As more companies embrace long-term remote work, it’s increasingly crucial to prioritize and improve the remote onboarding experience to provide new hires with a world-class introduction to the company.
64% of employees are likely to leave their job within the first year if they’ve had a negative onboarding experience. After putting so much time and effort into the hiring process, it’s only fair to both the employees and the company to give them a top-notch onboarding experience.
We’ve seen dramatic changes over the last year in how we conduct business. Thankfully, onboarding programs’ end goal has remained the same: setting employees up for success, regardless of where they are working from.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when implementing remote onboarding programs: many companies have spent ample time crafting their presential onboarding experiences. However, it is necessary to look at these programs with a critical eye to ensure that they translate well to the remote environment.
Let’s start off by looking at what hasn’t changed for onboarding programs.
Onboarding programs still focus on welcoming new employees to the company. This is a crucial time in the employee journey and sets the tone for the rest of their time at the company. These sessions also cover much of the same materials as in-person sessions, including HR paperwork, company policies, different company functions, and required certifications and training. This information might not be as exciting as happy hours with your new team, but it’s necessary to understand the full workings of the company.
So as we see, the basic premise is still the same. Feeling a bit better? Now we can move into what’s changed.
- Interaction levels: As with every remote event, onboarding sessions need to be more interactive. Whether an employee works from home or the office, their first few days are a deluge of information. Remote engagement and interaction are already more complex, so it’s essential to keep things active and high-energy in front of the computer screen. This ensures that your new hires don’t get Zoom fatigue in their first week.
- Geography: Working remotely means that your hiring pool has expanded. Now that employees might be in different states or even countries, it’s imperative to understand how policies differ based on working location.
- Communication: It’s critical to foster strong communication bonds between new employees and their managers, arguably their most crucial contact as they enter the company. It’s just as important to foster informal interactions with new hires from the first day. These ‘watercooler’ interactions help them integrate into the company culture more quickly and build social ties throughout the organization.
When onboarding your remote team members, keep these best practices in mind:
- Increase manager communication. A new hire’s manager should meet with them right after the initial welcome/HR session to welcome them to the team and start discussing what information or projects to dive into. Additionally, you can provide managers with a check-in cadence for the first week to ensure frequent touchpoints start to build a relationship.
- Design onboarding cohorts: 38% of employees report that they feel most welcome during onboarding when included in a group of other new hires, and 31% of new hires prefer introductory meetings and interactive onboarding groups to happy hours. It’s a great way to begin to integrate them into the larger social fabric of the company beyond their immediate team. Once you start working, your social group shrinks to your team and any collaborators you’re working with. Having an onboarding cohort helps people to get outside of those limits and stay connected to other teams.
- Explain the organizational structure: This is especially true for teams with more complicated operating models. It can be challenging to get the lay of the land only through absorbing information in introductory conversations. By explaining the organizational structure and culture, you’re setting your new hire up for success and making it easier for them to navigate through different roles and responsibilities at the company. Using more interactive methods, such as videos, trivia, or games, can help employees process and retain information faster than just looking at a flow chart.
- Define performance expectations: More than 25% of employees say they didn’t receive enough information about their job position before accepting an offer. Only 40% of surveyed employees say that their current job reflects how the position was described during the interview process. Make it a point to reiterate what their job will be and how they will contribute to the company’s success. Set concrete goals – what will the next 30/60/90 days look like? It can also be helpful to share a definition of what successful performance at your company is.
- Keep checking in: Keep communication high over the next few weeks after a new employee starts. Sending a Slack or setting up a quick Zoom meeting to see how they’re doing, if they need equipment or access, or need any clarifications about onboarding information will show new employees that onboarding isn’t just those first two weeks after they start.
Onboarding might seem like a small part of the employee lifecycle, but it’s actually the foundation that a positive employee experience is built upon. Retention, engagement, satisfaction, and productivity are all tied to strong onboarding programs. By keeping the things that work and making the adjustments to your overall workflow, you’ll create a strong process that keeps employees engaged and motivated throughout their tenure.
Adi Janowitz is VP of Customer Success at Hibob. Adi has vast experience in building and leading Customer Success organizations in SaaS companies. In her recent role, she re-built the EMEA CS department at WalkMe. Prior to that, she built the Idomoo global CS org from the ground up. Adi’s focus is on boosting retention by building a scalable KPI-driven CS organization while creating KPI coherency for the entire company.