Remote work has grown 91% over the last 10 years, and 159% over the last 12 years—and it’s here to stay. Companies from small startups to huge corporations are starting to see the benefits of remote workers: they’re able to cover differentiated timezones, you have a more diverse hiring pool for your roles and, most importantly, it’s a huge boost to employee satisfaction. In fact, 88% of remote employees would recommend working remotely to people that they love and care about. So, what company doesn’t want to get that, right?
Research by Glassdoor discovered that organizations with strong onboarding processes improve new hire retention by 82%, and productivity by over 70%. However, the best way to offer strong onboarding experiences differs between remote and in-office employees.
Many companies are new to the remote game and don’t have the strongest practices in place when it comes to offering excellent experiences. Here are a few things that your company can do to make any getting started experiences awesome for your employees that aren’t co-located.
Get them the stuff they need (and then some) ahead of time
How can you expect someone to do their job if they don’t have the tools that they need to do so? This includes virtual things like access to email and company intranet, but also things like, well, their computer, or a desk. Make sure that your employees have whatever they need to do the job at least a few days before they are expected to start, if they aren’t going to be starting in the office.
If they are starting in the office, verify that your IT team has provisioned them with the hardware that they need, as well as access to the software that allows them to do their job.
While you’re at it: go above and beyond. In-office employees always get first access to cool swag, or new computers—why should it be any different for your remote employees? Along with their computer, monitor, or other things they need to get started, send them a care package of branded gear from your company. This makes them feel included, valued, and a little bit pampered.
Keep it digestible
It can be super tempting to cram new employees’ heads full of information about anything and everything pertaining to the company. However, that’s not always the most effective.
For example, Didacte interviewed some of their customers about their onboarding processes and one of the things that stood out is that, “despite the relevance of the content, in some cases the training feels too heavy, technical or stretches over too long.”
If you try to do too much, you’ll just end up overwhelming your employees.
Try spreading your training out over a few days or weeks, and segment the learnings so that each week flows thematically.
Give employees the time to do their regular jobs, as well as digest the information in-between trainings. HCI found that when companies stopped their onboarding process after just the first week, it left their new hires feeling confused, discouraged, and lacking resources. By elongating and spreading it all out, you give them the opportunity to digest and incorporate their learnings into the day-to-day.
Make it interactive
If you were to train someone in the office, you wouldn’t just put them in front of a computer and give them documentation to read. You would set them up with educational seminars, videos to watch, group meetings with their new team, and try to get them acclimated to the social aspects of the job, too.
In fact, this is one of the most important things that you can do: Forbes found that 21% of remote employees feel lonely and isolated—without giving the opportunity to socialize, they miss out on one of the biggest benefits of working in the office.
When onboarding remote workers, you can fill in the blanks for these in-person meetings by using video chat, voice calls and other interactive forms of media—even chatting with someone over Slack is better than reading a list of docs all day.
For example, if you’re onboarding a new customer service team, try using pair support to work on tickets together. There are so many tools that facilitate easier communication. Find the ones that work best for your company, and guide people on how best to use them during onboarding. The success of an internal company tool is about 60% communication, 40% technology—it’s on your team to make sure it’s being used properly.
If you can, do it face-to-face
It might seem counterintuitive to bring remote employees to the office for onboarding. Given how integral that starting period is, though, it can be one of the best decisions you’ll make if you can swing it. Help Scout, a primarily remote company, even went so far as to say “valuable face-to-face time is a great way to kick-start a successful transition into a remote company so we try to fly folks to Boston (where 25% of our team is co-located) for their first week. Sometimes it doesn’t work so we schedule a series of video chats in the first 1-2 weeks.”
Chargify does the same: “onboarding can be done remotely, but frequently the new employees will meet up in person with their immediate supervisor for onboarding. It can be a nice introduction to meet face-to-face during onboarding to add a personal connection.”
One of the main benefits that people see to working remotely is being able to cut out the commute. So, it’s possible that when you recommend coming to the home office for a week, some people may not be able to swing it. Having their immediate supervisor fly out to them, and conducting their onboarding in a coworking space close to their home can be a great way to have the best of both worlds.
Set the right expectations
Lots of people think of remote working as sitting on the couch, watching reruns while pretending to work. However, the converse is usually true.
In one study, researchers found that remote employees are almost twice as likely to work beyond 40 hours a week than their in-office coworkers. Obviously you want your people to be doing their job, but you also don’t want them to be burning out. Setting expectations for scheduling, social involvement, and workload is an incredibly important step for onboarding your remote employees as it gives them a safe framework from which to build their work-life balance.
One of the best benefits that working remotely offers is the flexibility to live a life that your employees are passionate about. Setting the right expectations early on lets you do that while still making sure that your company gets a performance that you’re excited about
Remote employment is only going to grow. Instead of being afraid of doing it well, take these tips and move forward with confidence. Onboarding remote employees is a much more intentional process than in-office, but ends up scaling well after its initial implementation.
Be mindful of the opportunities that you offer to in-office employees over remotes: make sure that you provide them with the right tools and software needed to do their jobs from day one. Keep training as interactive as possible, supplementing with lots of video and in-person face to face time, if possible. Lastly, structure your onboarding so that it’s easy-to-digest, rather than cramming everything into one week.
If you’re trying to make it all fit because you only have them in office for a few days, try to think about the pieces that could be pulled out and restructured to make it remote-friendly. With the amount of software available nowadays, almost anything is possible. Didacte is just one of the many tools available on the market that enables you to bonify your internal processes while improving employee’s performances, retention and quality of life.
Article written in collaboration with: Yaakov Karda is the co-founder of Chatra.io and a slow coffee enthusiast. When not brewing or working on the startup, he helps his wife with their art projects or explores Tel-Aviv on a bicycle.