Starting a new job is always challenging and even more so when new employees are coming on board from home. The right start can make a significant difference to how quickly a new recruit settles in. Studies show that 69 percent of workers are more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they experience good onboarding and that empowering new hires to get up to speed faster increases their productivity by 50 percent.1

With the pandemic making working from home the long-term reality for many employees, how can businesses successfully induct new joiners from a distance? While the optimum process will vary from company to company, here are some general tips to help ensure they get off to a good start:

Start early

Employee onboarding should start as soon as they accept your job offer. As an employer, communicate regularly with new starters, invite questions and, if possible, invite them to an introductory call ahead of their start date. Employers may also want to develop a new starters pack that can be shared ahead of employees’ first day. Without the benefit of the normal office guidelines and with expectations of remote teams different from one business to another, providing information such as working hours and video call dress codes will minimise the risk of an inadvertent slip up and make sure your new hire gets off to a smooth start.

Be prepared

Consider creating a series of interactive sessions that introduces new recruits to their colleagues, processes and tools that they will need to know in their new role. Make sure your new starter has all the equipment and resources they need before their first day, including phone, laptop, and that tech support is on hand if needed. Finally, make sure their manager has time set aside in their first week, checking-in daily on how they’re settling in, and providing hands-on support and mentoring. 

Send a welcome package

Give employees a positive start by sending them a welcome pack along with office essentials such as stationery. This could include goodies such as a branded mug, water bottle, and even a plant or some snacks. Include welcome messages from their manager and team – could you include photos and a fun fact for each person? This will help give new employees a feel for the company and your culture, and creates an immediate positive connection.

Develop a virtual induction and training programme

Creating an induction video series is likely to be a worthwhile investment, saving HR teams time in having to provide sessions individually. Videos can be sent over daily, covering topics common to all new employees such as an introduction to the organisation, leadership team, company policies, vision, values and behaviours. Employers should also provide training on the new starter’s specific role and associated expectations; bear in mind that you may need to compensate for the lack of on-the-job learning that normally takes place in a workplace environment.

Talk benefits

Research shows that only half of employees understand their benefits package, meaning many don’t take full advantage. Often the information can be overwhelming and confusing, so use the onboarding process as an opportunity to introduce them to all the benefits available and encourage them to sign up and use them. For example, if you provide an employee assistance programme,make sure they know about the services available and how to access them.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Managing teams from home means a greater need for communication, and this is especially the case for new starters. Line managers should catch up daily with new employees, as well as scheduling more formal weekly 1:1s. Regular team calls are also important to make sure new starters get to know colleagues and feel part of the team dynamic as quickly as possible. Encourage informal contact between team members and consider assigning new joiners an informal ‘buddy’ who they can speak to about things that they may feel reluctant to ask their manager. 

Provide informal teambuilding opportunities

Planning informal, fun activities can form an important part of welcoming new remote employees who will miss out on the spontaneous social connections of the office. If you have the budget, send out food vouchers so that new starters can participate in a virtual team lunch. Ask colleagues to prepare three interesting facts about themselves or some pictures which are special to them; this will help a new starter to get to know the team and find common ground.

Culture club

When employees feel connected to your company’s culture, they will work harder, have a better sense of purpose and feel aligned with your company values. This can make all the difference between an average team member and a passionate, engaged and productive one. Set up a virtual meeting with HR to introduce company vision, values and mission, and consider creating break-out sessions with company leaders.

Ask for feedback

Finally, given that remote onboarding is a new experience for most companies, ask for feedback on how you’re doing. Conduct short surveys or informal feedback sessions to ask new employees what went well and what could be improved and then adapt your future approach in line with their responses.

Research shows that a new hire’s experience during the onboarding process can have an immense impact on their engagement, job satisfaction, productivity, and passion for the role.2 Get the process right and you can create an engaged, happy and highly productive employee. 

1 SHRM

2 BCG

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