The shift to working from home happened overnight for many of us. While it may seem like most of the world hit the pause button, many Bay Area companies are still hiring and onboarding and now have to quickly figure out how to do so remotely.
When your new hire’s first introduction to their team is virtual, it can be challenging for them to get to know what their colleagues are like and what to expect from their work culture. There are no catered lunches or off-sites to attend, so how do you make sure your new employee starts off on the right foot when they’re not physically sitting next to you? How do you maintain a level of professionalism and organization that will carry through virtually?
Onboarding is one of the most important and overlooked aspects of employee retention, so it’s especially important that new hires feel like they’re supported from the beginning, even if they haven’t set foot into the office yet.
How to Onboard Your Employees Remotely
At BVOH Search & Consulting, we work with some of the most inspired minds in the Bay Area. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best remote onboarding tips from our clients to share with you, so you can give a proper welcome to all of the talent who “walks” through your doors.
Send a Welcome Package
What do you do when you can’t decorate a new employee’s desk with company swag and a welcome note? You send a care package.
It would be easy enough to postpone this until everyone is back in the office, but by then, the momentum would be lost and probably forgotten about all together. That’s exactly why a client of ours made this switch, because they believed it was important to welcome new hires with warmth, especially in the current climate. It’s nice to not only feel seen, but to be told, “We’re excited you’re with us.”
Bonus Client Tip: Don’t forget to ask new hires their t-shirt size or color preference if you’re giving them apparel. The point is for them to really wear it, right?
Make an Onboarding Packet
This piece of advice from a BVOH client is golden and so simple. Think of how many times you’ve started a job and were left on your own to “find John in Admin” or “figure out how to join the shared network?”
Starting a job remotely can be stressful enough, so make sure your new hires have everything they need to get started, including:
– Expectations for the first two weeks
– List of tools, links, and systems (and how to access them)
– Internal/external contact information for any issues that may arise
– Peer contact information
– Organizational chart for who does what
– Short list of starter projects
– Copies of additional paperwork needed (e.g. direct deposit forms, inventory requests, etc)
Another one of our clients recommended pre-populating your new hire’s calendar with meetings, including dial-in and agenda information, so there’s no confusion about what is happening when.
They also noted that hiring managers who have not onboarded remotely before will need help. So to alleviate some of the pressure, it’s helpful to have someone from Operations who can focus on the process and keep the hiring manager accountable to it. This will guarantee everyone who’s involved with onboarding, such as Human Resources or the IT department, will get what they need quickly and not have to worry about hunting down that final piece of paperwork.
Once you have a process in place, you’ll likely only have small updates to make afterwards. And when you think of the time that you and your employees will save, it’s worth a little extra effort upfront.
Create an Inventory List
For the most part, new employees will have the same set of equipment needs, but how many times have you experienced a new boss being surprised that someone needs a working mouse or a second monitor like the rest of the team?
By creating a standard request list for all equipment and accessories, you’ll be able to streamline the volume of requests and avoid overwhelm. A client of ours points out that you should expect shortages and order computers and mice in advance, if you can.
“It’s especially important that new hires feel like they’re supported from the beginning, even if they haven’t set foot into the office yet.”
New hires will spend the first few days or even weeks adjusting to their position, so don’t make it even more difficult by making them wait around for the right equipment. This inventory list can also be used for onboarding in-house candidates in the future.
Make Slack a Fun and Useful Resource
Regardless of how prepared you think you’re leaving a new hire, there are still plenty of questions that will come up.
Where’s the shared folder for this account?
What’s the dial-in number to join the weekly meeting?
My network password isn’t working and says I need an administrator to reset it. Who’s the best person to ask about that?
High-quality candidates will likely try and find the answer themselves, but there’s only so far to go when they don’t know where to look in the first place. Besides being a direct messenger, one of the benefits of Slack is its channels. These contain a single topic in one thread and allow multiple people to chime in with answers, so new hires aren’t waiting for one person to get back to them.
Dedicated Slack channels could include:
– IT for all tech-related issues
– Teams so essential information isn’t missed and new hires have an easy way to find everyone on the team
– Announcements & Updates from leadership so everyone is informed of the latest news
– Interest-specific conversations for runners, foodies, remote life, etc.
– Social hours like a 15-minute happy hour channel to create more community
That’s right, you can have some fun channels! It’s important for your employees to build rapport with one another, especially when there isn’t a physical water cooler to bump into people. But don’t worry, you can add a channel for that, too.
Once you’ve created these channels, use additions like Standup and Prosper, where you can schedule daily standups with pre-set questions or mix it up with your own. Questions and answers are organized in individual channels, which works well in a team channel. When adding your own questions, think beyond the typical, “How do you feel?” and pepper in asks like, “What’s your favorite drink?” or “Are you wearing your pajamas right now?”
Slack also has an app called Donut that introduces members from different teams to one another via direct message. From ice breaker questions to virtual coffee dates, this is a simple way to encourage employees, seasoned and new, to interact with one another.
We all know these circumstances are unusual, but chances are, most of your team is a little rundown from talking or thinking about it all day. Making their virtual interactions with each other more of a bright spot will make them more connected to their colleagues and the work overall.
Bonus Client Tip: Get creative with this. Companies are trying everything from guided meditations to fireside chats. There’s really no limit to what you can do to build community virtually.
Plan Virtual Lunches
Whether it’s the spinach and feta salad you brought from home or grabbing a quick bite with your office neighbor, lunch tends to be communal. With remote workers, it can be harder to recreate some of these in-person interactions. Thank goodness for apps like Zoom or Google Hangout, so you can schedule company-wide or department specific virtual lunches. This way, new hires can get to know colleagues in a more relaxed environment, and it’ll remind everyone that they’re still part of a team.
“Even though it may feel overwhelming, it’s more important than ever to keep the good people you worked hard to find.”
One of our clients is leveling up by not only adding a welcome-to-the-team lunch for new hires, but is also sending them a Doordash gift card to use. These special touch points may seem like small gestures, but it goes a long way with new employees.
Assign a New Hire Buddy
Giving a new hire an onboarding buddy has been proven to improve overall morale, productivity and their understanding of the work environment as a whole. So, what’s better than having one dedicated go-to person? Being assigned two new hire buddies, with one person working directly with you, and the other being from a different team.
This is the system one of our clients has implemented. By assigning two people to help onboard new hires, you increase the likelihood of them not only learning faster, but also learning the intricacies of the office that they can’t find in the handbook – like that birthdays are a big deal, or the boss is 10 minutes early to every meeting.
Schedule a Weekly Virtual All-Hands Meeting
One of the benefits of all-hands meetings is that the entire company can be in one room together. And just because you’re all now working remotely, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still all be together. Schedule weekly virtual all-hands meetings and make a point to introduce new people. One of our clients is having everyone answer an icebreaker question in addition to showing off their work space. Also consider sending new hires videos of previous all-hands meetings, so they’ll have a feel for future in-person meetings.
This also works with showing remote employees videos of the office. If they started remotely, they won’t have the chance to see the office, so a video gives them a good idea of what the culture and environment is like in-person.
Check In Regularly
To emphasize the point a client of ours made: Check-ins are critical. Especially when you onboard a remote employee. If you were working in the same office, you could swing by their desk on the way to the coffee machine or in-between meetings. But with remote new hires, you have to be more intentional.
You don’t have to constantly check in, but schedule 3 daily check-ins in your calendar—morning, midday and end of day—for the first few weeks, and then reevaluate. Setting designated times will not only create peace of mind for you, but will make it easier for new employees to stay on track and communicate any questions or concerns.
Keeping the Talent You Find
For many companies, it feels like a time of constant scrambling to figure out your next move, and remote onboarding is another project in a mounting list. But even though it may feel overwhelming, it’s more important than ever to keep the good people you worked hard to find, and you don’t have to create this new system alone.
As one of our clients pointed out: Carve out time for this. You’re building a process. Include people outside of the box to get perspective – maybe someone who has worked remotely for another company. Solicit the best and worst experiences they’ve had being onboarded, and use that to make your new hires feel welcome from day one.