Remote onboarding social practices

Published on 10-06-2021

Remote onboarding can be difficult from a human perspective, so it is important to make the new hire feel welcome from the start. In order to achieve that, I've researched a number of best practices and listed them below. Most of them come from this great Reddit thread.

Before the first day

Keep close contact with the new team member. Make sure he or she knows any questions can be asked before starting. Take away all confusion and hesitance. Try to identify all stakeholders that the new employee will have to work with. This are not only colleagues, but also important customers and suppliers. Where possible schedule introduction visits or calls with them and where not possible write some short bio in an email.

When you previously used to write a postcard and let the team members sign it, you can remotely request a short introduction recording from them with Wishblender. These short recordings will be combined into an introduction video that can be shown on the first day or even sent before starting.

From a non-social point of view: make sure all required hardware and access to systems has been delivered and configure before the first day. First days are overwhelming and having a missing cable might make it annoying or even impossible to participate. Call the new teammate a few days before the first day to ask if everything arrived correctly and seems to work as it should.

During the first day

Talk through the first day and expectations around it. Clarify the expectations of the company for the first few month. Provide the new hire with a work buddy that knows the organisation well and can help resolve issues from finance to HR. Finally, keep in close contact especially during the first day. Call every few hours, send a chat message or fire off a simple email.

The first day will probably be focused on the social side of things. Getting everything running, explaining how everything works, where to get what information, who to contact for what. This is not a problem if most of it is not done solo, for example when it is explained by your or a colleague. If you have documented all this make sure to keep contact and prevent the new hire to feel isolated.

During the first month

Daily check-ins are key. Some companies even go as far as having a daily check-in with the whole team (groups of up to ten people). Although this might feel too much, these don't have to be about work. Some joking around for fifteen minutes might make the difference between just a bad day and a burn out on the long run.

The first month is when the new employee will need to get to know everybody. Let them schedule meetings with the direct team members to have virtual lunch or coffee together while talking about anything but work: hobbies, sports, pets, children. This will help to promote inclusion and open communication. Knowing the social side of your colleague or boss can take away fears and other emotions, while this is one of the most difficult things to achieve when working remotely.

Don't forget to check in with the buddy as well. Do they think the new team member is enjoying the job? What can be improved? Is the buddy system working at all?

After the first month

When the first month has passed most activity should transistion to be the same for all your remote colleagues. Organize a virtual lunch with a bunch, do some team activities with online games or have drinks together on a Friday afternoon. Virtual coffee corners or water coolers where people can just drop in for a chat work as well, altough depending on your company size it might not always have enough participants.

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