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5 Strategies That Work for Remote Onboarding (In or Out of Lockdown) Implement these proven tactics to successfully onboard remote hires now and in the future.

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The COVID-19 stay-at-home mandates threw a few curveballs at small business owners.

Companies were challenged not only to be nimble and innovative enough to keep the lights on during the crisis, but also to prepare for when the economy reopens. Smart business owners wisely took advantage of this opportunity to begin reaching out to and hiring desirable candidates.

Now, as the world begins to recover, many of these employers are tasked with onboarding their new team members. But, how can this be accomplished with lockdowns still in effect in certain parts of the country? What's more, if employees are increasingly allowed to work from home full time as part of the new normal, how will companies onboard future remote hires?

Related: 5 Smart Ways to Remove Bias From Your Hiring Process

As a deeply experienced recruiting firm with a strong track record of retention, RETS Associates knows what employers and employees need to achieve effective onboarding under any circumstances. Given how the business world has changed over the last several months, RETS recommends the following strategies for successfully onboarding remote hires now and in the future.

1. Utilize video conferencing tools.

Since so many business people have become accustomed to using tools like Zoom for videoconferencing during lockdown, onboarding is the ideal time to put this tool to use.

Video conferencing can be a critical link between employers and their new remote team members, especially during the onboarding process. Seeing coworkers' faces encourages camaraderie and warmth.

Schedule a welcome meeting with the entire team via Zoom or another preferred video platform, and hold ongoing weekly video meetings to keep the new hire and their team members engaged.

2. Make expectations clear

Taking the time to show new employees the ropes and set expectations are critical.

After those initial welcome team calls, utilize video and screen shares to walk new hires through any insider info or tips that will help them do their job well. Discuss work times and availability, response time, and productivity expectations.

Related: 9 Ways to Turn Human Resources Into a Profit Driver

Now is the time to answer practical questions they may have like, "How should I check in?", "How should I contact people?", and "Whom will I be working in order to achieve my specific deliverables?"

Be as clear as possible about their responsibilities to set them up for success.

3. Clarify the evaluation process

The first 30 days of employment are crucial to an effective onboarding process. It's important to let employees know how their success will be measured and how they will be evaluated during this early period.

Specify the performance review process and clarify which deadlines are coming up in the next month. This will help new remote employees have a clear goal and know what they should be working toward.

Managers should also be clear about their availability so they can help new employees get off to a strong start.

4. Communicate early and often

There is no such thing as over-communicating with remote employees. Since much can go astray without the ability to pop over to a co-worker's desk or manager's office to ask a quick question, err on the side of more rather than less interaction.

In fact, our number-one piece of feedback from candidates is that they wish their managers were more accessible during the first 30 days to answer questions.

Related: We're Looking at the Wrong Workplace Diversity Numbers

Clarifying to new hires what should be communicated and through which channels is also critical. Understanding this piece of company culture can streamline a wealth of issues that arise during the course of business.

5. Foster a sense of belonging

A major pitfall of remote work is the loneliness that can come from isolation.

It's vital that new team members know that their employers are always available if they need to reconnect and restore their spirits. One of the biggest challenges a manager of remote employees faces is making sure those workers stay productive and happy while also feeling that they "click" with the company culture.

As most of the world has adopted social distancing to do their part to flatten the COVID-19 curve, many are experiencing increasing feelings of stress, anxiety, or sadness. RETS' executive recruiter Brandi Popovich personally witnessed the effects of these negative emotions with one of her recently placed candidates, who moved across the country to a new city before stay-at-home orders came into effect.

Working long days remotely and being isolated from loved ones, new hires don't always know how to ask for help from their new employers. RETS recommends following up with new remote employees often as they acclimate to the company. This is an easy way to help them feel as welcomed and supported as possible.

Onboarding can be tricky during the best of times. When remote workers are involved, this critical time period requires even greater levels of patience, sensitivity, and flexibility on the part of employers. By utilizing video conferencing tools, clarifying expectations and the evaluation process, communicating liberally, and fostering a sense of belonging, business owners can sidestep work-from-home onboarding issues and set up remote hires for ongoing success with the company.

Jana Turner is a Principal at RETS Associates, one of the nation's leading real estate executive search firms specializing in connecting today's companies with valuable talent to deliver long-term profitability. With a proprietary database of more than 50,000 experienced candidates, RETS helps industry leaders find powerful executive positions, while also helping global, national, and regional real estate companies strategically recruit and hire both permanent and interim employees. For more information, contact

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