March 21, 2023
Table of Contents
The Coronavirus pandemic has not only changed the way we live and socialise, but it has also changed the way we work and hire staff.
Remote onboarding was previously the reserve of tech companies looking for top talent and conglomerates with large-scale systems supporting remote onboarding.
But what if you’re an SME training provider or college looking to diversify your offerings by providing trainers nationwide or specialists who are experts in what they do?
Well, never fear, our ultimate guide to remote onboarding provides everything you need to know about bringing on top-notch talent remotely, and we’ve even provided a handy ‘Remote Hiring Rubric’ to help you snap up the best of the best.
Onboarding is simply the process of a new starter being shown their new workplace - what the people are like the culture, who is best to ask about payslips, where the kettle is etc. Remote onboarding is exactly the same, except new starters already know where the kettle is as they’re based in their own home.
Settling someone into a new role when they’re not physically near you can seem daunting. But with proper preparation, the right tools and a positive team attitude, remote onboarding can be an enjoyable experience and help diversify your team with amazing talent, as geographic boundaries do not restrict you.
Ask the right questions to get the right employee
Remote working isn’t for everyone, and although working from a sofa in fluffy PJs appeals to many, it takes routine and discipline to work effectively when you’re not in an office environment.
To differentiate between those who will be more productive working from home and those who won’t, here is our list of additional interview questions you should add to your process to help the decision process:
- Do you have prior experience working remotely?
- Can you describe your ideal home office/remote work setup?
- What skills do you bring to the table that would help you excel as a remote worker?
- What will be your biggest challenge as a remote worker, and how will you handle it?
- What tools have you used in the past to work effectively while working remotely?
- What’s your experience in working with distributed teams across time zones?
- If you ran into an issue while the rest of your team was offline, how would you handle the situation?
Are you equipped?
Remote working means laptops, keyboards, mice, monitors, chairs and so on need to be provided in order for new staff to do their work effectively.
These should be provided well in advance of a new hire’s start date to ensure that they have plenty of time to set themselves up properly and ask any questions/ request support if needed.
Besides, the first day on the job is always nerve-wracking without worrying about setting up a hard drive on top.
Communication and management tools
Arguably an essential part of remotely onboarding staff is communication and being able to clearly convey objectives and goals.
Thanks to the rise in flexible working and working from home, tools have come a long way since the dark ages of Skype.
Here is our list of handy tools to help make your remote onboarding experience as smooth as possible:
- Slack - this is a great tool to reduce your email inbox and make communication between team members more conversational. This is important as it can help those working remotely feel more connected to their colleagues.
- Zoom/Teams/Other video calling software - Video chat apps enable team meetings with multiple participants and is an excellent way to hold meetings for socially distanced offices and those working remotely. Don’t just limit video calls to work however, take time on a Friday afternoon to host a ‘video call social’ for the office, so everyone can socialise and keep that personal connection with remote workers.
- Loom - this is the tool for when you’re in the office, and someone is stuck trying to find/ do something, and it’s quicker to just sit in their chair and do it yourself. Well, instead of physically sitting in a chair and doing it yourself (which is not ok in the post-covid, new normal), Loom allows you to record your screen and talk someone through a process. It’s quick and simple and adds that personal touch that an email full of instructions doesn’t provide.
- Airtable - Airtable allows you to create bespoke project management interfaces which allow you to set tasks and monitor progress. It’s also a great way of laying out onboarding information so new hires have everything they need in one place.
Start as you mean to go on
When it comes to remote onboarding, starting off on the right foot is key. By setting clear expectations and cultivating a positive company culture from the outset, you can help ensure the success of your remote employees. Here are some tips on how to start as you mean to go on:
Explain your culture
When a company has a strong and positive culture, your employees will do the work for you in selling you to new employees.
Remote onboarding obviously means that your new hire won’t be around to experience your culture themselves, but there are ways around this.
Create a culture brochure
Showcase your office culture with a PDF booklet. This should expand on the information available to the public by including the following:
- Company ethos
- Who’s who, or a senior management/ heads of department section
- Useful phone numbers
- The names, pictures and or contact information of key individuals, including; fire marshalls, first-aiders, mental health first-aiders, union leaders and so on
- Locations of local shops and eateries
- Company benefits include; the number of holidays, Christmas opening hours, salary sacrifice, cycle-to-work schemes etc
The biggest challenge that remote workers can face is the lack of socialisation with colleagues. That’s why it’s important to regularly schedule catch-ups, to not only make sure they’re handling work ok but also just for a chat. These 10-15 minutes in a day can make all the difference in ensuring remote workers feel included and valued.
Office socials are always a great way for staff to bond and can form effective working relationships. Instead of heading down to the pub on a Friday, why not hold a “half at half 4” and get the team involved in an office quiz with a beer to finish the week off?
Give them an office 101
Let remote newbies in on the day-to-day goings on in the office. Like the fact that you refer to Pete from accounting as ‘welly’ because he once turned up to a night out wearing boots that look like wellies! Let your new staff know so they can feel more settled into the day-to-day office banter. Or does the new hire’s team normally go for a coffee at 11 am? Make sure they video call your new remote worker so they can keep up with the conversation.
Establish lines of communication
We already touched on this in our “communication and management tools” section, where we discussed the different platforms you could use to communicate effectively. However, you can have all the gear but no idea if you don’t implement them correctly.
Remote workers are at a slight disadvantage than their office counterparts as they can’t simply shout across to ask a question when it pops into their head. That’s why appropriate communication needs to be established from the outset so that you and your new training provider hire can get the most out of your working day.
Shared calendars allow team members to know when is and isn’t a good time to throw a message over to someone. If you can see that they’re about to step into a two-hour meeting, then that may not be the best time to ask for their opinion on a new training provision.
“Talk times” can provide a guilt-free period of time where colleagues working remotely (and those who aren’t) can shoot over questions and requests without the fear of interrupting you. For an effective “talk time”, establish a period of time for that day - for example, 2 pm-2:30 pm - where you ensure that you’re online and able to answer people. This allows colleagues with questions to feel supported and also enables you to help colleagues without your time being compromised.
Clear structures and goals
Starting at a new company can be daunting, and we’ve all had that day when we’ve sat staring at our screens, unsure of what to do next.
Many companies rely heavily on new starters to simply “shout up” if they have any questions, but this is a nightmare for many newbies, who don’t want to be perceived as wasting time or “not knowing what they’re doing”.
The same goes for remote staff, in fact, it’s worse, they actually have to pick up a phone or write a message to ask a question!
The best way to combat this is by providing a clear structure for them to work against, with regular training and catch-ups in their first three months at your organisation. This will help them to feel supported, and valued and provides a great opportunity for feedback on your onboarding process, which you can use to improve your systems for the future.
How do you make it a success?
Review processes constantly
Request feedback from workers who have been through the remote onboarding process and use it to improve systems. In our popular article “Training Provider Hires 156 People with a £10,000 Recruitment Agency Budget”, the training provider talks about the importance of feedback and reviews when hiring a new member of staff, which helps manage their reputation as a trusted provider who takes an interest in their people.
Routine is key to a smooth transition into the company for staff who are onboarded remotely. By sharing calendars and keeping to regular catch-up and meeting slots, your new hire will feel more comfortable and will know what to expect. This is an important habit to keep as it will also improve the company morale and culture, being an office who are open and transparent with one another.
Provide remote workers with training for software used by the team, such as Google Docs, Trello etc. This will not only ensure your new hire is up to speed and able to ‘jump right in,’ but it’s also a great way of easing them into their new role.
Continued training is important to keep remote workers also motivated, especially at the rate technology moves today. It’s important to keep abreast of changes in order to work most effectively.
In conclusion, this comprehensive guide provides you with the knowledge and tools to effectively onboard and integrate remote workers into your organisation. By implementing the strategies outlined in this guide, you can ensure a seamless transition for your new employees and a successful remote working experience for all.
If you’re looking for a job and want to work remotely, why not check out our range of remote jobs in FE, Skills and Learning?