Onboarding is a key part of keeping employees.
From creating onboarding plans for 30, 60 and 90 days to making sure the new hire gets to know the rest of the team, there are several effective ways to get a new employee started. — Getty Images/shironosov

Onboarding is directly linked to employee retention. A study by Glassdoor found that companies that have a strong onboarding process can improve new hire retention by 82%. Likewise, productivity increases by over 70%. We know onboarding is important, but it can be a challenge for organizations working with remote employees.

[Read more: Welcome! Onboarding New Employees Is Key to Hiring Success]

How do you communicate your company culture, make a new hire feel welcome and help your new team member understand their responsibilities from a distance? CO— asked Alissa Henriksen, principal and owner of Grey Search + Strategy for her advice on how to onboard remote employees.

Start onboarding immediately

Onboarding should begin as soon as your remote employee signs the offer letter. Most of the initial steps in onboarding are already performed digitally and therefore easy for remote employees to start immediately.

“Everything you do from the time they sign the offer letter to the time they walk through the doors is done remotely,” said Henriksen. “The hiring manager should send a nice welcome email to the new hire and provide an overview of what the first week will be like. You can even set up a Zoom or FaceTime call to continue to keep them engaged.”

Try to start the “orientation” part of onboarding early. Before your new hire’s first day, send over:

  • A friendly welcome message and introduction of other members of the team.
  • Your employee handbook outlining company policies, procedures and what to expect.
  • Some tips on remote work, as well as any expectations you have around availability, communication and things specific to the job description.
  • Any documents than need to be reviewed and signed.

[Read more: WFH? How to Hire the Best Remote Employees]

Make them feel welcome

One of the biggest fears faced by remote workers is that they will be overlooked for advancement in professional development. From the outset, put effort into making your new remote employee feel welcome and valued. Henriksen recommended doing as much as possible to help your newest team member feel excited to work for you.

“You could send them a welcome gift, something that shows them how excited you are for them to join the team! Engagement, communication and consistency are very important. These tactics get your new hire more excited for their start date and provide more clarity around what that first week will be like. Let’s be honest, all new hires have anxiety around the first week, so it’s good to help eliminate it,” Henriksen said.

Watch our full CO— Blueprint discussion on how to hire and onboard employees in a remote work environment.

Less is not more when you are virtually onboarding someone.

Alissa Henriksen, principal and owner, Grey Search + Strategy

Set up a defined onboarding program

Create a week-long program, as well as a 30/60/90 day plan for your new hire’s onboarding success. Start with two to four weeks of scheduled tasks and meetings. “Make sure you’ve provided them a defined calendar of events that also lays out when they should be spending time on training,” said Henriksen.

“Training can be modules, documents, policies, procedures, webinars and videos that they review from home. Introduce all of these elements throughout the first week and month to help your new hire get up to speed,” she described.

Training isn’t the only thing you should ask your remote hire to complete. “You also need to make sure you are including just as much, if not more, virtual conversations with your new hire. Overcommunicate and provide extra availability for this person to not only hear your voice but also see your face and virtually meet with team members on a daily basis,” said Henriksen.

Introduce the team

Try to avoid making your remote employee feel isolated by introducing the team individually and early in your onboarding program.

“Less is not more when you are virtually onboarding someone,” advised Henriksen. “Make sure you have time set aside for video chats with HR, Finance, Operations, and other departments within your company. Even if a new hire won’t be interacting with these departments, it is key for your them to get to know the company during that first week. Ask your team to take 30 minutes to talk about what their department does and how they interact with one another,”

Make an extra effort to include your remote employee in as many meetings as possible, and to introduce them to as many people as possible. “Inclusion is key. Check-in with your remote employee daily. Ask them to provide thoughts on how you and the hiring manager are doing during this virtual onboarding experience,” said Henriksen

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun. Have a virtual happy hour with the team at the end of the week. Create a virtual tour of your office and send that video to your new hire. Give your remote employee an introduction to your culture that they won’t forget.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published May 22, 2020