The 3 Keys to a Successful Remote Onboarding

We’re in a really tight candidate market. Candidates are hesitant to make a move — they’re not as willing to leave companies where they’ve built relationships and are set up for success. They know a transition in this remote environment will be a struggle.

But against all odds, you’ve filled your open position. It might have taken many hours and months of searching, but you made the hire. 

Four weeks later, they give notice. You invested countless resources in finding this person… and now you’re back to square one. 

While it’s easy for hiring managers to fixate just on filling the position, there’s more to be done for a new hire to be a success. It’s up to you to help them have a good experience from the beginning. 

In the time when they’re most vulnerable—especially since we’re not seeing anyone in the office—how might you set up your new hires for success? 

It all comes down to the trifecta of remote onboarding: tools, culture, and connection.

Tools: Do I have the resources I need? 

When any new employee starts the job, they have basic needs — and by meeting these needs, you show the new hire you care enough about them to be prepared for them to join the team. 

This includes providing: 

  • Complete IT setup before their first day
  • Trainings specific to their role
  • Access to specific resources and tools including passwords, URLs, IT contact info, specific locations, and files. 
  • An organizational chart — Who does what? If they have a question about ____, who should they ask? 
  • Pre-set meetings with the supervisor to communicate clear expectations regarding style and deliverables
  • Regular feedback in the first few weeks to course correct
  • A full (and accurate) job description
  • A full HR checklist (including information on their benefits) 
  • Scheduled meetings to attend — and an explanation of their role in each meeting and what to expect in the agenda 

Don’t leave a new employee’s success up to chance. Start by scheduling their first four weeks to explicitly include meetings, trainings, introductions, and debrief sessions where they can process what they’ve learned. By building this into their calendar, you show them that you’re going the extra mile to ensure their success. 

“This is about more than hosting a Zoom happy hour — it’s about meeting the relational needs of your new employees, which takes a lot of work.”

 If we think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, this meets the basic needs on the bottom level necessary to move forward. And by meeting these needs proactivity, you communicate that you’re a company worth working for. 

Culture: How do I act?

Companies want to hire employees who share their vision, mission, and values and will assimilate into their current system. But these cultural components must be clearly communicated from the beginning, especially in a remote environment. 

To do so, make sure you schedule intentional time for new hires to learn about your culture. Explain how the vision, mission, and values of your organization are lived out. 

For example, at BVOH Search & Consulting, we prioritize relationships. When one of our new hires wonders, “Is it okay to give up the deal for the sake of preserving the relationship?” our answer is always yes. This may not be the case in other firms, so we make sure to explain this from the start. 

Work to create opportunities for them to learn the organizational DNA from the inside out. Schedule time for them to get to know key executives so they hear the heart of the company.  

Take the time to explain cultural nuances such as: 

  • What’s okay and what’s not?  
  • Is there protocol for when meetings are typically scheduled? 
  • What company traditions do you have? 
  • What’s acceptable in communication flow — can you skip levels when communicating with your boss, or should you follow a strict chain of command?
  • How should you speak up in a meeting — do we raise our hands, virtually or in-person? 
  • What are the operating norms? 
  • Do we “reply all” to group emails or individual responses?

Don’t leave it to “Oh, they’ll pick it up!” Explain the norms, especially since they’re more difficult to observe in a remote work environment.

Throughout these discussions, you should continually answer these two questions: 

  1. What do we value? 
  2. How do we live out those values? 

Then, your new hire will be able to see how they fit into the bigger picture. 

Connection: How do I fit in? 

A new hire also needs support in building relationships. Much of this falls on the hiring manager, not only to meet social needs, but to better equip the new hire to do their job. After all, they can’t influence others if they haven’t really met them. 

In this remote work environment, new hires are completely invisible to the rest of the company until they show up to Zoom meetings (that people have to remember to invite them to!) The natural intrigue of a new person who’s visibly present in an office is completely gone. Plus, most of our natural touch points have been removed. 

In this climate, everything is more minimal and simple — which means your onboarding process needs to be airtight. The perks that made up for shortcomings before (like free food, sleep pods, and on-site dry cleaning) are no longer there.

As you work to help new hires connect to the company, be creative as you consider, “How might someone quickly assimilate into an environment where they’re not seeing anyone face-to-face?” Then, find ways to help them connect. 

This is about more than hosting a Zoom happy hour — it’s about meeting the relational needs of your new employees, which takes a lot of work. Schedule regular, planned, and ongoing opportunities for them to meet and connect with others (subordinates, peers, business partners, and executives). 

But don’t stop after the first few weeks — these efforts should continue until the employee is able to connect. You have an ongoing responsibility to foster connection. 

If the person lives nearby, and you’re not under a current quarantine order, consider face-to-face meetings. If you can, move away from Zoom to meet for local socially distanced coffee or get together at a park. It’s easy to forget that we do have some flexibility  — when there are safe ways to connect in person. 

The goal is to help new employees feel a sense of belonging and build the professional relationships they need to succeed. 

Keys to Remote Onboarding

The Final Question: Did I Make the Right Choice? 

How a company onboards their new employees directly reflects how much they care. And how well the company has provided tactical tools, culture insight, and opportunities for connection often determines how candidates feel about their choice. 

The companies who get this right are going to win the talent war (which is tougher now than ever before). 

In this climate, everything is more minimal and simple — which means your onboarding process needs to be airtight. The perks that made up for shortcomings before (like free food, sleep pods, and on-site dry cleaning) are no longer there. There’s nothing left to lean on. 

If you want to be an employer of choice, it’s not easy, but it is possible. By strategically incorporating tactical, relational, and cultural onboarding, you’ll be able to set the stage for your new hire to not only stick around but also to succeed.

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