide perks and practical support to welcome them to the team

“It helps to provide money for a home office set-up”

“Send them a bottle of wine/whatever they prefer when they join. It’s the most
culture they’re going to physically see until they eventually visit the office!”

2. Focus on clarity and communication: don’t leave them in the lurch!

“Structure, structure, structure! It’s very isolating joining a company remotely
and it’s so important to make people feel comfortable ASAP. Moving sessions
last minute, having huge gaps in the diary and a lack of agendas can be very frustrating for a new starter joining remotely. Onboarding is the first experience
for every employee and should be the highest priority, more so now that it’s remote.”

“Keep communication levels very high. Assume there’s things
you haven’t told them, so keep getting feedback.”

3. Remember that everyone essentially wants to do well

“As a manager: the bottom half of the triangle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs have been artificially removed for a lot of your staff. What you have left is esteem and self actualization – so you need to celebrate every possible win possible with the team.

Give them some good things to focus on. Anyone who starts a job wants to establish their credibility – as a manager, you have be extra supportive of new staff”

4. Remember the bigger picture

“New goals are harder to formulate and communicate at a distance,
feedback is harder, and you can never be completely sure that people
are on the same page. This is why Qlearsite’s solutions/people analytics in
general are important!”

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