onboarding remote employees

in Coworking, Digital Nomads, Remote Working

Onboarding Made Simple: How to Onboard Remote Employees

Onboarding your remote employees thoroughly can be difficult; you don’t need me to tell you that. Not only do you have to try and ensure that they meet everyone on the team, form connections and have a smooth work process going forwards, but you have to do so in a way that seems natural to boot!

That’s not even mentioning the fact that remote employees are more difficult to onboard than your average joe. You’re faced with all of the problems above, along with an added filter in the form of being separated by a screen. You can’t chat over the water cooler with a remote worker, nor can you call them into a meeting on their first day to discuss their thoughts in person.

buffer remote employees

Buffer’s Remote Employees in a meeting.

Thankfully, despite the difficulties presented, there are a couple of basic principles which you can employ to tackle the issues of onboarding your remote employees. When put into practice, these will even help your regular employee onboarding due to centralizing your efforts and ensuring that everything is up to scratch.

For example, back at Process Street we have an entirely remote team, which means that we face these problems every single time we take on a new hire. However, thanks to these basic principles we’ve successfully onboarded our current workforce and are running at full steam as a well-oiled machine.

onboard remote employees

Set Your Processes In Stone

The first thing you need to do is to lay out and record your processes. This means your onboarding process, standard operating procedures, essentially anything which could affect your new remote employee.

By doing this, you’re helping both yourself and the new hire in several ways. First, you’re ensuring that the hire knows exactly what they have to do and is hit with as few roadblocks to their progress as possible. This also serves to make them more likely to integrate with your team and company more efficiently, as they aren’t immediately going to be met with confusion and problems.

process for onboarding remote

Second, recording your processes makes everything clear and efficient for your existing employees. In much the same way as with your new hire, they will no longer be slowed down by wondering what their next step is, nor will they forget any important part of (for example) your keyword research process due to human error.

Communicate early and often

You may have heard the phrase “communication is king” before; this is especially true for teams with remote employees in them. You need to break down the extra barrier to interaction that being a remote employee creates by communicating with them early, thoroughly and often.

This means that they should be introduced to the rest of the team as soon as possible. Make sure that they know who everyone (or, at least, everyone relevant to the new hire’s job) is and what they are responsible for – if the hire knows who to contact to ask questions and receive help, they’re less likely to be bummed out when running into a problem.

You should also arrange regular meetings in which the hire gets a chance to talk about their progress, bring up any issues and anything generally on their mind. For example, we have a Skype call twice every week to have a quick chat with our boss and the rest of the team, form personal connections, link voices (and the people behind them) to the names on our screen and get a true sense of working in a team.

Encourage collaboration

Collaboration is another great way to integrate a remote employee into your company, as it helps them get familiar with the faces they need to know. Assign a project (or, at the very least, a mentor) for the hire to work with another team member or two on to kick things off; they’ll learn their duties quicker than working alone and may even form some natural personal connections to their co-workers.

One way in which we do this is (and take advantage of the various timezones our team works in) is to cycle everyone through customer support duty. Getting everybody to take on support with a couple of coworkers is not only a fantastic way to ensure that they are thoroughly familiar with our product, but it creates a sense of camaraderie between employees who otherwise may not get the chance to work together.

Integrate them into your feedback loop

This is another practice which serves you as much as it does your new hire; getting feedback from them and ensuring that they know their voice has been heard.This can be done individually, but a perfect way to combine this with the other practices detailed above is to make it a part of your regular meetings.

Ask your new hire about what could be improved in your onboarding process, or even your procedures in general. If they don’t understand something, make sure that you know exactly what they’re struggling with and take steps to remedy it. By doing this you’re removing the barriers your hire is facing, whilst encouraging them and laying the groundwork for attachments to form to their team and the company in general.

Final Thoughts

You can’t guarantee that everyone you hire is going to be a perfect fit with your company and your culture in general. However, these simple techniques can go a long way to helping you be sure that it’s a problem that cannot be worked out, rather than a waste of a potentially fantastic remote employee in your repertoire.

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Benjamin Brandall

Head of Content Marketing at Process Street
Benjamin Brandall is the head of content marketing at Process Street, a SaaS app for managing your workflows and getting more done. You've probably read his articles on TechCrunch, TheNextWeb and Fast Company.

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