Remote onboarding is a certified HR hot topic. Before the pandemic, many HR teams had no idea what this phrase even meant, let alone how to do a good job of it.
But over the 12+ months, people teams the world over have thrown themselves in the deep end - working to build positive onboarding experiences for new hires working from their couch, kitchen table, and (occasionally) bed.
The thing is, every new process has an element of trial and error.
The best intentions won’t always result in a picture-perfect process, so it’s important to learn from mistakes, gathering data from recent joiners to improve your remote onboarding processes long-term.
To get you started, we conducted an informal remote onboarding survey to get an idea of how remote hires felt about their joining experience.
And to make things super simple, we’ve broken the results down into 7 key learnings that will help you understand what future remote joiners need to succeed!
|Who did we ask?|
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s quickly take a look at who we asked.
We spoke to 50 hires who joined a new organization in the last 4 months, either fully or partially remotely.
The survey was 100% anonymous and was delivered to hires in a wide selection of countries including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Nordics.
53% of recruits were nervous about starting a new job in a pandemic.
Starting a new job is already a nerve-wracking enterprise. There’s a whole host of new people to meet, names to memorize, systems to learn, and responsibilities to unpack.
This is only made MORE difficult when you are physically distanced from your new colleagues (if you’ve ever joined a Zoom call of more than 5 people, you’ll understand how difficult getting a word in edge-wise can be).
Leverage the preboarding phase and ensure your newest hire is given as much support as possible BEFORE they start. Include a first week checklist and double-check that all equipment & system access is coordinated well before D-day.
The biggest new hire fear BEFORE starting remotely is “communication issues and feeling out of the loop”.
This isn’t surprising.
Before joining, new hires feel like they’re going to have difficulty communicating with their new colleagues. This stems from an unfamiliarity with your in-house communication channels and from a lack of knowledge around company culture & the WAY your teams communicate.
Be sure to put together some ‘how-to’ guides that introduce new hires to your in-house comms channels (Teams/Slack etc.) and provide insight into the style of your organization’s communication. A tongue-in-cheek video-call rulebook is an easy way to drive this information home.
The thing is - what new hires THINK is going to be their biggest challenge, turns out to be something completely different in reality…
The biggest new hire challenge AFTER starting remotely is “balancing work and home life”.
That’s right - it turns out that in reality, new hires don’t struggle as much with communication as they thought they would (in fact, it didn’t even make the top 3).
What they really struggle with is balancing their work and home life.
It can be incredibly difficult to separate work from play when your desk is your kitchen table. This becomes even more difficult for new hires who have kids at home or who live in small apartments where a physical space separation doesn’t exist.
Consider offering a modest budget for new hires to set-up their home office. This could include some support to getting a small desk that is specifically for work, or even a separating panel to create the illusion of space separation.
Alongside this, you’ll want to provide some helpful resources during the onboarding journey that offer tips & tricks for balancing work and home life in a remote setting.
The thing new hires value MOST about remote work is “having a more flexible schedule”.
The ability to design your workday to suit you is a HUGE benefit of remote work. No more getting up at the crack of dawn for your daily excessive. No more choosing between lunch and a hair appointment. You do you!
But how can you ensure your new hires don’t treat their workday like the Wild West, coming and going as they please?
The trick is to clearly communicate your policy around flexible working during the onboarding journey so that new hires feel confident and comfortable designing their working schedule.
Ditch the ambiguity and outline exactly what new hires can (and can’t) do when it comes to flexible working.
The most popular element of remote onboarding was a virtual welcome lunch.
Many respondents listed this activity as being their favorite part of their remote onboarding experience.
The simple act of sitting down with your new colleagues in an informal setting can be an easy way to make new joiners feel welcome. Having a shared activity (in this case, food) takes the pressure off and gives everyone something to do if the conversation stalls.
Book in a virtual lunch with a new hires team. If the team is really big, consider putting a cap of 5 or 6 attendees, so it’s not such an overwhelming affair. For a bit of extra flair, consider having UberEats deliver lunch to your new hire!
The least popular element of remote onboarding was having to book a call to ask for basic assistance.
When you’re in the office, it’s easy to ask for help. You can shoulder tap your neighbor, bring up the topic in the break room, or even just listen in to someone else’s conversation for the answer.
In a remote setting - you have none of that. There is a big lack of what we call ‘incidental communication’ - and this can be hard for new hires to navigate.
There are lots of things you can do to help increase incidental communication in a remote setting.
A remote buddy is a good place to start, that way your onboardee has a direct port of call for all the little things. You could create a ‘water cooler’ Slack channel that staff dial into for their coffee breaks, allowing new hires to ask off-the-cuff questions. And you could even set-up an FAQ chatbot that can answer new hires’ questions whenever (and wherever) they arise.
100% of new hires would like to continue to work remotely in some capacity after the pandemic.
COVID has changed the nature of work. When the pandemic has run its course, we won’t be able to go right back to ‘business as usual, we’ll need to reassess how we work and the kind of policies we have in place to support our employees.
Consider asking new hires what they want in a post-COVID working world. Do they want to be fully remote? Partially remote? Ask them how you can support them and get to work designing a future framework that takes these needs into account.
Overall, new hires are adapting reasonably well to remote onboarding.
To support continued success, HR has to not only ask the right questions but also develop policy that draws on new hires’ remote onboarding experience.
Remember - remote onboarding is not going away after COVID-19, so invest in your processes now and put your organization in good stead for the future of work!