Remote Onboarding: What We’ve Learned

Coworkers working together online

Remote recruiting has been a boon for Wildix. With the flexibility and, of course, the systems to hire talent from anywhere in the world, our chances of finding the right person for the job are higher than many. But HR’s job isn’t done the moment a future employee accepts an offer, in reality, it’s just begun.

In fact, we’ve found that the next step in the process, onboarding, is key to securing employees and building productive teams. So let’s take a closer look at the value of onboarding and what we at Wildix have learned about training and welcoming our employees remotely.

What Is Onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of training and familiarizing a new employee with a company. It starts from the moment they accept a job offer until they are a regular productive member of the team. This includes the gap between accepting the offer and actually starting the job.

Why Is it Important?

Without a proper onboarding plan, there’s a real risk that an employee may never engage with their colleagues or the company, causing them to be disconnected, dissatisfied and more likely to leave. As a result, onboarding is just as much about training someone on systems and processes as it is about encouraging them to embrace the organization’s values and culture and engage with their team.

Essentially, instead of just having the knowledge to do their job, at the end of the process, you want your employees to feel welcomed, comfortable and that they belong.

What’s the Case for Remote Onboarding?

Like any business decision, there are pros and cons to providing in-person onboarding sessions versus remote ones. Nevertheless, the following points make a strong case for holding them remotely.

Time and cost efficiency

Let’s just start by admitting there is something magical about gathering together for an in-person orientation or training session. However, they’re expensive and time-consuming affairs. With traditional orientations, rooms need to be booked, refreshments sorted and everyone, from the trainer to the attendees, has to make travel arrangements to be present at a specific time and place.

In contrast, a remote orientation just requires everyone to sign in through the same link at the same time. There’s little or no financial penalty for canceling, moving or adding sessions and since they don’t require travel, they aren’t massive disruptions to the work day. Additionally, if you also utilize on-demand learning platforms, remote onboarding allows people to learn at their own pace, in a comfortable, familiar environment, making it easier for them to focus and, ultimately, learn.

Wider talent pool

Requiring all employees to attend a specific location on specific days, even if it’s only for an orientation, does limit who you can recruit. If the area surrounding your office is brimming with talent — then it may be a viable plan. But if you find the people with the skills you need aren’t located in your area, having a full remote onboarding process allows you to recruit talent wherever they may be.

Remote Onboarding: The Wildix Approach

As a UC&C provider, we’re confident that our teams have all the tools they need to collaborate and communicate effectively, regardless of where they are in the world. However, as we’re sure our partners and other MSPs know, just because you have the tools to keep people connected doesn’t mean that they actually are. Fortunately, from our own experience, we have a few key tips for overcoming the challenges of remote onboarding and using the process to increase employee satisfaction.

Encourage Diversity and Inclusivity

Naturally, having access to a wider range of candidates can help produce a more diverse workforce. This can be a source of strength. Kellie Barrett, Office Manager & HR Admin Assistant at Wildix UK, suggests: “Remote onboarding can help with diversity and inclusion as having a diverse workforce can bring different perspectives and experiences, meaning a multitude of ideas, approaches and insights which allow teams to tackle challenges and projects from different angles.”

More diversity can open the ground for more miscommunications, especially if there are language barriers and different communication styles involved. To combat this, Kellie suggests employees should “engage with each other casually as well as professionally because this will help them get to know each other, learn new things about their colleagues and educate one another about their culture. This will naturally develop into creating an inclusive workplace.”

And of course, the more inclusive a workplace is, the more employees are allowed to be themselves, leading to happier workers and lower staff turnover.

Champion Team-Building Activities

Of course, creating a space for casual conversation is a bit tricker when a team is remote. Encouraging team and one-to-one catch-up meetings or even online get-togethers such as a quiz night can help employees break down barriers and build relationships, but where possible, these shouldn’t completely replace occasional in-person events. “100% percent of remote workers are missing office and in-person interactions,” notes Max Yermolenko, HR specialist for Wildix Ukraine. “Fortunately, many of them have business trips where they can see their colleagues and team members.”

Ideally, companies should foster a culture that embraces spontaneous communications across departments. Otherwise, a remote environment risks reducing accessibility to certain resources and people. “You can’t just walk by a desk and ask relevant questions,” points out Kellie.

While many may miss those spontaneous run-ins at the water cooler, remember that not all office interactions are productive or beneficial. “Working from home reduces office gossip time, lateness and time wasted in the coffee shop,” Max notes. “Employees often also experience less distraction, allowing them to concentrate more on their duties and take advantage of flexible hours to work when they are most productive.”

It can be a fine balance to achieve, but holding virtual and in-person team-building events as well as encouraging a (virtual) open-door policy, can help build up relationships usually forged in the line for the coffee machine.

Define and Live the Company Culture

If your business has started out small, you might have discovered a rhythm with your team that simply evolved over time. As your company grows, however, you need to take action to ensure you don’t lose what made your team successful and unique. “While positive team culture can materialize organically, it’s important to clearly define the company values and mission, be transparent, prioritize and welcome feedback,” advises Kellie. “Building a good company culture can take time but it’s a key factor in the engagement of employees and therefore the success of the business.”

In essence, don’t forget to include this material as part of both your formal training plan and your daily interactions. It is important that everyone, in particular management, knows these values and behaviors and works to displays them. People can sense ingenuity and will quickly become disillusioned if the values on paper don’t match up to reality.

Next Steps: Monitoring the Employee Experience

Once an employee reaches the end of a successful onboarding process, don’t be tempted to think the work is done. People aren’t static and neither is the employee experience. Just because staff start out happy and well-adjusted, does not mean that they won’t encounter problems, friction or frustrations that if not handled in a proactive manner, could lead to them leaving and requiring you to start the whole recruitment from scratch.

Keep an eye on what’s happening with your staff through yearly or quarterly feedback surveys. These could be in-depth questionnaires or net promotor scores, but in either case, use them to get a clear picture of the employee experience and engage with any feedback given in a clear and productive manner.

It’s a continual process, but it is vital for your employee satisfaction — and the success of your business — depend on it.

If this article was interesting, see last year’s article on the state of recruitment, where we discuss the changing landscape of remote work.

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