SMB’s Guide to Remote Onboarding For New Employees During COVID-19

The beginning of a new job is an exciting and potentially scary part of the employee life cycle, especially when done remotely. 

Onboarding Defined

Known as “onboarding” across North America (and “induction” in other parts of the world), orienting an employee into a new role is a process of socialization that may include formal and/or informal meetings, training sessions, video and digital presentations, policy review, job shadowing and more.

In any business, onboarding is a crucial element for driving and maintaining the passion, excitement, and success for a new member of the team. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new challenges for small businesses–including, for some organisations, the transition to a remote workforce.

As employers move away from traditional ways of conducting business and focus on attracting a younger workforce, this is a great time to re-assess industry best practices and your internal process for onboarding virtual employees.

Employee onboarding is more important than ever

Many of the key ingredients of successful onboarding remain unchanged.

After the recruitment and hiring process, onboarding is the first set of interactions that a new employee will have with your business and team.

For an onsite position, the ideal onboarding process will introduce the new hire to the environment, expectations, and chain of command for their role. 

Onboarding is a long-term process that begins before a new employee’s start date and continues for at least three (3) months.

Regardless of whether the employee is working onsite or remotely, preparing a well-constructed onboarding plan for your team is essential.

All onboarding procedures should:

  • Clearly define the timeline of expectations and deliverables for managers, supervisors, and your new team member.
  • Establish system access requirements (including for equipment access (where do I pick up my computer), file systems (for personal files and shared folders), proprietary software, email (online and/or desktop), and telephone.
  • Determine what training the employee will require and when it will take place (this assessment should be specific to their role and include general HR Policies such as health and safety).
  • Prepare a digital onboarding package that covers information such as reference and resource materials the employee will require (e.g. policy manuals, procedures, contact lists, etc.)
  • Include instructions for accessing and setting communications platforms such as video conferencing, email, instant messaging etc.

The how-tos of remotely onboarding

The transition to a remote workforce may be daunting for some businesses – especially those who don’t consider themselves “tech savvy”, so here are some key tips to a successful remote onboarding process:

1. Communicate! Communicate! Did we mention, Communicate!?

The lack of face-to-face human interaction and supervision may present challenges to new members of a remote workforce. Now more than ever, diligent, consistent, and documented check-in’s with your new team member are crucial to the employee’s and your business’ success.

Communicate frequently!

  • We suggest scheduling weekly meetings via video conference to discuss productivity, performance, and needs throughout the onboarding process.
  • You may include two or three informal five-minute “coffee chats” throughout the week to get to know the new employee.
  • Unlike in an onsite role, employees lack the convenience of quick in-person interactions for immediate answers to their questions.

2. Build rapport!

A new employee’s success depends on gaining knowledge and confidence early in the role. Building relationships and rapport with your colleagues will make asking questions remotely more and more comfortable. Rapport also protects employees from overwhelm as they adapt to new information.

Once a new worker starts, assign them to an onboarding ‘buddy’.  A reliable co-worker who embodies company culture is an ideal “go-to person” for help navigating day-to-day operations.

3. Be patient and consistent

Building trust and connection between a new employee and existing teams and/or leadership will be a challenge for your new hire. Remember this so you avoid disappointment and the employee has a realistic amount of time to adapt.

We recommend that you personalize the onboarding process to ensure it reflects your business’ culture and objectives. While you can and should customize onboarding in your business, make sure to be consistent with your plan and timeline for all new hires. If you make changes to the process, they should be intentional, strategically timed, and possibly introduced to existing employees too so everyone is on the same page.

4. Promote employee health and balance

A well-rounded remote onboarding process should promote a healthy work-life balance for employees, old and new. You should clearly define “working hours,” as well as practices for lunch breaks, and short breaks that include leaving the workstation throughout the day.

While check-ins are useful to manage productivity and job performance, they can also be used as a tool to monitor your team members’ health and wellness when managing a remote team. 

Employees should be made aware of resources they have access to through health benefits such as an EAP (Employee Assistance Program).

Develop procedures for accommodations (such as for sick days) and keep in mind there is a difference between working from home and being off sick!

5. Prepare virtual training

Considering preparing virtual training in advance of onboarding a new employee. In fact, you can assess your training procedures overall. Where possible, implement pre-recorded training videos and video conferencing to save time.

So, what’s next?

The HX Team at PayEvo is made up of seasoned HR consultants that are ready to support you.  By focusing on the human experience, we put the “human” in Human Resources.

HX is our cure for broken HR. We understand the challenges that business owners are facing as they transition to remote work. We can help make the change easier by providing you with access to tools, procedures, policies and training. For more information contact hx@paymentevolution.ca to book a consultation with one of our HX experts. 

Danielle Delnick
Danielle Delnick

Danielle is an HX Consultant with experience in healthcare, service, and manufacturing environments. Danielle is our “process expert,” is passionate about people (and goat yoga), and is here for you!