3 Onboarding Tips That Close the Gap for Remote Employees
Consider these strategies to foster engagement and peak performance.
What does the first day at a new job look like for a remote employee? Work attire: likely comfy clothes. Start time: flexible, perhaps with a “welcome to the team” conference call at 9 a.m. First assignment: Start getting familiar with new-hire training tools. There’s not a lot of oversight for a new remote employee, meaning the first-day jitters are probably less of an issue.
Studies show that home-based employees are more productive. Besides the benefit this brings to employers, remote work comes with dreamy perks for employees: work-life balance, flexible hours and unlimited workspace options.
However, there are some hidden disadvantages to working remotely. Spontaneous brainstorms, team-building and personal connections with coworkers -- all key factors in employee engagement -- are missing from the home office atmosphere.
These challenges are especially important for leadership and human resources teams to consider when bringing new remote employees up to speed. Here are three onboarding strategies to keep your remote employees happy and performing at their best.
1. Set up regular check-ins.
A natural first step in the onboarding process is job training. While there are many digital tools available for onboarding remote employees, it’s even more important to anticipate the need for open and frequent communication. Whether training takes place in-office or online, make sure key onboarding staff anticipate questions that a remote employee might have as he or she settles into a new role. Team members working remotely won’t have the opportunity to wander around the office and brainstorm potential solutions when uncertainties arise, so having regular check-in meetings is essential.
Dedicated onboarding specialists are a tremendous asset when it comes to welcoming new employees. A “buddy system” can also be helpful -- pairing seasoned employees with new hires can provide extra guidance, institutional knowledge and a personal connection.
2. Create opportunities for team-building.
For remote staff, casual chatter around the water cooler is not an option for getting to know the rest of the team. If weekly meetings are a time for the whole staff to get together, eliminate any confusion by introducing remote employees to the team from the get-go. Create an inclusive atmosphere from day one by setting up a meet-and-greet so in-office staff and remote employees can get to know each other. Make sure remote workers are looped in on staff gatherings outside the office, if the distance is appropriate. Creating opportunities for togetherness will help close the gap in the long-distance relationship between remote employees and in-office staff.
Annual in-person team meetings are a great way to connect employees and build a sense of community within an organization. Formstack, a company with a largely remote workforce, has begun hosting annual “all hands” weeks to gather employees scattered across the globe. Such events help to create a culture of transparency, communication and fun -- all essential ingredients to maintaining a healthy relationship with remote employees.
3. Invest in continuing education.
Continuing education programs are investments in your employees’s futures. These programs are especially important when it comes to remote employees, as they demonstrate that you value their continued success within the company and beyond. Your company can provide opportunities for employees to attend conferences or complete professional development courses and certifications. Likewise, you can encourage growth by implementing programs for tuition reimbursement or training as well as creating leadership roles for existing employees to fill.
Whether it’s a small-scale option, such as weekly webinars, or a bigger gesture, such as sending employees to annual conferences, building development opportunities into the onboarding process for remote employees will go a long way toward making them feel like an important part of the team.
Chris Byers is the CEO of Formstack, an Indianapolis-based company offering an online form and data-collection platform. Prior to Formstack, Byers co-founded an international nonprofit that was built via remote relationships among partners in Europe, Africa and the United States.