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How to create an onboarding framework for distributed employees

Distributed work is on the rise due to an increased demand for flexible work arrangements. The majority of employees would like to work from a location of their choice and an increasing number of employers are giving them the option to do so. As more and more organisations follow suit, they’ll need to ensure that employees who work outside of the office feel as included and connected to the company as those who work onsite. This begins with the onboarding process for new hires.

A proper onboarding helps promote a sense of belonging and ultimately plays a huge role in employee engagement and retention. It is a must for new hires, especially those working in global organisations with locations in various countries. Read on for more information on how to create an onboarding framework for new hires that work distributedly.

1. Create a digital onboarding toolkit

Before onboarding new hires, it’s a good idea to develop a digital onboarding toolkit. This would consist of one or more onboarding solutions that allow you to digitize pre-boarding steps. For example, sending documents like offer letters, employment contracts, and other legal forms that require signatures.  

It can be overwhelming for employees to fill in and send back physical forms. Additionally, this creates added and unnecessary work for hiring teams. Lay the foundation for a successful onboarding by making the first steps as efficient and easy as possible. 

2. Set up the needed technology

Distributed employees should have all work-related tools before their first day on the job. Ensure that they have the hardware, software, and network connections they need to access your onboarding program and do their work. 

Ahead of their official start date, establish how you will transfer all necessary equipment to your employees. Will they come to pick it up from your offices or will you mail it to them? Whatever method you choose, ensure that your new hires are fully set up and ready to work before day one.

3. Create interactive induction and onboarding sessions

Virtual onboardings need to be as engaging as possible. If you simply opt to send new hires a bunch of training videos and PowerPoint presentations, they'll breeze through them just to tick the boxes off your onboarding checklist. It's better to have virtual meetings with them whereby you discuss the relevant subjects at hand.

If you're onboarding many employees at once, create a virtual onboarding session for everyone at the same time. At the meeting, you can encourage everyone to contribute to the discussions. Make the induction and onboarding sessions fun through quizzes, icebreakers, competitions, etc. 

4. Follow a detailed onboarding procedure

It's important to have an established procedure for onboarding new employees whether remotely or onsite—and it should be adhered to closely. This helps provide a uniform onboarding experience for all new hires and ensures that you never miss any important steps. 

Alternatively, a lack of structure during onboarding can be damaging, both for your company and new hires. For example, failing to fill out certain legal employment documents can result in strong consequences, depending on where your company is located. You may also forget to introduce new employees to important stakeholders or brief them on an essential part of their job. Avoid these problems by drafting and following a standard onboarding procedure. 

5. Schedule regular catch-up sessions

Many companies do a good job of making new employees feel welcome during the first few days, but drop the ball by leaving them to their own devices thereafter. Be sure to schedule several check-ins with recently onboarded employees to find out how they’re settling into their work and the company.

Direct supervisors should try to have virtual meetups with new team members at least once a week in the beginning. You can also consider encouraging other team members to do the same. 

Someone from the HR team should also check in with new employees at regular intervals. For example, after one, three, and six month anniversaries. This will give employees a chance, if necessary, to raise any concerns to a neutral third party. Having a means to address frustrations, misunderstandings, and other problems is critical in helping distributed employees stay engaged and happy. 

6. Get feedback

When you first start onboarding remote employees, you'll need to put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you were joining a new company and working independently outside of the office? Think about any challenges that might arise as a result for new hires, corresponding solutions, and factor them into the onboarding procedure.

You should also take the time to ask new hires for feedback on the experience of joining the company. Consider all their suggestions and update your onboarding procedure accordingly. This process is essential in coming up with an effective framework.

7. Clarify your expectations

One important reason for onboarding employees is to clarify responsibilities and expectations. Ensure that all new employees are clear on your performance standards and your appraisal methods. Remote workers are often given freedom and flexibility in their ownership of tasks, but this can lead to misunderstandings.

If employees must sign in and out at certain times, let them know. Communicate deadlines and deliverables for work assignments both verbally and in writing. Employees feel happier and less anxious if they know exactly what they must do to get a good performance rating.

8. Provide new employees with a mentor

Many companies assign peer mentors or “buddies” to new employees to help them settle in faster. Among other things, introduce new hires to the company culture and make themselves available to answer any questions that arise. For online onboarding, you can also ask an experienced team member to guide new employees on work processes and make sure they feel welcomed and included. 

The bottom line

Employee onboarding is as important for remote employees as it is for onsite employees. Some argue that it is even more important to warmly welcome offsite workers and train them on the mission and values of your company.

A successful virtual onboarding framework needs a lot of planning, communication, and follow-up. Set yourself up for success by investing in digital onboarding solutions to streamline the administrative side of things. Also make sure you have an established procedure in place to ensure there are no oversights and that new hires have the best onboarding experience possible. Finally, remember to regularly check-in with distributed employees during the onboarding process. It’s especially important for those working offsite to feel connected and engaged. A little bit of attention and thoughtfulness can go a long way when bringing new hires into the company fold.

Now that you know the essential guidelines for creating a great onboarding procedure, make sure you have a sound remote work policy as well.

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