Remote Onboarding: Time to Get it Together

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It’s becoming clear that new employee onboarding will, for the most part, be done remotely well into next year. That means it’s time to ensure your onboarding processes are really well designed and executed, to help new hires become productive contributors to your organization. Duct tape and bubble gum may have worked when everyone was on-site, but it won’t work when there’s little or no in-person interaction.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been in touch with a handful of people who have started new jobs during the pandemic. Good experiences were rooted in operational excellence and a priority on relationship-building; poor experiences were the result of disorganization and a seeming lack of empathy. The following are my recommendations based on hearing those stories.

Don’t Tolerate Incompetent HR or IT
I’ll start with the harsh statement: If you’re planning to hire and onboard employees in the upcoming months, but your HR and/or IT teams are incompetent, replace them first. Seriously, before you do any other hiring. If your IT or HR folks can’t welcome new colleagues proactively and empathetically, your other hiring processes will be a waste of time and money. There’s lots of evidence that poorly onboarded new hires leave sooner than they would have otherwise (you can Google it).

Basics to Get Right
Assuming you have capable HR and IT teams, the next step is to make sure they are aligned with one another and with the hiring team. Review processes and agree to “best practice” timing for tasks. Ensure that everyone knows their roles and are ready to execute.

My previous blog post named some values to keep in mind; those hold true even more with remote onboarding.

The best practices are out there. Now get serious about implementing them.

Three that I’m particularly passionate about:

  • IT should be super proactive. New hires should receive a laptop before the start date, with all the software set up (not just MS Office, but Zoom, Slack, Teams) and a list of all logins. IT should schedule time with the new hire on the first day, as well as a week after the start date to talk through the employee’s needs for additional support, software, hardware, etc.
  • The first day, first week, and first month should be highly scheduled (while attentive to the balance I mentioned in my previous blog post). Picture your new hires getting distracted – by their children, dog, garden, whatever – just because they’re not sure yet how they should allocate their time. Help them keep focused by providing high-value activities that enfold them into the organization.
  • On the first day, send an introductory welcome email to the entire company (or, in a large company, the business unit). Nothing feels more welcoming to new hires sitting in their home offices than to be “seen” via email, and to receive a flood of friendly responses from colleagues saying “welcome to the team”.

My next post will explore how onboarding can set up the employer-employee relationship for success.