The pros of having remote employees are well-known — fewer office distractions, higher productivity, and lower overhead, to name a few. But you might not get to leverage these benefits unless you take your remote hires through a structured on-boarding process that will make them feel engaged and included from Day 1.

Many companies just give new people logins, briefly introduce them to the team, and call it a day. While you might be able to get away with this approach in a physical office, it’s definitely no good for a virtual work arrangement. Remote employees can’t pick up company culture and knowledge by osmosis.

Hiring remote workers comes with its challenges that you need to acknowledge and address during the on-boarding process. Some of these include:

  • Isolation. In general, people are much harder to motivate and engage when they’re working alone.
  • Lack of face-to-face interaction. Your remote employees work with people they’ve never met in real life, and may not get to meet any time soon (or ever). You’ll probably agree that it’s much more difficult to trust and rely on people who only exist as contact names in the chat room than those you see everyday.
  • No “water cooler effect”. The random chit-chat that happens when co-workers bump into each other at the water cooler has a tremendous positive effect on team morale. Unfortunately, your remote employee won’t get a similar opportunity to casually mention that their 4-year-old just learned to ride a bike without training wheels.
  • Cultural differences. When your remote employee comes across an unfamiliar work habit of the rest of the team, they may start to feel even more alienated because they don’t understand your work culture.

At Daxx, we’ve helped over 65 clients from all over the world build and maintain effective remote software development teams, so we know and understand these challenges.

By crafting a well-thought-out on-boarding process tailored for your remote hires, you’ll be able to eliminate the issues we’ve just mentioned, and help them feel as part of the team from the get-go.

Here’s our best advice on how to do just that:

1. Prepare in advance.

According to ADP, more than 50 percent of organizations have either no formal on-boarding process, or use a solution that isn’t ideal for a digital environment. Out of the other half, only 19 percent execute on-boarding extremely well (according to their HR specialists).

If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking about what to do with your new hire on their first day, it’s time to add some structure to your on-boarding process. The key is to execute this well before a new hire actually joins you.

Create a general on-boarding checklist that will include the steps that every new hire would need to go through. Tailor it based on the new person’s role, responsibilities, and skills one or two days before their first day.

Finally, make sure to expose your new employee to different areas of the company and provide them with information on the company’s history, culture, goals, and structure.

2. Use the interview to determine if the candidate will be a good fit.

An extrovert may thrive in a physical office, but he or she may not be able to deliver good results in a virtual setup. On the other hand, an introvert who may not fit in well in a corporate environment may make a great addition to the team when working remotely.

Ask your potential hire strategic interview questions to make sure they’re self-starters who can work independently. See if they don’t mind being hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their co-workers.

3. Use on-boarding software

There are a number of on-boarding tools that can automate your on-boarding process and design it to be suitable for the digital age. Here are a few that we recommend:

  • Blissbook allows you to create a well-designed interactive employee handbook that will help you teach your new hires about your company culture and values in addition to what they can or can’t do. No more paperwork, no more PDFs, just a beautiful, up-to-date online handbook accessible to your new employees at all times.
  • Kin HR can help you create a clear and structured onboarding experience by giving every new hire a personalized onboarding page that details the tasks, tips, contact info, and files which every new hire will need before starting work at your company.
  • BambooHR is a comprehensive HR tool with numerous features, one of which is self-onboarding software. It allows you to create new employee profiles and send them to the new hires along with all the necessary information beforehand, so that their first day goes as smoothly as possible. After that, you can provide them with a customizable checklist of tasks they’ll need to complete as part of their onboarding process.

4. Don’t skip the introduction

As a team leader, it’s essential to introduce your remote hire to the whole team, and not just to the people they’ll be interacting with the most. Your remote employee needs to feel that they have a support network they can reach out to when needed.

You can use the video conference format to host the introduction, so that your new hire can attach a face to each name in your team chat.

5. Encourage regular team communication.

The introduction part inevitably feels somewhat formal and awkward, so encourage your employees to voluntarily reach out once in a while to build team camaraderie. They can check on how they’re doing or ask if they need help with anything.

Here’s a suggestion: have your new hire participate in a group project. While they will work independently most of the time, a group project gives them a chance to collaborate with the rest of the team towards a common goal. They’ll then get to know one another a little better in the process.

6. Use cultural differences to your advantage.

Cultural differences are often seen as an obstacle within the remote work setting.

On the contrary, we believe that cultural diversity can actually make teams stronger, and can serve as a great team-building exercise to do during your new hire’s on-boarding process. For instance, one of our clients organizes quizzes that include topical questions about the countries from which his team members come from.

7. Set clear expectations.

Setting clear expectations is especially crucial during the on-boarding process. You don’t want to overwhelm your new employee with hazy deadlines or vague requirements for their first tasks.

Give them enough information to complete the task. Provide all the necessary documentation, and let them know what type of progress you expect from them, and when you would expect it.

8. Check in regularly.

Throughout the first week or so, it’s important to check in on your new hire to see how they’re doing since coming on board.

Have a one-on-one chat at the end of the week to provide them with feedback on their progress and answer their questions. Ask them which parts of the on-boarding process have been going smoothly, and which haven’t.

If your new hire has any comments or concerns, let them know they shouldn’t hold anything back from you.

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