How to onboard employees when working remotely

How do you welcome someone you’ve never met face to face? It’s a question that companies everywhere are grappling with as the Covid-19 crisis forces them to work remotely. Figuring out how to find and hire new recruits in this environment is tough enough, how do you tackle remote onboarding once they’re ready to join the team?

Even in normal times, successful onboarding is critical to a company’s long-term success. Studies show that as much as 20% of staff turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment. Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater retention of new hires. Getting an employee up to speed quickly and painlessly can help ensure they stay with you for the long haul.

To avoid the common pitfalls of remote onboarding, consider incorporating these steps into your process.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

You don’t want your employees’ first days to be filled with confusion and chaos, so take the time to make sure everything is in place before they log on.

If your company provides employees with the tech they need to perform their job—a laptop, software, access to a database—make sure it’s in their hands before their start date. And make sure IT is available to walk them through setup.

The same goes for any documents they may need to sign or review. Make sure you are prepared to send new hires their employment contract, Form W-2, medical insurance enrollment forms, employee handbook, and any other document they need to sign as part of their remote onboarding. Most documents can now be signed virtually, so choose a service and advise new hires to create an account ahead of time.

Prepare current employees for the arrival of their new colleague. Something as simple as an all-staff email announcing the new hire, complete with previous work history and the details of their new position, can help ease the transition.

If your company doesn’t already have one, create an onboarding checklist that covers everything a new employee will need on day one. This will help make sure you’re not scrambling every time someone new comes aboard.

Set clear expectations

We all know the feeling: It’s the first day of a new job, and you’re sitting at your desk trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing. Now imagine that same scenario, except the desk is your kitchen table and your nearest coworker is 100 miles away.

When onboarding employees remotely, it’s essential to set clear goals and expectations, both for the short and long term. Again, this is work that should be done long before the employee actually clocks in, either by the hiring manager or the employee’s supervisor. Have them provide the new employee with a task calendar containing the objectives, and schedule regular one-on-one follow-ups to discuss progress and adjust expectations.

Be sure to build in time for the new hire to ask questions, too. Starting a new job remotely requires a person to absorb a lot of information in a short period of time, and many people don’t learn as well virtually as they do in person. Make sure to occasionally stop and ask new hires if they understand what’s expected of them.

Meet small, then meet big

Even at a small company, meeting all of

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