As all employers are aware, onboarding is a crucial part of a new hire’s experience within an organisation, providing them with an introduction to key players and company culture and a solid overview of in-house policies and procedures. A good onboarding process takes time to organise and roll out but, done right, it can pave the way to employee engagement, motivation and strong performance on the job.If you have recently hired into your business or need to hire during COVID-19, the chances are you will be onboarding your people remotely, perhaps for the first time. This can raise challenges for organisations and new hires in terms of managing expectations, communication and technology. However, with advance preparation and a clear structure for the first few weeks, employers can set their employees up for success. In this three-step guide, we’ve laid out the key remote onboarding best practices that you need to know when onboarding remotely.Step 1: Smooth the Way with Advance Onboarding PreparationPreparation is key to ensuring the smooth integration of all new hires, and even more so when they are based remotely. Here we look at several elements of onboarding that benefit from a little upfront planning:Documents and Signatures.When onboarding employees remotely, it can be useful to provide them with soft copies of all company policies, procedures and forms (in addition to the employment contract) that can be electronically signed using a legally binding e-signature tool like DocuSign or Adobe Sign.Tools and SoftwareBy organising any IT tools the employee will need prior to their start date, you can ensure that they are up and running on day one, or, even earlier. Consider providing new hires with advance access to the software and applications they will be using so they can utilise any extra time they may have to familiarise themselves with them. You may also wish to include them in email updates and team video calls before their official start date to help ease their way into the organisation and stay in the loop of key changes.Welcome LetterWhether it comes from the CEO or their direct manager, sending a welcome email can help the new hire feel like part of the team and set the tone for the coming weeks.A good welcome letter should includeA personal greeting expressing that you’re looking forward to them coming aboard Any important information they need to know, such as the start date and what they’ll need for their first day (e.g. bank account details, IRD number, tax code etc) Expectations for the first week Key documents such as company policies and the onboarding scheduleComprehensive Onboarding Schedules.You’ll no doubt have clear schedules mapped out for the first week of onboarding, spanning everything from casual team introductions and goal-setting meetings to formal training sessions. By sharing these with your new hire the week prior to their start date (or attaching them to the welcome email), they can plan their time and prepare for what can be (for some) a daunting introduction to a new organisation and role.Step 1 ChecklistPrepare upfront:Documents and e-signatures Tools and software Welcome letter Clear onboarding schedulesStep 2: Keep it Neat on Day OneIt can be very tempting to cram multiple presentations and introductions into day one. Many of us will have memories of starting a new job and throwing back the coffee as we struggled with the information overload. Focusing on a few video sessions on your chosen platform (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts), and allowing breaks between each one, will create a more manageable pace for everyone.Keep in mind that staying focused during long presentations can be difficult, so aim to keep the sessions as engaging and interactive as possible by creating activities, posing questions and asking for examples to help the employee retain the information.We suggest the following four areas are covered on the first day of the remote onboarding process:An overview of your organisation: its history, mission, values, people and culture. It can be particularly powerful to invite a member of your senior management team to present this session, sending a clear message to new hires that they are important and valued. A presentation on company policies, procedures, employee benefits and any WHS requirements by your HR manager/head of people. Any outstanding forms could be covered off in this session, too. A role-specific session by the hiring manager outlining job expectations, individual and team goals, project needs and timeframes and the schedule outline for the rest of the week. A casual introduction to key team members they will be working with closely (to avoid overwhelming them with names and faces on the first day, keep the introductions to a select few)Obviously, each presentation should allow time for Q&A so new hires can seek clarification and feel confident that they have all the information they need.Step 2 Checklist:Virtual presentation schedule:Company overview (history, mission, values, people and culture) In-house policies, procedures, employee benefits, WHS Role expectations, individual and team goals, project needs and timeframes Introduction to key team membersStep 3: Roll Out the Onboarding ScheduleThe rest of week one provides time to roll out more introductions, as well as organise training and regular catchups with your new hire. All these elements can promote a sense of shared purpose and belonging among employees when working remotely.Additional Meetings and Greetings.As well as introducing new employees to some key players on day one, it is important to organise virtual meetings with other people who they will be working with. You may choose to opt for one-on-one calls or small group video conferences spread over the first week. In our experience, informal sessions, such as coffee chats and discussions over early evening drinks, can work particularly well.Regular Communication.Communication at the individual and team level will help to settle new hires into their role. Hiring managers may find it useful to overcommunicate in the first few weeks by checking in daily to see how new hires are progressing. Consider inviting them to contact you directly by instant messenger or call if they have concerns about their work. This will provide them with the confidence to speak out, and also provide you with a chance to swiftly resolve any issues. You may also want to assign them a buddy within the team or organisation – someone who can give them the unofficial scoop and act as a go-to whenever they’re unsure.Now is a good time to ensure you are holding weekly virtual team meetings, where you can provide everyone, not just new hires, with information on upcoming projects, current progress and company developments. By following these sessions with short individual reviews, you will ensure that all team members are on the same page and provide an opportunity for development advice and feedback.Flexible Training Courses.All new hires need training in certain areas to get them up to speed in their new role. Many will no doubt be familiar with online training. By providing employees who are working remotely with access to a variety of resources, including video tutorials, documents, infographics and interactive courses, you can make this part of the onboarding process interesting and appealing. Don’t forget to send all training materials to the employees following a session so they have something to refer back to at a later date.Step 3 Checklist:Roll out the onboarding schedule:Additional meet and greets with people in the organisation Regular communication at the individual and team level Flexible and varied training sessionsSummaryAt the current time, onboarding virtually is a necessity rather than an option for employers and their new hires. However, it can be a positive experience for all involved when a structured approach is taken that incorporates advance planning, a clear schedule, plenty of communication – and scope for flexibility.For more information on remote onboarding or to discuss your tech recruitment needs, contact the specialist team at Sourced today.