(This is the second blog in a three-part series focusing on the character of the ideal, remote employee and how to effectively manage a team of remote workers.)
Onboarding is generally described as the process of introducing a new employee to company culture and the specific responsibilities of their new position.
Here’s another great way to think of onboarding from a ZenDesk ebook: “Each member of a virtual team is essentially the sole inhabitant of an island. The more resources they have, the better. They are their own first line of defense, and if the team is well equipped from the get-go, their survival...is almost assured.”
For remote employees, onboarding presents an unique set of challenges. Here’s a few tips to help encourage a productive and meaningful onboarding experience with employees outside the office.
1. Meet “Face to Face”
One of the most important onboarding tips for all employees (remote workers included) is meeting face to face. While psychological studies show in-person communication fosters the highest level of understanding, physical separation can be overcome by the right type of remote employee. It is important to remember, however, that managers should always use the next best communication tool available. Business psychologist Binna Kandola says “if you’re trying to do something more complex then you’re going to have to use some of the more richer forms of communication such as...video conferencing.” Introducing a new employee to company culture and co-workers, even if it’s only virtually face to face will begin the onboarding process with healthy communication.
2. Train in Steps:
One major mistake that business managers make during onboarding is rushing. Once the introductions are made, it’s time to begin training the employee on the specifics of their position. This process is bound to feel tedious to the trainer, as the steps they are explaining are second nature, but it is important to remember that to the new employee, all this information is brand new. This is especially true for remote workers who will not have as many resources for help once they begin daily work. Rushed and/or superficial training often leads to operational mistakes and even costly employee turnover. One way to achieve effective training is through step-by-step training. Lead the employee through easily digestible sections of duties with short breaks in between. This not only fosters greater understanding of the position but instills trust with management, so that when employees are out of the office, they feel comfortable reaching out for help when they need it.
3. All Purpose Training:
One of the best onboarding tips that is often overlooked when dealing with remote employees is all purpose training. That is, training a new employee on every operational aspect of the company. This is crucial for remote workers, who may face an issue in the field during a time when no co-workers are available to help. For example, imagine a delivery truck driver is out of cell phone service and his laptop is having functional trouble. A short, informative session with the company IT department during onboarding could teach the employee some basic hardware management skills to remedy this situation on his own.
Welcoming, Not Training
It is essential for managers to remember that onboarding should be a process of welcoming, not simply training a new employee. It is unlikely that the new employee will learn everything they need to know during one or two training sessions. Because of that, managers need to use the onboarding tips of face to face interaction, incremental training, and all purpose training to make the new employee feel included, trusted, and flexible to make mistakes. Achieving this level of comfort and confidence will create a healthy and productive remote team of employees.
Erin P. Friar
Erin Friar is a Content Marketing Journalist Intern at Repsly, Inc. and is completing a Journalism degree at Suffolk University. She is a master of grammar and is passionate about creating fresh content to help foster efficiency and overall success in small businesses.