A blue employee handbook to onboard new staff on a wooden office desk.
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How to onboard staff remotely

14 Apr 2020

Hays’ James Milligan outlines how to successfully onboard new employees while working remotely.

Onboarding new staff remotely is a new challenge for the working world, with many employers unlikely to have been in this position before. For employers who have new staff to onboard and will continue to do so in the coming months, the key is to remain supportive of your new hires and encourage your teams to put in every effort into welcoming them to your organisation.

If you’re having doubts about offers you have already made or extended, try not to worry as this is a sensible reaction to the current climate. It’s important to take a long-term view and remember why you needed to hire in the first place. Nothing has changed long term and you still need the expertise and experience your candidates have to offer.

Once you have made an offer and the candidate accepts, it’s crucial you make every effort to support your new hire during their notice period. In the current climate, they will need to feel a sense of security and support from you.

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While your candidate is working their notice period or waiting to start, try to get them involved with their new team or with any direct reports. This can be challenging as everyone is working remotely, however there are things you can do to give them a sense of the team they will be joining. Just a few ideas include:

  • Enter your new hire into a group chat on WhatsApp, Skype or a similar platform with their new team
  • Introduce them and encourage discussion as you would in an office setting
  • Schedule one-to-one video calls with key team members
  • Send email updates on what has been happening in the department or team so they can hit the ground running

What will their first week look like?

Take a detailed look at how you usually onboard a new starter and it’s likely that you’ll find that most of the process can be made virtual without losing too much interaction. Here are some things you should prioritise for their first week:

  • Ensure your new hire can access their emails and your systems remotely from day one
  • You still need to be compliant when onboarding remotely so make sure DocuSign or similar software is set up for your new hire to use to complete essential paperwork
  • The majority of organisations have their essential training set up online, so take steps to ensure new starters can access this remotely

As your new hire starts to become familiar with your organisation and what their day-to-day should look like, it’s important to create a clear structure.

Setting expectations daily is important as well as facilitating time for new starters to ask questions, as they would in an office setting. For managers, being as open as possible in this situation is key so new starters feel they can contact them when they need to.

Learn from your approach

Onboarding remotely is a completely new concept, so understand that there will also be a learning curve. Take the time to learn from any mistakes and be forgiving and supportive with new starters. This will ultimately help you retain new members of staff and streamline the process for new remote hires.

After you’ve successfully onboarded your new team members and the crisis has passed, you’ll need to also consider ways to ensure your new starters are fully integrated into your office environment.

Once you return to your office setting, set up a series of meetings with your new starter so they can give feedback on your onboarding process as well as setting up team activities to ensure everyone reconnects after lots of virtual contact.

By James Milligan

James Milligan is director of Hays Digital Technology for UK, Ireland and EMEA.

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