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How to onboard new employees in a remote team?

22nd Aug 2021
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In 2020, there was no doubt that things changed for the better. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the global workforce to rapidly shift to remote work, as organizations pivoted in order to stay afloat. About half of the employees said their companies have permanently changed their policies regarding remote work, based on this report.

As the work models continue to evolve it is important for learning and development (L&D) leaders to adapt to the changes in the workspace and make sure that productivity and the morale of the team does not get affected.

Even in a remote team, the L&D team and leaders should ensure that learning takes place and that employees develop efficiently to attain the company’s goals. But before that, an employee must undergo the onboarding process.

When a new employee joins a team, it is one of the most exciting as well as challenging times. While there are numerous expectations and aspirations, the element of unfamiliarity at the very beginning is a huge hill to climb. 

The process of onboarding goes beyond just welcoming a new employee and giving them an overview of the job functions. It's about making sure they feel comfortable, have everything they need to be successful, and giving them a sense of the company culture. 

For remote teams to handle these challenges, the following practices or checklists have proven effective:

1. Pre-joining onboarding

 

Before a new employee actually joins the team, it would be really helpful for them to learn more about:

  • The team culture

  • A broad plan for the first few weeks after joining

  • Company's new employee documentation

These bits of information work in both a co-located and a remote scenario. In the latter, however, since they no longer have colleagues around them, it becomes that much more important. By doing so, the new employee will be more informed and prepared mentally about what is to come.

2. Introductions with the wider team

 

Following a new hire's addition to the team, one of the immediate and most obvious task is introducing the new hire to the rest of the team. In a traditional work environment, it is much easier for employees to bump into each other, however, while working remotely, it is important that employees be intentional about it.

Start by having a team member give a brief introduction to the new employee, followed by the other team members wishing them a warm welcome!  In a survey, nearly 48% of employees communicate with their colleagues via Slack and similar channels. It is generally a good idea to introduce new hires in such channels so they can get to know the rest of the team.

Besides welcoming them on the public channel, sending them a private message or making a quick call would make them feel special and more appreciated. 

Assigning a mentor

 

With a distributed team, you can't make sure a new employee understands the way the company operates and the unwritten rules of communication. So, when new employees join an organization, it is beneficial for them to have a person where they can go for help in the early days. 

As part of their mentoring program, companies such as Doist matches each employee with a mentor. To strengthen mentorship, the new hires are invited to meet with their mentors and to spend a week with them. As a result, a strong bond is formed between them, and the onboarding process is much more swifter.

Mentoring is critical. Remote working can be isolating, and asking questions can be intimidating. Mentorship and feedback loops need to be made explicit to counter this. 

If you work in a typical office setting, you might not require an explicit mentor since you're surrounded by your peers all day.

Mentorship is implied, even if undefined, throughout the numerous face-to-face interactions day in and day out. This difference makes it even more important that this challenge is acknowledged and proactively worked on.

Regular check-ins
 

Employee onboarding does not end with a series of activities in the first few weeks, it continues for several months. 

Therefore, it is essential to check in on them on a regular basis, both professionally and personally, and this should be part of your onboarding process for new employees.

A check-in would give you a better understanding of their progress, the roadblocks they may be facing or simply finding out how they are doing. 

Many workers may be working remotely for the first time. This might lead to a feeling of loneliness and isolation. By having an empathic and sensitive conversation with such individuals, you might be able to address such a feeling as well as reassure them that they can reach out to you if they need any assistance.

 

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