We've officially gone hybrid-remote over here at Homerun. We've even gone ahead and hired our first fully-remote team members (👋 Welcome Bahram and Adelina!). So naturally, remote onboarding is on our mind...A LOT!
We figured we might not be the only ones grappling with the questions that come with remote onboarding – how do we make our new team members feel like part of the team despite the distance? And how do we best provide them with everything they need to hit the ground running?
So we've done some research to answer these questions and put together some dos and don'ts. Hopefully it helps you on your way to starting a remote onboarding process! We're still figuring it out ourselves so we'll be sure to update this post as we learn more and more about remote onboarding.
Before a new team member starts: preparing the remote onboarding process
👍 DO - prepare the first six weeks of the onboarding in broad strokes
Remote onboarding starts long before your new team member joins. With in-person onboarding, it’s possible to gloss over a lack of preparation, especially if you can offer a lot of face-to-face time. When onboarding remote employees, though, the cracks would show quickly. So preparation is the key to a smooth start.
Preparing for a six-week process is a good rule of thumb. You obviously won’t need to be as involved with your new team member in week six as you were in week one (more about that later), but they will still need some support. So thinking of the different milestones you want them to hit and what they need for that to happen is a good way to get started on this 6-week onboarding plan.
❌ DON’T - forget the nitty-gritty details for the first days
After you've planned out their first six weeks in broad strokes, prepare their first few days in more detail. Think about what your new team member needs to hit the ground running? Prepare a list of passwords, platforms & apps to be downloaded, documents with key info on how the team works, etc. Also make sure that on their first day they have the hardware they need (laptop, monitor, etc.) along with anything else for their remote office. Be sure to ship these over on time!
Making sure these details are in order will help to make a good first impression on your new team member.
👍 DO – prepare a process that gives your new team member a lot of context on the company and their role
These first few weeks are likely the only time when your new team member has time in their work day. Once they are up and running, chances are they will get busier and busier. For that reason, this is a good time to give them grounding in things like company history, your customers, industry knowledge and allow them to get to know the whole business.
This overview will then serve as the foundation that helps your new colleague understand how they fit into the company. When onboarding in-real-life, this information is usually acquired through information osmosis by just being at the office. This deserves more attention when remote onboarding.
❌ DON’T – overload the onboarding schedule
This may sound like a contradiction of the point above but hear us out.
We understand – you want to pass on everything there is to know. However, your onboarding period is limited and so is your new hire’s memory. Avoid overloading their schedule and don’t expect them to remember every single detail you shared.
A better strategy would be to share links to documents, bookmarks or videos where they can refresh their memory and review information as needed.
The first day: remote onboarding begins
👍 DO - give them a clear onboarding document
Present your new team member with a clear document with a checklist of things to read and things to do that'll get them started. This can also contain the milestones they'll hit throughout their first 6 weeks.
This document will serve as the go-to place for any questions and to get to know internal systems. This way they have clear guidance, whilst at the same time developing independence.
❌ DON’T - share all important info verbally only
Don’t get us wrong – video calls are an important part of remote onboarding. This is when your team gets to meet the new team member, and people have a chance to say hello in person.
However, it’s hard to listen, take notes and remember all that new information the first time you hear it. Make sure you back up video calls with documents, links to information or a recording of the call, so your team can refer back to it.
👍 DO - help your new team member get to know the team
Remote or not, every company has its own unique company culture. If you are onboarding remotely, it’s perhaps not as easy to share that culture.
Try to think of creative ways for your new colleague to get to know the team. Whether you schedule a coffee with everyone in the company as part of your onboarding checklist or a virtual lunch, it’s important to make this part of the process. When onboarding in person, new team members have informal conversations throughout the day. When remote, these informal conversations need to be planned somewhat more consciously.
❌ DON’T - forget to plan an in-person meeting if you can
If possible, schedule an in-person meeting. As much as remote and hybrid working has grown in popularity, nothing beats meeting face-to-face. The random chats, jokes here and there, body language – all of those are easily lost on a video call, over the phone or in a chat tool.
Geographical distance and social distancing guidelines may make this impossible. However, if you can make a meeting happen, it will be worth it.
👍 DO – make yourself very accessible for your new team member
Make sure you schedule a good amount of contact time with your new team member. This is always important in remote work or hybrid work scenarios, but it’s especially crucial during the first few weeks.
New team members simply need more check-ins to help them stay on track with the onboarding process. Consider a stand-up meeting every morning where you start the day together and help your team member prioritize their tasks for the day. You could even leave the agenda for these stand-ups completely empty. It's just about having ample opportunity to get to know each other as well as address any questions or struggles.
❌ DON’T – let your new team member get stuck
As your new team member gets into the swing of things, they may realize they’re missing important information or context. Shooting over a quick question to another team member should not be a hurdle. Make sure people are available to jump on a quick call or to quickly answer questions on Slack or other chat tools in the first weeks of the onboarding.
You don't need to be at their beck and call, but being accessible most of the time will go a long way. You just want to avoid situations where your new team member gets stuck because they’re waiting for their next meeting with you to ask simple questions or because they have to type a formal email every time something small pops up.
Last weeks of remote onboarding: letting the new team member own their role
👍 DO – take stock of what still needs to be done
Towards the end of the onboarding process, it’s worth reviewing the checklists and documents you started with. Let your new remote worker highlight areas they still have questions about, so you can make sure everything has been covered thoroughly.
Even with the best preparation, it’s easy to miss details. Now is the time to fill in the gaps.
❌ DON’T - hover or micromanage
Time to let go of the reins. Remember you hired support because you needed fewer things on your plate. As your new team member finds their feet, give them space to solve problems by themselves and work more independently.
Micromanaging is unproductive in most work situations, but especially when it comes to remote working. Take a step back but ensure that (virtual) doors are open and you can be reached if questions arise.
👍 DO - get feedback on the onboarding process
Even the most well-prepared remote onboarding process can be improved. It’s simply impossible to think of absolutely everything new team members need. The people best placed to tell you how your business can do things even better are those who have just completed the onboarding process.
In fact, it is worth including the request for feedback right from the beginning of the process. This allows your new hire to take notes as they go through the process. When you ask for feedback, it won’t come as a surprise, and you will receive valuable information.
❌ DON’T - forget to document those changes
Now that you have received feedback from your new team member, it’s important to do something with it. Ideally, you review it and integrate it into the company’s onboarding process as soon as possible.
Refine your remote onboarding process
Remote onboarding might feel like a daunting prospect, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.
Thorough preparation and a degree of flexibility will go a long way towards making the process successful. Keep an open mind and listen to feedback from your existing team as well as the new hire. This feedback becomes invaluable for improving your process.
As you are getting used to hiring remote workers and remote onboarding becomes normal, you will find that your processes become more polished. New remote hires will integrate more smoothly, and onboarding will feel less disruptive. Remaining open to feedback and questions is key, not only to remote onboarding but successful remote or hybrid teambuilding in the long term.