Many of our current clients are working on growing their businesses, which is honestly one of the biggest reasons their marketing department wanted to seek out our digital marketing agency’s help to begin with. But along with growth, comes new hires. And in the time of COVID-19, any company that can hire at the moment might want to work through the new and unique challenges of a remote onboarding process. Even before the drastic industry changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there had been years of slow and steady movement toward more remote work, with companies finding value in a telecommuting workforce.
I recently went through my own remote onboarding, starting a new job here at Revenue River while working one hundred percent from home. So here are some tips I’d like to offer fellow marketing agencies or any growing company, including our customers. Here’s your head start on developing a solid onboarding process that will impress your new employees and make this new type of transition as easy as possible on your whole team!
1. Offer secure information sharing
On an employee’s first day, you usually get them to sit down and fill out all the necessary paperwork associated with employment. Doing this in person is easy and quick, but asking an employee to fill out this information and send it to you through their email can be a bit trickier. Keep in mind the fact that most email servers, unless specially encrypted, will put their very important social security number or bank information at risk. To really set yourself apart as a prepared and professional remote workspace, think ahead and offer your new employees a secure method by which they can get you this information. Maybe that’s mailing them the proper documents they’ll need to fill out with a prepaid return security envelope or offering a secure upload link.
2. Send your new hire a unique welcome box
Stand out amidst other less prepared companies to show that you are just as excited to have the new member on your team as they hopefully are to be there. If you can afford to, send them a first day on the job welcome box of goodies to make their start special. You might already be mailing them a company laptop or phone, so you might as well add some other items like company swag (t-shirts, pens, gadgets, etc.) so they can begin showing off where they work. You can also add in any recommended reading that aligns with the cultural values of the company, maybe some small snacks to keep up their energy through what is usually an exhausting first week, some tools to organize or manage their work day like a fancy new notebook or any other tech gadgets that might help them get more organized. The options are limitless, but it will help keep their experience with your company positive and inclusive.
3. Prepare well ahead of their start date
Without being in an office together, online work makes communication more difficult than simply turning to them at the next desk to say, “Oh one thing I forgot about is…” The training manager will need to set aside time to really dive into everything they need their new hire to know so they can prepare it in advance and create a calendar with a set structure on how to become acquainted with the company processes. You don’t want to leave your new remote hire feeling like you weren’t prepared for them. If you are able to document a purposeful and strategic plan to share necessary job and company information during the first few weeks, they will get comfortable in their position quickly and feel like they are being properly supported by their company.
4. Schedule out their calendar for the first week or longer
Making sure they know what they should be doing and have a schedule to follow along with before they can efficiently schedule their own time is incredibly helpful to someone starting a new job from home, especially in regard to the onboarding activities they won’t otherwise know they need to be doing. Here is an incomplete list of items you may want to consider adding to their calendar so they know exactly what they should be working on when and with which person.
- One on one meetings with those they are going to be working closely with
- One on one meetings with department directors or managers to give a run-down on their department and how they might need to work together
- Online training courses to get them up to speed on any specialty programs used by the company
- Check in calls with their director or supervisor daily at first and then tapering off as is effective
- Scheduled time for transitioning ownership of each role task from a transitioning employee or supervisor
- Rough time block to focus on setting up email folders/organization systems that work for the individual
5. Get to know your new team member
In person, casual conversation flows much more naturally than over a video conferencing call. In an online meeting, it can be a little harder to get out of professional work mode and into a more interpersonal way to communicate in order to show that you value and are interested in who they are as a person. Because of that, it can be a lot harder to get to know your new colleague in the effortless way that usually comes with sitting right by them for 8 hours a day or through going to happy hour after work on those particularly rough days. Because of this, you need to be a bit more purposeful about getting to know someone when they are remote. This can take the form of many different things, but here are some ideas to specifically schedule time to connect in a unique way:
- Simple group question and answer session
- Fun at-home scavenger hunt
- Have a meal together
- Share stories about a predetermined topic
- Plan a walking/talking meeting to get everyone out of the house and out of work mode
- Show off your pets, family, or home office space
6. Be generous with your scheduled time together
Whether it’s with their boss or another trainer, schedule out ample time specifically set aside for answering questions with that individual and the new hire. Suggest that the new hire writes down any small question that comes up through the day whether it has to do with small items like an acronym they are not familiar with or larger things like their job role and bring the list to each of these meetings. This empowers your employee to ask questions without being afraid they aren’t learning quick enough while also making sure those questions don’t come in a rapid fire succession in multiple emails or messages. If you get on the call and there are no questions, great - everyone gets back extra time! You could start out with daily video meetings and then cut back as the questions get to be more manageable on a case-by-case basis. This approach demonstrates to your new teammate that they are supported by the company and they don’t need to shy away from asking questions just because it doesn’t seem like there is anyone with enough time to answer them or the question seems too small to warrant its own email.
7. Turn on all your video
A remote team member who has never met anyone in the office is at a complete disadvantage in phone calls and video calls where individuals’ cameras are turned off. As long as there are remote employees, make sure it is a company-wide expectation to show their bright faces over video so nobody is left talking to a black screen - it’s completely impersonal! Keeping everyone’s video on is worth it to keep everyone more engaged in the conversation even if you have to assure everyone it’s okay if they don’t look as buttoned up as they might in the office.
8. Introduce the employee to the company in small groups
One of the hardest things in a new job is just getting to know the rest of the company as individuals, especially since names and faces are hard enough! Don’t overwhelm your new recruit by trying to have a giant meeting where everyone introduces themselves. Start them out by getting to know the team they will be working closest with in small groups and allow time in introductory meetings to ask personal questions like how they like to spend their time outside of work. From there, you can start adding them to more company meetings to branch out and get to know more and more people. You will also want to make sure you have an easy-to-access employee directory of some sort where your new employee can put faces to names or use as a reference for each person’s job role! The visual reference will help the information stick.
9. Be purposeful with your thankfulness and appreciation
Since “thank you” has become a common sign off in email messages, it has started to lose a little bit of it’s sparkle in online conversations. Since the sincere thankfulness that usually comes across in person with eye contact and a genuine tone of voice is missing in online conversations, be sure to show your appreciation with a little more intention than you normally do. Think about sharing exactly what it is they did or how they approached a situation that you are thankful for - and don’t be afraid to show that appreciation!
10. Bring them in on team building
This can be hard when team building looks like an evening out, but there are other ways to ensure your remote employees are feeling engaged as a member of a whole. One idea is to workshop through a favorite aptitude test. Record your answers separately and come together to learn from an expert what each of the traits mean. Talk through each team member’s unique strengths and weaknesses so that all team members can approach conflict with more empathy and perhaps even refer back to the information about each individual when they are deciding how they might want to deliver a piece of feedback, show appreciation, or address an issue in a way that will resonate most with the person in mind.
With this push toward an increasingly remote and online world, the role of digital marketing is becoming more and more important. If your company is starting to lean on technology to onboard employees and work online, your customers likely are as well. Get your message to them where they are and watch your leads grow with a little help from a company who has proven success in digital marketing. After experiencing these remote onboarding actions firsthand in my new role, I’m now all trained up and ready to help!