November 2020: Remote Onboarding

Contributor: Katherine Whitney

Remote Onboarding – An Intentional Plan with Individual Attention

At a time when so many companies are just trying to avoid furloughs and layoffs, why do we need to think about remote onboarding?  Some companies are still hiring, and some that had layoffs are now refilling those positions.  We’ve also learned that companies can fill some positions very successfully with remote workers, so in the future, some key positions may become potentials for remote workers.

While your basic checklist for onboarding may remain unchanged, an intentional onboarding plan and individual attention will improve the chances for success.  Here are a few things to think about regarding remote onboarding.

Think through the people who need to know about a new hire.  Pre-pandemic, when we had in-person interviews,  it was easy for people to be aware of a new hire – they crossed paths with them in the office, or someone would mention it in a casual conversation.  It’s much easier now to forget to let the right person know to order a new computer or to prepare a press release.

Learn about the new employee’s remote working conditions.  Does he have children who are learning online?  Does she have a strong and stable internet connection?  Does his home office environment provide an appropriate background for zoom meetings? Does she need/have a printer? You may be able to provide resources or flexibility that will help your new employee get off to a good start.

Determine how your new hire will obtain the office supplies she needs.  It’s not as easy as walking to the storage room to pick up folders, paper, or envelopes.  Many printers run through ink fast.  Who pays for that?

Consider what the new hire needs to know about how the office runs.  What are the Covid requirements if he visit the office?  What video conference platform do you use?  What is the schedule for department or office meetings?

Create a plan for the new person to meet the people she needs to know.  In addition to supervisors and direct reports, who are peers that she will collaborate with?  Consider frequent and planned opportunities to meet coworkers to take the place of impromptu drop-in meetings that happen in the office.  A peer mentor who will check in daily for the first 30 days may be a good way to start.

Talk about company culture and look for ways to demonstrate it.  It won’t be easy for a new person to pick up cues by exposure, so be explicit in setting expectations.  Then gently reinforce or correct when you observe behaviors that are not in line.

Be aware of whether your new employee is introverted or extroverted.  The introvert may be very happy working alone from home, but if the job requires reaching out to others, that may be more difficult for her.  Conversely, the extrovert will crave contact and may not be happy in the new position unless there’s a way he can connect with others.

Remote onboarding requires more than a few hours and a checklist.  A successful process will include intentional effort built around the individual needs of the new employee.  It may be that as we get better at remote onboarding, we’ll want to carry some of the new practices into the future to strengthen in-person onboarding.

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