Over the last year and a half, working remotely has become the norm in most companies. Even as offices start reopening and travel begins again, most employees are in no rush to give up the comforts of working from home, and we do not blame them.
Zero commute stress or expenses, minimum office distractions, and a better work-life balance are some of the advantages for employees to work remotely.
Therefore, going forward, it is likely that the hybrid office structure, if not fully remote, will become the new normal. Google, HubSpot, Siemens, Microsoft, and Intuit are some of the companies that are opting for the hybrid model.
But how many businesses actually have a strategy in place for making that work? According to data from McKinsey, 68% of companies still have no clear plan for deploying the hybrid office model effectively — despite the benefits that remote working offers.
While the trappings of remote work have been running for a while now — Zoom meetings, the use of project management tools, staggered in-person shifts — there is no structured way by which companies are ensuring that remote employees feel engaged and productive at home.
This is particularly disturbing given that only 15% of employees report feeling engaged at their place of work. On the contrary, longer working hours have become another issue. Given how the pandemic put a temporary ban on travel, most employees have resorted to doing office work even at odd hours. That does not help the productivity levels in the long run.
But more importantly, now that many jobs will be remote-based from the get-go, insufficient engagement at the remote onboarding stage could be disheartening for new employees and cause them to leave early. In short, there is a clear and present need for a process overhaul to suit hybrid work needs. And in this guide, we show you how to do just that.
The advantages of an online onboarding process
Onboarding is not just about filling out forms and saying ‘hi’ to your new recruit. It is an ongoing process involving helping them fit into the job and the company while carving out a space where their skills can shine.
Without the personal touch of a physical onboarding, recruits are already missing out to some degree, which means that the online process needs to replicate the introducing, socializing, guiding, and acclimatizing aspects of onboarding as much as possible.
While this might seem like a lot of effort, here is why online onboarding pays off:
1. Reinforced workplace values
Maintaining a consistent workplace culture is becoming harder when a majority of people never come into the office. With a robust remote onboarding process that upholds company beliefs and values at every stage, recruits can feel a deeper personal connection to their place of work.
Having standardized devices, procedures, and messaging styles also helps with creating a sense of consistency. Finally, a uniform online onboarding process means that every recruit gets the same experience regardless of which team they are joining.
2. Better feedback process
Decision-makers at any company need to pay attention to what employees are saying. This is especially important at the remote onboarding stage when recruits are making their first impressions of the company.
It helps invest in an innovative, user-friendly solution that makes feedback submission easy and allows for feedback to be collected at different stages of the onboarding process. By showing that you prioritize what recruits think, you can strengthen the relationship from the get-go.
3. Stronger human relationships
Even when hybrid office models are entirely in place, employees will be much more isolated than they used to be.
Isolation can lead to a more significant disconnect with coworkers and managers and lower job satisfaction overall, which means that prioritizing connections through follow-ups and conversations is paramount.
Have a designated channel and system for official communication, but keep the flow of unofficial chat going, including — wherever possible — in-person meet-ups for coffee. Slack, Skype and Discord are popular communication tools used by companies, big and small.
This way, recruits are also more likely to open up about things they need or suggestions they have to feel valued at their new organization.
Overcoming Virtual Onboarding Challenges for Hybrid Workers
The goal for every onboarding process should be to help the recruit feel like part of the family from day one. Employees who are onboarding remotely require even more effort from and coordination among the different departments involved. Here are some best practices to keep in mind.
1. Start onboarding long before a new employee’s first day
The virtual onboarding process can be fairly overwhelming for a recruit. Not only do they need to adjust to a new set of coworkers and managers, but they also have to learn about the company, complete the necessary admin work and even begin some of their job tasks.
While some of this is unavoidable, companies can streamline the process by having the different departments (such as HR, IT, and finance) coordinate beforehand to remove any redundancies and optimize the flow of steps to save time and effort on the first day, thus reducing virtual onboarding challenges considerably.
2. Emphasize personal connection over paperwork
Learning about the company involves much more than just a presentation or brochure about the company’s story. Recruits learn the most valuable things by talking to their new colleagues and asking questions informally over meals and coffee breaks.
While ongoing in-person interaction may not be possible, the first few days should focus on introducing the recruit to people they can talk to, rather than overburdening them with admin chores that can either be automated or scheduled at a later date.
Wherever possible, this should include in-person coffee dates with mentors and introductions to any interest groups or extra-curricular clubs within the organization. Not creating an environment where the recruit is free to converse with their team outside of work is one of the biggest virtual onboarding challenges.
By getting to know the people they will work with, recruits will get comfortable much sooner and feel more confident about asking questions and answers, not in the company brochure.
The company can also assign a buddy or mentor to make the new employees comfortable quickly. This person could be different from the recruit’s manager. Their task is to keep in touch with the recruit and be their main point of contact for anything they need to do their job well.
3. Think beyond the first 30 days
Once the initial introductions and formalities are over, it is time for the recruit to start their job in earnest. One of the virtual onboarding challenges is the lack of a structured process needed to sync the recruit’s skills and abilities with the needs of the role.
Therefore, the first few weeks should involve close coordination between the manager and the recruit to ensure that all necessary training, mentorship, and progress checks are provided.
A transparent process will give both parties milestones to adhere to, although there should, of course, be sufficient scope to tailor the process to each recruit’s individual needs.
4. Build cultures of feedback collection and implementation
Hybrid work cultures are new for most organizations. It is natural to expect that some things would not be perfect at the start and there would be virtual onboarding challenges as well.
However, what is essential is that companies be open to hearing about feedback and make it easy for recruits to share that feedback. This can take the form of real-time feedback collection, such as by rating each step of the online onboarding process on a star scale and scheduled feedback conversations at two-week or monthly intervals.
Moreover, both recruits and managers should be encouraged to provide feedback when they deem it necessary, whether over calls or on the designated chat channels.
This helps managers stay attuned to the recruit’s needs and also shows recruits how they can improve from the get-go. The practice reduces the attrition rate in the long run.
5. Reimagine onboarding technology
Now that everything is being done online, it is all the more important to scrap ad hoc approaches to remote onboarding management and invest in structured tools.
For instance, having a single tool to disseminate and store all onboarding documents helps to avoid confusion and keeps everything on file for reference later as needed.
Moreover, there should be sufficient provision for ‘fun’ conversations to help the recruit make friends sooner, such as through designated Slack channels on topics such as food or sports to replicate the in-person lunchroom chats.
The advancement in technologies such as virtual office rooms can also create more of an immersive experience by mimicking an actual office space setup, thus reducing virtual onboarding challenges significantly.
6. Group recruits and onboard them together
A remote onboarding program does not necessarily have to be planned for a single person. The manager can organize it for multiple recruits at once.
This will help the new employees partly in training as a collective, virtual team-building exercise, and rely on each to get used to the new work environment and company culture.
Such a cohort strategy can foster a sense of friendship, camaraderie, and engagement among the recruits and a much more enjoyable experience. Plus, remote onboarding events can also include fun icebreaker events that further humanize the process.
7. Have a unique remote onboarding experience
While in-person bonding cannot be replicated online, there are ways to make the online onboarding process about more than just filling forms and watching presentations.
For instance, the company can organize a virtual yoga session or sing-along to break the ice among team members. They can also recreate the welcome lunch by delivering food to each recruit’s house.
Another way is to deliver boxes with company-branded souvenirs, much as in-person recruits might receive goodie bags on their first day at work, thus minimizing the virtual onboarding challenges.
However, among the essential steps is to provide the employee with complete clarity on what the first few days will look like well in advance. This demonstrates that the company believes in transparency and helps to establish trust from the beginning.
8. Train the management
Any business that wants to run a solid online onboarding program must also train its managers and team members.
These training programs could be on how to host effective video conferences, create a strong message about organizational culture, set clear expectations for the first 90 days and beyond, and engage and acclimate employees to their new role and the company.
Unless they know how to approach the remote onboarding program, they cannot be expected to do an excellent job with the recruits. Therefore, companies should train their teams first and then undertake the onboarding process more confidently.
Over to you
It is natural to feel worried about how remote onboarding will go when one has never done it before. The critical thing to remember is that a consistent, transparent approach will keep things moving optimally and allow both managers and recruits to speak up about what they need.
At the same time, it is essential to stay flexible to allow for delays or changes beyond one’s control. Above all, given that the recruit and the manager will not see each other every day, consistent efforts should be taken to maintain a two-way channel for questions and conversation.
This, at the end of the day, will be what helps to establish and maintain trust even if little things aren’t fully figured out yet. Companies should work together to make a good start, embrace the opportunity to learn on the go, and give their recruits the best welcome possible.
While onboarding is a critical process for any business, have you ever wondered about the time you will save by hiring the right fit for your organization?
Using a pre-employment assessment tool like Adaface, you can screen the talent and ensure a scalable, quick, and smooth hiring process, which reduces your time-to-hire by up to 80%.
When the right person is hired, welcomed with open arms, and provided proper training, it is beneficial for the company in the long run.