It’s the dream — never spend a penny on office space again. No more exorbitant rents in “desirable” cities and no more multi-year leases. It’s a privilege that not all employees or businesses can take advantage of (you can’t work remotely in food service, for example), but the benefits are incredible if you’re able to do it properly. And the idea of running a remote company has been around for a while. While the growing COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the remote work movement rapidly. Companies like Shopify and Twitter were some of the first to initiate a strict work from home policy as an effort to flatten the curve.
My company, Bloom, has gone fully remote and we aren’t alone. With a global pandemic that’s evolving by the hour and new hires scheduled to start I know that companies facing unprecedented times are adjusting to new normals. Despite our new normal (for now) — you’ve got a great opportunity ahead of you. The first order of business? Making sure employee onboarding is sustainable in a remote world. Things are a lot different when you can’t rely on a central office environment.
Here’s what you need to pay attention to:
Implement remote-first processes
Before you change the surface level details, make sure underlying business systems support remote onboarding.
Get the right communication and collaboration tools in place
When you don’t have desk plans, meeting rooms, and snack rooms, technology can be a great space for communication and collaboration:
- General and 1-on-1 communication: Slack.
- Meetings: Zoom or UberConference.
- File sharing: Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, Notion or an intranet.
Build a ‘how we work’ document
Because you can’t observe office flow in a remote work environment, employees need to see working expectations in black and white.
In your ‘how we work’ document, include:
- What tools you use for different purposes.
- Expected working hours and time zone(s).
- Email etiquette for after working hours.
- Expected response times for certain types of communications.
- How to deliver work product (this will be different depending on department or type of work).
- Who to ask for help with technical issues (login problems, account issues, usability issues, etc.).
- Anything you do for group / team building virtually or in-person.
Plan weekly check-ins for new hires
If you don’t do a weekly check-in with all employees, then at least make sure you have one for new hires booked with their managers or a senior leader. The best cadence we’ve seen is weekly for the first 8–10 weeks of a new employee’s time with your company. Now, I know not everyone loves seeing themselves on video but try to make these conversations via video. These conversations are meant to be just that: conversations. Don’t focus too much on work and instead use the time to get to know each other — both work and life.
Welcome your people right
Since your new hire will be remote and often times on their own you can’t welcome your new hires in a central location, here are four ways to make their first few days special in your virtual world:
1 — Send a first-day package to their homes
Anything you’d normally provide to an employee in an office, send that in a care package to the employee’s home. This could be things like: a computer, monitor, specific technologies for their job, or company swag. You can even include work-from-home items like disinfecting wipes, their favourite type of tea a coffee cup for their home-office or a book on how to work remotely.
2 — Help them get their home office set up
Office expenses like desks, chairs, stationery, and printers are all about helping employees be more productive, and these tools should be provided to remote workers as well.
Set employees up for success by letting them buy the remote work basics they need to ensure their work station is comfortable and works for them. While Amazon gift cards are the easiest way to achieve this, you can also look into local providers (for example: Staples or Best Buy in Canada) to provide employees with location-specific funding for their home offices.
3 — Start a remote new-hire buddy program
A common approach for team building in offices is a ‘buddy’ program, where a more seasoned employee takes the new person out for coffee or lunch. With video conferencing, you can now do this digitally! Set up your new employees with a buddy. Encourage them to have a virtual coffee or lunch with them on a weekly basis for 6–8 weeks. Encourage buddies to turn off notifications and to make sure that the video conference is in full screen so they’re not tempted by emails or slack messages that come in. Buddies have to be fully present to ensure that your new folks feel welcome.
4 — Host a digital new-hire welcome
Having a common space where people have a chance to drop in and introduce themselves to the new hire is super important. A company wide slack message or a email simply won’t cut it during a remote onboarding process. When I lead talent at Rangle my team and I would walk around the entire office and introduce new-hires to every single person on the team. When I lead talent at League we would introduce new folks during our all hands where they would standup and share a bit about themselves along with a surprising fact. Both proved to be a great way to make folks feel welcome as well as special on their first day. You can create this by hosting a digital new-hire welcome where people across your company hop on a group zoom call and the new-hire gets to introduce themselves and meet everyone else.
Keep the excitement going
Technology has made it easier than ever to build culture and community even if you aren’t in the same room as one another. Slack is a great communication tool and one big benefit is the ability to make channels. You should create two channels for your team:
- A New Hire channel where all new hires can develop digital ‘cohorts’. Remove people from this channel on their 6 month ‘anniversary’ with the company.
- A Remote Work Party channel that’s for people to share cool things about their remote work life, such as their desk setup, tips for productivity, family moments, and more. This channel is great for work tips and also helps stave off the isolation that can happen when people work remotely (especially if they’ve never done it before).
A great way to engender a team feeling with a healthy non-work life for the long term is encouraging employees to co-work together digitally via group video calls. You could also, if budgets allow, host a digital pizza party and have pizza delivered to peoples houses to celebrate a new hires first day. If budgets aren’t there yet and everyone’s distributed all over the world, then just make sure your employees know the value and importance of connecting with their friends, family, and other loved ones digitally. It will help them feel fulfilled in life, which can only mean better things for you as their employer. Working remotely can become isolating and as Covid-19 continues to challenge us as leaders we will need to make adjustments to our way of working to ensure every employee experience is still a good one.
What does your remote new-hire onboarding experience look like? Share what you do to make it a winning one for new folks joining your team in the comments below.
Stay safe + happy hiring!
PS: At Bloom, we support companies who aren’t ready for a full-time Head of Talent but need the leadership on an interim basis. We do the nitty-gritty foundational work like implementing the best tech, tools and processes that are infused with your org’s values. If you’re looking to up your talent game but aren’t ready for a full-time hire, get in touch!