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With the COVID-19 pandemic in full force, more people are working remotely than ever before. Companies of all sizes are being tasked with the challenges of having an ever-increasing number of employees work in a virtual and remote environment. During this crisis, companies like Zoom upped their game to show the world that advances in technology can reshape the way business is done.

And long after COVID-19 no longer poses an existential threat to the world, these changes will continue to transform the corporate landscape. That’s because as more enterprises are forced by the pandemic to do more work remotely, they discover all the extraordinary advantages of doing work this way.

These advantages include:

  • Saving money
  • More flexibility for team members
  • Reduced carbon footprint

However, remote work is not without its challenges. Two of the difficulties that raise their ugly head whenever any company tries to move to remote work is that it makes collaboration more complicated and increases technological glitches.

The Importance Of Onboarding

A significant challenge is onboarding remote employees. Although it’s harder to do from afar, it can be and should be done, and in the right way to ensure a smooth and impactful process for your new team members.

Onboarding plays a critical role in your new hire’s success and happiness. It also helps your new recruit get acclimated to a brand-new environment. For an employer, it’s a chance to introduce the new employee to the values, policies, and processes the company holds dear. 

Onboarding remote employees is particularly critical since they don’t have the opportunity to naturally assimilate into your organization’s culture.

According to a Wynhurst Group study, employees are 58% more likely to stay with a company if they go through a formal onboarding process. Having a quality onboarding process increases employee retention and saves your business money in the long-term.

Here are some tips to make things easier:

1. Create Policies That Make Remote Onboarding Safer

 Even when using company-owned equipment, your employee isn’t going to be immune from cyber threats. That’s why you need to come up with robust procedures that’ll help minimize the danger of cyber threats.

If you don’t do anything to safeguard your business’ data, it could be susceptible to unauthorized access. A breach in cybersecurity can lead to problems through tactics such as:

  • Installing spyware that allows a thief to track internet activity
  • Phishing emails that deceive recipients into disclosing their personal information
  • Spam emails that trick recipients into handing over access to their computer
  • Hijacking the company website and rerouting users to a fraudulent look-alike site where they steal your information

Here are some things you can do to make remote onboarding safer:

  • Make sure all company-used computers have anti-virus and anti-spyware software
  • Require individual user accounts for every employee
  • Limit employee access to data and information
  • Mandate that strict security procedures be adhered to with strong passwords to access the network
  • Limit access to data for employees who don’t require it to for their particular job

Issues with BYOD

BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device,” is terrific for attracting younger employees. They are already technologically savvy and have a strong preference for using their own equipment.  You can also provide your employees with a “technology stipend” to reduce the financial stress of acquiring new technology.  

For example, you could give your employees $1,500 every three years to buy a device they can use for personal and work purposes. This money covers the cost of the device, business productivity applications, and anti-virus software.

You need to have a written and signed BYOD policy, so you’re covered if something goes wrong. The following are a few things to consider when creating one:

  •  IT SUPPORT: Decide what IT support will be available to the employee and how it will be delivered. This could mean that the employee must take the device to an employee supplied third-party support provider if the employee is getting a technological stipend.
  • REMOVAL OF SENSITIVE INFORMATION:  Because you’ll want to permanently erase company-specific data from devices once its use is no longer required (such as when an employee leaves the organization), you’ll need to have a policy for this.
  • LIST OF APPROVED DEVICES: A device might not meet your company’s security requirements, so it’s essential that your IT department come up with a list of approved ones.  
  • VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK (VPN): To protect your sensitive information, ensure employees use a virtual private network (VPN). You can establish a company VPN for use on the employee’s broadband network. 

Consult with a lawyer to make sure your BYOD policy is legally acceptable.

2. Consider Meeting at The Office

If your new employee is local, and no laws are violated (such as COVID restrictions or mandates), consider meeting them at the office for a more personal introduction.

Just make sure you practice social distancing. This is an excellent opportunity to give them their new equipment and ensure that it works properly.

3. Make Sure Your New Hire Understands Their Role

One of the most common errors companies make with onboarding is not making their expectations clear enough. Because you’re doing your onboarding virtually and not face-to-face, it becomes so much more important to establish crystal clear expectations.

That’s why you need to make sure that your new hire understands their job role inside and out. This can help you retain employees since confusion or uncertainty can often lead to turnover later down the line. 

4. Try “Preboarding”

You can also significantly alleviate first-day jitters by “preboarding” or sending an employee information they’ll find useful before starting work.

Here’s what you can send: 

  • A welcome letter or email
  • A detailed schedule for the employee’s first week
  • Links for virtual meetings
  • Passwords and credentials for initial login
  • Fun cultural items such as a company T-shirt or mug

5. Plan Out Your Employee’s Schedule

When an employee is working remotely, it’s easy to get distracted and disorganized.  That’s why creating a plan and setting up a schedule can be helpful. 

It can also be a great stress reliever—especially when the new recruit starts to feel overwhelmed.  

Create an exact blueprint for the new recruit’s first 30, 60, and 90 days, so there’s no confusion with the new job responsibilities.

6. Make Sure You Cover All The Important Stuff

An exceptional onboarding experience will provide information that not only captures an employee’s attention but will also be illuminating.

You’ll want to offer an insightful perspective on the company’s history, objectives, and values, while also helping the new hire get acclimated to their role within the business.

Although you want onboarding to be informative, make sure it’s not so jam-packed with details that your new recruit gets overwhelmed with information overload.

7. Introduce Your New Recruit To The Rest Of The Team

Don’t leave your new hires alone during the onboarding process—have them make connections with others.  Ask members of your team to reach out to new hires and introduce themselves during the first week.

This can be done through a videoconferencing platform such as Zoom. This will help the new hire to feel welcomed, and they’ll start to make the connections that could lead to a feeling of fitting into the company’s culture.

You could even have your new hires write a short letter of introduction that you post on your team’s chatboard such as Teams or Slack.  Or, assign them a project within the first two weeks that demands collaboration with other cross-functional team members as a team-building exercise.

8. Schedule Daily Video Calls

It’s challenging to build an emotional connection with a new team, especially when you’re not in the same physical space. This can cause a new hire to feel isolated. Try scheduling a daily video check-in with your new hire to ensure they feel connected and like they have someone to turn to with any questions or concerns.

9. Make Remote Onboarding Exciting

Listening to video lectures and online training modules all day long can quickly become tedious. It’s important to incorporate elements of fun, excitement, and culture into your remote onboarding process. Give the newest member of your team a resounding welcome with fun ice breakers that’ll provide a delightful counterpoint to your work meetings.

For example, you can play a virtual game of “Jeopardy” where every question is about your company. You can also quiz new employees on the subject matter at hand to encourage active listening and participation.   

Another idea that can help keep things interesting is learning new skills through roleplay. One way you can do this is by having someone play the role of an angry customer while another pretends he’s the customer service agent. This method also works great for training news salespeople on how to have conversations with potential customers. This is experiential learning, which makes it easier to internalize new information while also being more engaging.

10. Cultivate A Sense Of Mission

It’s often difficult for remote employees to feel connected. That’s why it’s crucial to share company goals with new hires. This reinforces the fact that they’re part of a larger team, working towards an overarching mission.

This will also help your workforce to feel engaged. According to a Gallup poll, only 30% of the U.S. workforce feels a sense of engagement. Disengaged workers aren’t productive, bring down morale, and have higher rates of absenteeism.

New recruits need to know that what they’re doing is making a difference. This will help them feel engaged. Creating opportunities for small accomplishments during their first few days of employment also helps employees to feel energized about their work.

11. Refine Your Process

If you’re not used to running remote teams, there might be bumps in the road before everything runs smoothly. Ask each new hire what about the onboarding process worked and what didn’t, in their opinion. That way, you can refine your processes and procedures moving forward.

Key Takeaways

Remote onboarding is more complicated than onboarding an employee who occupies the same physical space as you, but it can be done well with a thoughtful approach.

In this case, you have to be sensitive to the emotional isolation that a new employee feels, and counteract it by helping them feel like part of the team.

You can also help your new recruit assimilate into the company’s culture by giving them a schedule for the first several weeks, establishing clear expectations, and assigning them a project that requires collaboration.

Which strategy do you think you’ll try first?

Let us know in the comments!

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