4 Strategies to Successfully Onboard New Remote Employees

5 min read
Opinions expressed by contributors are their own. As a consequence of the past year-plus, more than half of workers now say they’d prefer that their employers offer a more flexible, hybrid virtual-working model that allows employees to toggle between home and the office. Even so, onboarding remote workers is a tricky affair. It’s essential to bring them on in a way that makes them feel included and sets them up for great productivity. Here’s four tips to help ease the transition.

When you bring on a remote employee, you’re not just putting them under you. You’re bringing them into your larger group. If you want them to feel like they fit in, then everybody in the group has to be warm and welcoming, not just you.

As an example, just recently, I brought in a new team member from London. I had everybody shoot her an email to say hello and connect with her. We also sent her a jacket we’d created that had not just the company logo but the logo for the group she was a part of, too. This way, she was able to come into work with something all of us already had. The atmosphere was really supportive, and she felt connected almost right away because of those small gestures.

Related: How to Recruit and Hire the Best Remote Workers

Staying with my London worker example, I’ve intentionally dedicated about 30 minutes a day to meeting online with her. There are two big reasons you should have these regular check-ins.

First, working remotely can get pretty lonely. Your employee isn’t interacting with others the same way they would if they were coming into the office. So, when I meet with my London hire, I have a great opportunity to break that isolation in a simple but really caring way and make sure she’s at least talking with me.

Second, you want your new hires to get to know you so you can build some trust. During the pandemic, I actually had another employee who’d been onboarded leave our business and go back to the company they’d worked at before. A big reason for that exit was that nobody had really built a relationship with them. The old saying that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers, really struck me as true. I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake, so building a connection with the London employee became a priority for me.

All your workers are on your team because they bring something fantastic to your business. But they’re also human beings. If you want to understand them and build real connections, then you have to see all of who they are, not just their business side.

I have some team meetings that don’t focus exclusively on work. I get people to ask questions about each other, or I throw out questions just to help people expand their imaginations. It helps me and everyone else see how everybody thinks and operates. It also improves how comfortable we are with communicating in a more authentic way.

Any new hire is going to need a little guidance before they’re totally off and running on their own. But they still need to feel like they have an important role to play and a responsibility to get work done. This is an especially big deal for remote workers, because if they’re not going to have as many opportunities for interaction, then they need to know beyond any doubt that they’re contributing with purpose and have the trust of the team.

With my London hire, I brought her into conversations with the president of our European branch. She immediately felt connected because we dove right into business. She wasn’t just following someone around. I actually asked for her opinion, and she was able to give it to me.

No matter the role of your remote worker, be truly present with them. Instead of just running from meeting to meeting as they try to figure things out, make sure they’ve got some meaningful work to do right out of the gate. Give them easy ways to contribute, and validate those contributions early.

Related: 5 Strategies That Work for Remote Onboarding (In or Out of Lockdown)

It’s still not clear just how many employees will prefer a hybrid work environment or go completely remote in the future. But the likelihood that you’ll have more people on your team who don’t regularly come into your office is only increasing. Approach onboarding your remote workers with a real strategy. If you tackle the challenges of remote environments with intentional effort, then no challenge will be insurmountable.

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