How HR Professionals Can Onboard in a Remote World

Onboarding can happen from 6 feet or 600 miles away!

It’s a dream scenario for HR professionals: you’ve found the perfect candidate, they’ve successfully navigated multiple rounds of interviews, and everyone agrees they’re a great match for the role. They’ve accepted your offer, and now it’s time to get them on board! There’s just one problem: all of your normal onboarding processes depend on face-to-face interactions. And that’s simply not possible in the current environment of social distancing and stay-at-home orders.  Some companies are already well-versed in hiring and onboarding employees for remote positions. But the remote culture created by COVID-19 is something entirely new because suddenly everyone is a remote employee.  Of course, there are challenges associated with doing all of your onboarding remotely, but it’s not impossible. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare to welcome your new employees with open arms — from a safe distance, of course. 

Focus on the purpose, not the process. 

Remember, the primary goal of onboarding is to help new employees acclimate to the company, their new team, and their responsibilities. Welcoming new employees in person is the easiest way to do this — but it’s not the only way. As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention! Now is the time to get creative with your onboarding processes and find innovative ways to make every new employee feel welcome and prepared.  PRO TIP: Consider sending a welcome text on your employee’s first day! You can keep it casual, use fun emojis, and the majority of people always have their phones next to them, so they’re sure to see it. 

Make sure the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed. 

It’s easy for details to slip through the cracks when you can’t follow your normal procedures. As you shift to remote onboarding, pay special attention to forms and other required tasks (like standard HR forms and tax withholding forms) that need to be completed within the first few days on the job. Tools like Jobvite Onboard can centralize onboarding activities and make these tasks completely paperless — a lifesaver for remote onboarding. 

Put the right tools in place. 

While on-site orientation isn’t possible at the moment, it’s still important to create connections between new employees and their teams. Fortunately, technology like video conferencing and internal messaging platforms allow teams to meet “in person” and chat in real-time, even when they don’t share the same physical space. And secure document sharing tools like Dropbox and SharePoint make it easier for remote teams to collaborate effectively. 

Help employees get up to speed from the comfort of home. 

Every company has its own way of doing things, its own terminology, and its own culture. That’s why training is an essential part of the onboarding process. Some large companies have already invested in virtual training courses for new employees, so delivering this material remotely should be relatively simple. Smaller companies can easily create a repository of training materials, product collateral, checklists, and videos using one of the many document-sharing solutions. 

Make them feel like part of the team. 

Welcoming new employees is even more important when they aren’t physically in the office, so give some extra thought to gestures and activities that will make them feel like part of the team. Try these tips:

  • Include a personal note when you mail their laptop and other supplies for home office setup. 
  • Invest in some company swag that’s suitable for home use, like branded mugs and cozy hoodies. 
  • Send a gift card for a meal delivery service like Grubhub or DoorDash, so they can get lunch on you. (While most states have ceased dine-in operations, many still allow restaurants to offer carryout and delivery.) 
  • Encourage team managers to schedule virtual happy hours to welcome new team members. 
  • Connect each new employee with a “buddy” who’s been with the company for a while to show them the ropes and answer any questions they might have. 

PRO TIP: Check out our blog listing the top tools for working and living from home. It provides great inspiration for welcome gifts new employees can use in a home office.  Onboarding any new hire is important, but an effective onboarding program is especially critical for remote employees. The time you invest now to create a seamless onboarding process for remote hires will pay dividends down the road by creating a stronger connection to the company and ensuring they’re prepared to do the job you hired them to do.  Whether you’re helping your recruiting team adjust to our newly remote world or spending time refreshing your employer brand, we’re here to help you navigate these unique times.