Small Business Tips

5 tips for onboarding a new remote employee

Lee Polevoi

The number of employees working remotely for businesses in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years. According to statistics reported by Business 2 Community:

  • Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, at least seven million people were employed in a full-time remote capacity in the U.S.
  • At that time, more than 40 percent of U.S. workers were operating in a remote capacity at least one day a week.
  • Growth in the number of employees doing their jobs outside of the traditional office has jumped nearly 45 percent in the past five years.

With this offsite work trend likely to keep growing, employers understand the value of onboarding new remote employees as efficiently as possible. While the onboarding process is similar to the more traditional new-hire orientation, there are also some key differences.

Here are five tips to help you get your next remote worker up and running as soon as possible:

1. Make the first day count

First impressions count on a remote worker’s “opening day” on the job. When new employees have immediate access to company email, intranet systems and other internal platforms, they can hit the ground running and feel supported by their new employer.

The delivery and installation of technology are crucial to this sense of support. Foremost among the necessary resources is cloud storage, where documents, spreadsheets and other files are securely stored and easily accessible.

Cloud storage enables co-workers to share links to files with the new employee without having to send large or cumbersome files as email attachments. It also facilitates real-time collaboration with other members of the team.

Video conferencing is another essential tool for remote workers. Having access to this resource enables the new hire to:

  • Build relationships with fellow remote employees.
  • Provides a real-time, “in-person” experience at little cost to the company.
  • Utilize collaboration tools like screen-sharing and document editing.
  • Eliminate time-consuming tasks like wading through long email chains, finding lost messages and other issues that cause confusion and prompt delays.

Another fundamental onboarding action is the delivery of the employee handbook ahead of time, so the new remote worker can review policies and guidelines before getting to work.

2. Set clear expectations

Employees who understand what’s expected of them on Day #1 are more productive than those who lack any counseling or guidance. Managers can help achieve this goal by following a few simple steps:

  • Spend a few minutes “chatting” with the new hire. Ask about job goals, how they approach the balance of work/life, and what else they need to get started.
  • Discuss communications preferences (phone, email, IM, video calls, etc.) so that both you and your new remote worker know how to best communicate in the days to come.
  • Talk about how the new hire plans to structure their work-day, as well as a proposed schedule for upcoming deliverables.

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3. Introduce the team

It’s crucial that the new hire not feel abandoned or ignored early on. Plan to introduce him or her to others on the team and start the process of virtual collaboration.

  • Hold an introductory virtual team meeting. Schedule a time when others in the new hire’s department can gather online.
  • Invite or assign a mentor/buddy to work with the new remote worker. This mentor (usually a veteran employee) can assist with a range of questions, such as the proper use of company resources. He or she can also answer questions a new employee may feel uncomfortable asking their supervisor.

4. Set aside time to walk-through company tools

You may have an idea of how well a new hire understands the technology they will need on the job. Often, some training in specific company technology will be necessary. Other tips:

  • Focus first on the particular tools, software and programs the remote worker will use most often.
  • Employ proven techniques for training. The most effective training tools may include:
  • Video calls with screen-sharing
  • Recording training sessions so the employee can review on their own time
  • Assuming control of the remote user’s screen during the training process
  • Individual employees differ in their capacity to absorb information. Working with the remote work, determine the right amount of time (or best time of day) per session for training to take place.

5. Stay in touch through ongoing check-ins and progress updates

Onboarding doesn’t stop at the end of a new hire’s first day. To ensure they operate at peak efficiency, be sure to check-in on an agreed-upon schedule (daily, weekly, etc.).

Schedule periodic one-on-one video meetings. Keep in touch and let the new hire know he or she hasn’t been forgotten.

  • Share tips on increasing productivity in the remote setting. Suggest ideas about organizing for greater efficiency, use of a virtual productivity assistant, and advice on best time management techniques.
  • If a mentor is working with the new hire, check-in occasionally with both to assess the level of effective collaboration. Address any issues that arise.

Never assume a new remote worker “gets it” on their first day on the job. Make it clear you are available to help with any issues that arise. Making them feel that they’re part of the team will benefit everyone involved.

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