“Hiring from Home: A 3-Part Series”
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many organizations to transition to remote and work-from-home options. While some organizations are putting a hold on new hires, many are still moving forward with recruitment and adding new members to their teams. In the temporary absence of face-to-face interviews, what are the best alternatives? How can you roll them out quickly? Is it feasible to complete the hiring and onboarding process remotely? This 3-part series on hiring from home will provide answers to these questions and cover the following topics: perfecting the phone interview, video interviews done right, and remote onboarding.
Last week, In part two, we discussed how to make the most of your video interview process. For steps on how to make your video interviews efficient and professional, read that article here. This week we discuss how to onboard a new hire from home.
Part 3: Remote Onboarding
A strong onboarding process can drastically shorten the window for a new hire to become a productive and efficient member of the team. At its best, it also provides a welcoming feeling, encouragement, and improves collaboration from day one. This process is important regardless of when you’re hiring, but requires extra care and consideration when working in a fully remote environment.
It starts immediately
As soon as the contract is signed, the onboarding phase has begun. There is no need to wait until the first official day to engage your newest employee! Most new hires are expecting some form of communication or engagement right away, especially if there is a gap between the accepted date of the offer and the start date. While they may be finishing a 2-week, or more, notice period at another company (which should be respected) it doesn’t mean that your onboarding communication can’t begin. This is also a useful time to digitize any necessary onboarding documents that aren’t already online.
Setting the expectations for remote work is a crucial step in the preparation phase. This becomes all the more important if the hire has never worked remotely before or if the job will be inherently different from how the job would be performed in a non-remote setting. One of the most helpful pieces of information you can send in advance is a simple “What to expect on day 1” e-mail. If possible, this email should be followed up with a phone call to discuss any questions or concerns before the start date.
There are several resources you will want to provide in advance of day 1. Here are 4 key things to have sent out before the first shift has begun:
“What to expect on day 1” e-mail: As mentioned above, the what to expect e-mail can be very helpful for employees who may have never worked remotely before, or for individuals that have been hired for a non-remote position but due to COVID-19 will be temporary working from home.
IT contact information: This is helpful information for initial setup purposes, but also saves time out of your day by allowing direct communication between the new hire and your IT staff to work out any glitches that may occur.
Their team: Depending on the size of your company and the size of their team, you may want to provide their team members names and e-mails to help build a sense of community right away.
Software: Provide a list of the applications and software that your organization uses to help the new hire prepare before logging in on day 1. If they are using their own laptop they may want to download certain applications or software in advance.
Define IT’s role
Clearly defining IT’s role will help make the onboarding process smooth and efficient for everyone. Clarify with leadership (and finance) what may be necessary to facilitate this and ensure everyone is on the same page. Aside from the usual work required to prepare for a new hire, remote work demands more of the burden to be taken on by IT. If your organization hasn’t worked remotely before, IT will ensure safe and secure transmission of documents and information that may have previously stayed on an internal server. They will ensure employees are setup properly without their computer being present and likely relying on a remote computer access software. There’s always the chance for technology to go wrong when getting started, so letting IT know in advance what is required will allow them to plan and have the necessary tools and back-up plans in place.
It is important to consider how you can facilitate mentorship for each new hire. Mentorship is a very important piece for any staff member, providing a go-to individual for questions and advice. If you are able to provide a mentor internally, assign a mentor that is not their direct manager. This typically facilitates more open discussion and prevents the new employee from avoiding questions in the early stages to prove themselves.
Change it Up
The onboarding process can be long and involved, and when done remotely carries an even higher likelihood of feeling monotonous. Instead of slogging through manuals and text for hours or days on end, break up your training with different platforms and mediums. Discuss a topic through Zoom, walk them through a software with screen sharing, have different members of the team engage with a phone call, and learn the product or service by actively doing more than listening. The variety and change can go a long way in keeping new hires engaged, learning more quickly, and understanding more thoroughly.
Receiving feedback is a crucial component in learning any new task and this aspect of onboarding is only further emphasized in a remote environment. Feedback should be provided frequently and from multiple parties. This loops back to the idea of differentiating between a manager and a mentor. Feedback should come from both, and at different times. Remote work provides fewer natural opportunities for leadership to provide feedback, so remember to be intentional about when and how it’s delivered. Build blocks right into their schedule if needed. Peers in the workplace should also be providing feedback and encouragement to new hires and can do so easily with your remote communication software of choice, whether that’s Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts.
Note: If your organization has anyone working remotely and you aren’t using a tool comparable to Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts – start using one immediately.
Building off the idea of team communication, building a culture of teamwork and collaboration remotely does not have to a daunting task. We’re in the golden age of remote collaboration. Some will catch on faster than others, but most new hires are going to have a base level of familiarity with online teamwork. The software tools mentioned above (Slack, Teams, and Hangouts) make this very easy. Exploring the company mission and values are a common starting point in the onboarding process, often acting as defining principles for how to interact with customers or coworkers. Implement this in the same way with remote teams and be intentional about bringing them up and including them in communication. Being remote for work, especially when home alone, can be isolating or lonely. Not only do we need to provide new hires with encouragement and feedback, we want them to feel like a part of our community. Take time to engage in team building exercises as this will help break down that feeling of isolation and have the team feeling more comfortable to collaborate on difficult projects or ask for help with challenging customers.
Keep hiring Remote!
After COVID-19 is over here are 3 compelling reasons to keep hiring remote!
- Global talent: Expanding your hiring pool from local to global gives you access to the best talent in the world.
- Increased retention: Remote work opportunities provides employees with work flexibility that’s strongly correlated with higher levels of retention.
- Reduced Costs: Organizations with remote staff aren’t paying for extra expenses that result from more bodies in the office, and remote teams can opt out of expensive cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and San Francisco.
The remote onboarding process requires well-prepared IT staff, preparing and providing resources to employees in advance, and putting an extra emphasis on mentorship and teamwork. Following the steps outlined in this article will make the onboarding process more efficient and help facilitate the best possible start for your new hire. It may also help you see that a remote hire is not something exclusive to times of pandemic, but something your team can implement indefinitely to gain talent, reduce costs, and increase retention.
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