Between 2019 and 2021, the number of Americans working remotely tripled. No surprises there; the COVID pandemic made remote work a safer option for many people. Many employers required remote work.
What’s perhaps more surprising is that, even as it gets safer to return to the office, vast numbers are staying right where they are. As it turns out, people love working from home.
According to a McKinsey report, 35% of U.S. job holders in 2022 can work from home full time. An additional 23% can work remotely at least one day per week. But here’s the most revealing statistic: When offered the opportunity to work remotely, 87% of workers take it.
As an employer, you can’t expect the remote work “trend” to fade away any time soon. It’s time to adapt your practices to remote and hybrid workforces, starting at the very beginning — onboarding.
Why Onboarding Matters (and Why It’s Different for Remote Workers)
Effective onboarding sets new hires up for success, which benefits employers and employees.
When new employees quickly become comfortable on the job, clearly understand what’s expected of them, and feel like they fit in, they tend to stick around for the long haul. When they feel overwhelmed or unwelcome, they often seek other employment. This may be why one out of every three new hires lasts less than three months.
The challenge for employers is that many factors that help onboarding go smoothly in an in-person environment don’t exist in remote work.
For example, people naturally form relationships with those who work around them in an office. But, when in-person connections are impossible, employers must find other ways to encourage bonding between team members.
Similarly, it’s hard to get a sense of company culture when you can’t experience that culture first hand.
You could require all your new hires to trek to your workplace for their first few weeks. But, considering a main benefit of remote workforces is that you can hire the best talent no matter where they are, your new hire may be nowhere near your office. Instead, try these five onboarding strategies for remote and hybrid workers:
1. Create an Onboarding Microsite
An onboarding microsite is an always-accessible, one-stop resource providing all the information a new hire needs to start strong. Your onboarding microsite can answer all the usual (and some of the not-so-usual) questions a new hire might have, such as:
- What will my first day be like?
- Who can I go to when I have questions or concerns?
- What are the company’s values?
- What technology will I need to do my job, and who do I contact about getting set up?
- What benefits will I receive? How do I enroll?
Setting up lightweight, navigable microsites is easy with Flimp. You can even include video and interactive features. Click here to get started.
2. Send Out Digital Postcards
When new hires join NPR, they’re greeted with Digital Postcards welcoming them to the team and explaining the next steps for enrolling in and learning about their benefits. The Digital Postcards include an introductory video along with links to benefits guides and an enrollment page.
These aren’t the typical bland and wordy HR missives. NPR chooses a new, fun theme each year. Previous themes have included nautical, superheroes, and “feel the groove.”
For remote employees, Digital Postcards like NPR’s are hard to miss. Their colorful designs and lighthearted approach make onboarding feel like less of a chore and make the first day on the job that much less intimidating.
“The tools empower and build a new hire’s confidence before starting at the company,” NPR’s HR Manager for the Employee Experience told us.
3. Have Current Team Members Introduce Themselves Via Video
In the old days, current employees often stopped by their new colleagues’ workspaces to introduce themselves. Sometimes, the chat would be about work but, often, the goal would be just to get to know each other.
How can you replicate that organic process in a virtual setting? Email and online chat can feel a bit cold. Video, on the other hand, puts faces to names and helps new hires get a better sense of their colleagues’ personalities.
Try asking team members to record short video introductions for the new hires with which they will be working. (A minute or two per employee is fine.) To help them loosen up for the camera, you can provide prompts, such as, “What do you enjoy most about working here?” and “What show are you currently binging?”
Once the videos are recorded, you can embed them in Digital Postcards or collect them in the onboarding resource centers described above.
4. Assign Onboarding Buddies
Logging on to a remote job the first time can be a disorienting and, potentially, lonely experience. You’re not always sure what’s expected of you or how to get started. To ease the awkwardness, many companies are now assigning “onboarding buddies” to their new remote hires.
An onboarding buddy’s duties generally consist of answering questions, showing the new hire the ropes, and introducing the new hire to the rest of the team.
Onboarding buddies shouldn’t be management. (This isn’t a mentoring situation.) New hires should feel comfortable bringing up subjects with their buddies they may be embarrassed to discuss with their supervisors (things like, “Do we dress up for Zoom calls?”).
5. Start Onboarding Before the First Day
Much of what typically happens on a new hire’s first day — setting up technology, learning about benefits, meeting the team — can be accomplished remotely, before they start work.
This isn’t to say you should overburden your soon-to-be employees with information — they may have their hands full finishing up another job. But most new hires will be happy to hear from you before their official start date. The fewer unknowns they have on their first day, the faster they’ll acclimate.
So, schedule those Digital Postcards for a week, or so, before each new hire’s first day, or even have their onboarding buddy reach out. This will help your newest employees give onboarding the focus it deserves while starting work on the right foot.