First Impressions: The Importance of Onboarding Remote Employees

  • June 29, 2020

If there’s anything the novel coronavirus has taught us, it’s that we should all expect the unexpected. Businesses all over the world have had to instantly respond to a world that has been turned upside down, and those who have been able to instantly manage all processes remotely have had a huge head start.

One of the processes that has been necessary to operate remotely is welcoming new staff into a business – the process known as onboarding. A significant part of the employee lifecycle, onboarding is the “getting to know you” period of employment. It’s time for the employee and employer to find a fit and for the employee to feel welcomed, establish expectations and explore company culture.

A strong onboarding process can make a huge difference for your new hires, and have a long term impact on your recruitment and retention targets. The hiring process is expensive, and when you’ve bagged some top talent you want it to hang around so you don’t need to go through the rigmarole again. A strong onboarding process can make a great impression right from the start, and fast make a new hire feel like a valued team member.

People make a decision about whether they will stay or move on within the first 6 months, so make sure they want to stay even earlier than that. When a new hire takes a role you want them to be more than just on the payroll, you want them to buy into your culture and your business from the outset, and you want them to feel that you are buying into THEM as well.

If your employees feel valued, understood and heard, they will be more engaged. Employee engagement has a direct impact on productivity. Taking the time to ensure a new hire has everything they need and feels secure and welcomed is paramount in forming first impressions.

In many cases, onboarding consists of concepts that aren’t possible in a physically distanced scenario. Physical tours, introductions, demonstrations, buddy systems, training and induction boot camps. Maybe a welcome lunch with immediate team members, or drink down the pub. (Ah, pubs… Remember those good old days?) But what about bringing a new team member on board when you aren’t in the same physical location?

When you imagine starting a new job, it evokes feelings of first-day jitters, a guided tour of the office, lots of hand-shaking, forced smiling and information overload. But what if it actually starts by walking from your bedroom to your kitchen table and opening a laptop?

Now is not the time to put the onboarding experience on the backburner. It’s more than possible to grant new starters the same level of attention and support in their inaugural weeks as they should expect from a face-to-face experience.

Remote workers are arguably more in need of a robust onboarding system. When there are not daily office visits, chance encounters by the coffee machine or shared leisure time it can be trickier for remote workers to get their feet firmly under the table within an organisation.

During current circumstances, and with a longer-term trend for remote working predicted, it has never been more important to prepare a remote onboarding initiative that ticks all the employee engagement boxes.

Use your intranet

The ideal first step to create a remote onboarding environment is on your company intranet. Blogging and vlogging, forums, video tours and communication tools can help build a sense of community that your new hires can feel they are a part of.

Intranets are invaluable for a dispersed workforce, connecting everyone, and allowing them to be informed with the latest company updates, communicate with their colleagues, and share knowledge. It is a lifeline for workers who are at home, whether they are close by or in a different country.

Video is the new face-to-face

Video makes the world a smaller place. From demonstrating concepts or working instructions, to holding meetings or even social occasions, video enables a dispersed workforce to engage with each other as more than words on a screen or a voice on the end of a call. They say that 55% of interpretation of a message comes from visual cues, and that in total 93% of communication is non-verbal. Video allows us to communicate in a more natural way whilst there is limitless distance between us.

Communication tools

While we’ve already discussed that video is imperative, other digital forms of communication are increasing in importance. Services like Slack and Microsoft Teams allow real-time, casual chat among team members. Colleagues can share gifs, talk about weekend plans, send videos. Of course, this isn’t strictly work-related, but it helps build up a better knowledge of colleagues and is important for cohesion and morale. It’s important to recognise that remote working does not mean that camaraderie and relationships are less permissible because non-work chat and downtime is as important for employees outside of the office environment as it is for those who work in physical proximity.

Gamification

Information overload is real, and whilst training is a very important part of the induction process, it pays to tap into the human psyche and understand it isn’t just children who learn best through play. Nobody absorbs information when they are switched off. Gamification is a way to increase engagement by adding a fun edge to education. When onboarding, particularly in a group, introducing some tame competition, challenges and games into learning can transform the induction and training process.

At Intec Select it’s business as unusual – we are carrying on as normally as possible during these times, whilst ensuring the safety of our valued staff members and our clients and candidates. We’re still recruiting, our clients are still taking on new hires. Our clients have reported that they have been able to onboard new hires 100% remotely without much hassle, and though it did take a little time to adapt at first, all new members of staff were up and running with the correct equipment and training within no time.

Candidates who have started their new roles in the midst of a country-wide lockdown have told us that their onboarding experiences have gone very well and they have been particularly impressed with the friendliness of the teams they have joined despite never seeing anyone face-to-face.

These reports are music to our ears and testament to the resilience of British employers and the workforce who are not only making the best of a bad situation but finding the positives within it to build a new normal, with a better way of living and working moving forward beyond the pandemic.

If you are looking to grow your team, don’t let lockdown hold you back. Recruiting and onboarding new hires is more than possible, and IntecSelect is here to help every step of the way. Contact us to talk about your requirements.

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