We all know that remote work comes with plenty of benefits. Most impactful to business owners are the savings associated with reduced overhead. In fact, U.S. employers with remote workers can expect to save up to $5 billion in total (up to $7,000 per remote worker).
Increasing remote work opportunities also produces happier employees, who enjoy lower stress levels and higher satisfaction. That said, remote work isn’t without its disadvantages. Take the example of StatusPage.io (since acquired by Atlassian), whose remote work program failed, due to challenges with collaboration, culture, and camaraderie.
According to StatusPage co-founder Steven Klein:
“In the beginning, we were very positive about being a remote team. It was going to let us live where we wanted to live, hire the best talent around the world, and work from home when we wanted to. All that jazz. But over the past two years, the downsides of being a remote team have really started to weigh on us. So much so that we’re changing our stance on how we want to build the team. Remote just isn’t for us.”
Overcoming the challenges Klein describes in his full article requires a proactive approach – one that begins with your company’s onboarding. Keep the following five tips in mind as you build your onboarding program.
Tip #1: Meet the New Hire in Person
If at all possible, bring your new remote workers on-site to train in person and form key early relationships. However, plenty of situations exist where a personal visit isn’t possible. Your company may not have the budget to bring remote workers in, or timezone challenges could make travel impractical. If your team is fully distributed you may not even have a brick and mortar location for new hires to visit.
One cost-effective alternative is video conferencing, which produces the same kind of face-to-face engagement as in-person meetings – no matter where in the world your new hire is located. Just make sure your video conferencing provider is up to the task of onboarding. Being able to screen share onboarding materials in real-time and meet different team members through multi-point video and chat create a great impression of your company’s capabilities.
Tip #2: Formalize Your Onboarding Program
Regardless of how your new hires engage, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the actual content of the onboarding programs with which they’re engaging. Chances are you already have an onboarding program in place. But is it really set up to meet the needs of your remote team members?
Remote worker onboarding programs need to be more formalized than their on-site counterparts. New hires who work in-office can lean over and ask their colleagues any questions that aren’t addressed during the onboarding program. But your remote workers may not be quite so willing to speak up – especially if it means they risk being seen as needy or slow.
Even more importantly, spending time formalizing your company’s onboarding program forces you to think through the information that needs to be included. This makes future onboarding sessions easier and helps ensure your remote new hires get all the information they need to be successful.
Tip #3: Use the Buddy System
Mentorship is just as valuable for remote team members as it is for in-office workers, if not more so. When a remote employee joins the team, pair them with an experienced team member – either in-office or remote – to help them acclimate to their new role on the team and the company.
But don’t just assign mentors and trust that everything will work out. Remember, again, that remote workers may be reluctant to reach out for fear of being perceived as incapable. Instead, require regular engagement between mentors and mentees, and make sure the appropriate time and/or budget is allocated to fulfilling these commitments.
Tip #4: Invest in Your Remote Culture
Yes, onboarding needs to cover dry details, including company policies, work expectations, and job-specific training. But it’s also a great opportunity to induct employees into your culture to encourage early buy-in with your company.
It’s easy to let cultural engagement slide for remote workers, but this is a mistake. Instead, draw inspiration from the successful programs profiled below to improve both your future onboarding results and overall employee morale. Include remote new hires in these programs as soon as possible.
- Zapier uses Slack for “inside jokes, shared experiences, and a collaborative environment.”
- Groove, as profiled on the Trello blog, facilitates “daily standups that are not allowed to go over 10 minutes, except for Mondays, when some time is spent on chatting about everyone’s weekends, personal news or accomplishments, and generally spending some quality time together—online.”
- Formstack uses the HeyTacos! app. “Using the taco emoji within Slack, we can award up to five tacos a day to one team member for doing an extraordinary job, or disperse them among multiple colleagues that provided a helping hand.”
As these examples demonstrate, “culture” doesn’t have to represent a major investment on your part. It isn’t ping pong tables or beer on-demand in the breakroom. Instead, it comes down to encouraging connections and forging shared experiences between teammates, even if they aren’t all based out of the same location.
Tip #5: Keep It Going
“Delighting” your remote workers once during onboarding is great, but it’s not enough.
Instead, it’s your responsibility to continue to be proactive about checking in on your new hires’ onboarding progress, offering opportunities to ask questions and introducing new training or engagement options, whenever possible. This is especially important for remote hires, who may slip off your radar once your formal onboarding program is complete.
There’s a real risk to a company if their off-site workers suffer from disengagement due to their distance. By investing in onboarding programs that delight new team members, you’ll start remote relationships out in the right way and improve your odds of long-term employee success.
What other tips would you add to this list? Leave me a note on how you proactively delight your remote workers during the onboarding process by leaving a comment below: