Remote onboarding – creating a positive experience from the outset
Setting a high bar
Traditionally, onboarding (sometimes referred to as organisational socialisation) relates to how new employees acquire the company's knowledge, skills, tools and cultural understanding to become an effective employee. Onboarding involves a series of steps and activities that allow new hires to get to know their team and learn about their new workplace's organisational culture, attitudes, methods, rituals, and tools. In addition, it is an opportunity to provide individuals with a clear view of your business's mission, vision, and goals and how to align themselves with these. This can help them understand how they can contribute to reaching these goals while adhering to the company's mission and vision.
There must be a seamless transition from contract signing through to your new hire's actual start day until they are fully established in their role. If done correctly, this can lead to positive job performance, increased employee commitment, a higher company retention rate, and a lower attrition rate.
The strategy behind remote onboarding
With the widespread adoption of flexible working patterns (such as remote and hybrid working), remote onboarding has become a recognised approach and part of the new 'normal'. Remote onboarding activities begin as soon as an offer is made to the employee and continues until the employee becomes a productive member of your organisation. But there is a marked difference between onboarding employees in an office location and remote onboarding. The real challenge is to create an atmosphere of harmony on the first day without physical face-to-face interaction with the other employees. Therefore, committing to a well-designed remote onboarding strategy is significantly influential in ensuring the success of remote and hybrid working. Onboarding remotely is a journey for new hires and can last as long as three months for many organisations. It involves presenting well-structured, clear expectations from both them and you as their new employer and should be orderly, straightforward, and easy to follow.
Impact on HR and the wider organisation
The approach and processes to remotely onboard a new employee can affect many aspects of HR and the wider organisation and should therefore be well planned and executed.
- Employee engagement, which acts as a qualitative measure of an employee's enthusiasm, confidence, eagerness, and productivity, can be significantly influenced through the remote onboarding process, provided that it is a positive experience.
- Executed correctly, remote onboarding can boost an individual's confidence and create a positive environment and atmosphere from the outset of their employment, contributing to employee performance and thus to the company's overall goals.
- Onboarding is also a strategic driver in employee retention and can affect employee morale, loyalty, and business efficiency, not to mention the costs incurred in the recruitment process and upskilling of new hires in the long run. In addition, by properly onboarding new employees, they feel that they are appreciated and that you want them and their contributions to your business.
- Remote workers often fear being left out of the team and experience a feeling of disconnect. Therefore, companies should strive to create a friendly and comfortable environment through frequent video calls and web conferences to avoid such situations.
- Grasping an understanding of the company culture is a gradual process, and new hires should have the opportunity to engage with other organisation members to get a feel for this.
- New hires, especially those new to remote or hybrid working, can easily feel isolated during the initial onboarding process, and it is important to ensure that they feel supported.
- Setting expectations at the outset concerning the type and level of support they can expect is crucial.
- Although company onboarding may seem monotonous for most managers, they must understand the importance and impact of the process.
Remote onboarding experiences
Internally we have had several new hires this year, and we reached out to them to get their perspective on how they felt about their remote onboarding experience:
Marketa Kanova joined Tugela People in February as a Technical HRIS Consultant in our Managed Services division. When asked about her onboarding experience, Marketa said, "My remote onboarding experience far exceeded my expectations. On my first day, I had an initial onboarding session with my manager, which was really important. We discussed Tugela People, the company's values, structure, and vision.
The warm welcome I received from my immediate team members (within the Managed Services division) and those from the wider organisation enhanced the whole experience from day one. I could and still can feel the support from my team when learning new things, like understanding where to log in or look for certain information. In addition, the regular daily chats online add a sense of togetherness even though we all work remotely. Last but not least, I'd like to praise the daily catch-ups with my manager during the first month, which meant that there was a dedicated time in the day for any question – and there were quite a lot!
As part of my onboarding, I started working through the Learning Management System to build my product knowledge, which gave me the confidence to take on some easier tasks. Being able to get hands on the system (Sage People) meant I could apply the knowledge I gained in my training. Transitioning from managing and resolving a few tickets to looking after a dedicated client was quite a quick change, but I knew I could do it with the support of our team.
I have just finished my 4th month with Tugela People, and I am amazed at how my role has developed. I recently took on new clients, delivered a big transition project, got involved with onboarding the latest addition to the MS team, and finished the Sage People HRIS Core Implementation Certification.
Looking back, I would not change anything about my remote onboarding experience."
Sam Spink also joined the Managed Services team. Sam said, "This was my first time being onboarded remotely, and I wasn't sure what to expect! However, my experience was surprisingly enjoyable. I was made to feel very welcome from day one and well supported when I had any questions. I had a clear idea of what was expected of me and was given plenty of time to process everything I needed to learn.
Despite it being a very busy time for the team, I found that there was no pressure to rush anything, and I felt comfortable with finding the balance between work and learning."
Fumie Masuda joined the company as an HRIS consultant within our Professional Services division, providing consulting and implementation support for the Sage People HR system.
Fumie said, "This was my first experience of being onboarded remotely. It was very different from the traditional onboarding process, where you meet people in person in an office location, are surrounded by others, and get to know them informally. When working remotely, even though you are in a familiar environment, you are alone, and it is very easy to feel left out or isolated under these circumstances.
However, I did not feel this way at all. On the contrary, the company culture is very welcoming, and everyone is friendly and approachable, which helped me overcome my initial concerns about fitting in. I got the impression that we are one team and realistically embrace genuine positivity. There is always open discussion and a team approach in dealing with challenges.
The actual remote onboarding process was very smooth and well organised. My line manager had a comprehensive checklist that we went through together, which included the background on the company and how my role fitted in, which was a great introduction. My line manager has also been very supportive with regular check-ins, which has also helped to make me feel included and not isolated.
The support I have received from my colleagues from day one has been amazing. Everyone from the management team introduced themselves to me via video chat and made themselves available for discussion. In addition, there is a support forum for new starters, where we help and encourage each other, share experiences and answer each other's questions.
I have also had direct support from a lead consultant, assigned as my mentor, who is coaching and mentoring me. We also discuss projects and work collaboratively – this has been fantastic and is helping me to progress well."
Creating a successful rollout of remote onboarding establishes an excellent platform for future employee satisfaction and retention. By creating an engaging environment and seamless experience for new hires during remote onboarding, you can make a positive experience from the outset, setting the pace for future performance and productivity.
To learn more about remote onboarding of your employees and discuss potential solutions for your organisation, please contact us on tel +44(0)1908 030360 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete the ‘Get in touch’ form, and a member of our team will be in contact with you.