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All you need to know about remote onboarding

Not everything is sunshine and rainbows with remote onboarding. There are bound to be hiccups. Here’s how to avoid them.

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Remote onboarding is not a new term, nor is the idea all that unique, but it is becoming a much more common thing to hear in the new age of working remotely. The idea of working remotely used to be a pipe dream for many office workers and managers. What could be better than sitting in your PJs at home while you get your work done? No more commuting, no more running for coffee, no more having to put on your uncomfortable businesswear. Still, it is important that people understand what goes into making remote work.

The idea of remote onboarding is not exactly the same as working remotely. Working remotely involves the actual labor value of the individual, whereas remote onboarding is the labor put in to make the transition for a worker to be able to work remotely. This is one of the ways that the workplace is shifting. No longer is there a rigid need for people to be in the same room. As technology evolves, so do the needs for workplaces to match the ability for adaptability and scalability. Here is all you need to know about remote onboarding.

What is Remote Onboarding

You have a basic introduction to the idea of remote onboarding, but here are some more in-depth explanations of it that will help you moving forward:

What Is the Purpose?

To be blunt: it helps transition teams or employees into a new role of working remotely. Whether it is the same job or a new one, the need to help people readjust to their situation of working remotely is a big reason why remote onboarding is important. This is the central issue, getting people up to speed. It is most useful to have someone in the office because you can have a face-to-face and ask questions and show them how things work. With the barrier of technology, no matter how much it is being shortened with no tech like video chat and 24/7 communication lines, it is still hard enough to show someone the ropes right away. So in essence, remote onboarding is all about helping workers get caught up.

Who Uses It?

Remote work can be done by anyone, but not all remote work is the same. In this case, instead of doing certain projects, the job is to, as mentioned, get new hires or newly remote working employees into their role and make sure they transition well. This is a job that is done by hiring managers, team managers, and most notably, HR personnel. Human resources are tasked with processing everyone new coming into a workplace, but also making sure that they can properly assess and handle all of the existing employees as well. IT is quite tough, but HR managers and personnel are quite adept at it, even with the use of technology as the intermediary for their role.

How Remote Onboarding Impacts Workflow

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The purpose of keeping workflow within regular levels is a necessity for making sure that the introduction of a new employee does not interrupt the regular labor efforts. Here are some reasons how remote onboarding impacts workflow:

Integration Timeline

By now you probably understand how valuable it is to integrate an employee through remote onboarding. This is the whole point, but the effectiveness comes down to how well they can be integrated. An integration timeline helps HR or a hiring manager make a game plan that allows them to smoothly transition the employee with a set timeframe. As a necessity, the resources at show how it should be a big part of the onboarding process. How long will it take the employee to get acquainted (often referred to as pre-onboarding), the orientation phase of introducing them to the materials, getting them ready for their first tasks, and a continued emphasis on their ongoing situation, which will be addressed later on as you read.

Employee Responsibilities

The responsibilities of this new employee are in tandem with the importance of getting them accustomed to their new workplace. This can be hard because assigning projects through digital technology can be a lot harder than simply going up to them and assigning them work. This is why remote onboarding is important as it is the gateway between a successful remote worker and a less than successful one.

Getting these responsibilities to them is a matter of ensuring that your system can handle it, especially when providing these tasks for everyone, not just the new employees. When it comes to onboarding responsibilities, hiring managers and HR make the transition much easier by providing smaller tasks at a time, usually with a short term plan. This eases the employee into their roles and gives them a good understanding of how the workflow of their new job operates which will allow them to adjust.

Important Functions for Successful Remote Onboarding

Providing the Proper Tools

With the mention of workflow, the employees need a good way to become accustomed to their workplace functions. This is done by providing the onboarded employee with the proper tools. There is work-related communications software, Slack is a common tool, as well as video communication, Zoom is the most notable one this year. These tools are essential for a worker to understand what kind of technology the company uses to get tasks done. Google and Adobe suite of products is another example of software that helps these employees accomplish their daily goals. Understanding the tools they need is crucial to their success moving forward as a new hire.

Continuous Management Effort

Going back to the idea of a continued focus on employee progress, HR and hiring managers need to maintain a direct line of communication and rapport with these hires. Being able to continuously understand their questions and concerns will help smoothly integrate them into the workplace, even if it is done over non-conventional means like remote work. When these employees are able to be eased into their new workspace with the guidance past the initial few weeks or orientation and integration into the system, they will feel more valued. The emotional impact is a major benefit to their overall feelings of comfortability, which leads to an increase in their productivity overall.

Team Introductions and Socialization

It is much easier to introduce a team to a new employee and vice versa, along with socialization, when everyone can be in the same room. Unfortunately, working remotely does not afford those same kinds of luxuries. While video chatting technology and the slew of peer-to-peer (P2P) clients allow for employees to engage with one another about projects and non-work-related banter, it still has the problem of being impersonal.

One technique that remote onboarding uses to help alleviate this concern of limited social interaction is by onboarding new employees simultaneously so that they feel a connection to other new hires. Doing this allows them to feel a bond, as many first time employees do with their counterparts. It also provides hiring managers, HR, and the team in charge of remote onboarding a chance to cut down on the redundancy of training new employees one after another, an obvious time-constraining and resource-hogging effort.

Why Is It Important for the Modern Workplace

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Image: Unsplash

The new workplace is moving beyond the brick and mortar cubicles and opening up a new paradigm shift for all involved. This is all just fancy speak for the fact that the workplace is taking on new roles, physically and digitally, which are evident here:

Adaptability for New Technologies

There have already been many mentions of workplace technology that is crucial to remote onboarding and it is crucial to this change in the modern workplace. Remote onboarding is something that would be much harder to accomplish 20 years ago over a phone, with a lack of internet functionality, and the need for physical materials. Now that digital technology is allowing for things like cloud computing to host data information, the limits are endless. Remote onboarding is just one of the many ways that a business can find its ability to adapt to the challenges of the world, including the growing need to work from home for safety reasons. It is here to stay, and there is no reason to think otherwise.

Scalability of a Business

Adapting to the new technologies is just the first step, the next is being able to implement them in ways to help employees utilize more possible tools and allow the company to scale to its needs. Good companies can follow trends and use them, great companies are able to use these trends to pivot on a dime. Remote onboarding is an example of training a managerial staff to bring in new hires in a more unique way that allows them to effectively integrate them into the business. Being able to scale the business, up or down, gives it a much more competitive advantage long-term, and remote onboarding is an important piece of the puzzle. If a business was going through a dramatic culture shift, like the mass adoption of a work-from-home employee base, then it would need people able to oversee this transition. Cue the remote onboarding teams.

Changing Workplace Demographics

The workplace is not just changing in terms of the technology being implemented. IT is changing in the demographics of its workers as well. This is not news, but it is impacting how remote onboarding is affecting the modern workplace. Hiring new employees means hiring younger employees with a much more robust knowledge of software and digital technology. It is harder for older employees to learn compared to their younger counterparts. Similarly, the workforce is going global, so onboarding an employee from France for a company based in the U.S. is much more logistically possible than ever before. Another way that remote onboarding is helping companies grow their diverse teams.

Issues With Remote Work and Onboarding

Not everything is sunshine and rainbows with remote onboarding. There are bound to be hiccups in the process like these:

Reliability of Work Effort

Not being able to handle employee’s work and projects internally is a struggle for many managers and teams. It can feel like a grind to get them to work well and complete projects so remote work still has a flaw in this aspect. Although the flexible hours are nicer and give more incentive for people to get things done without slacking off, it is harder to accurately gauge what they do, and even in the process of onboarding a new hire, they may be less than enthused to complete their required tasks.

Hands-Off Approach

Some HR managers and hiring managers hate the idea of the hands-off approach. It can be harder to make a connection, harder to make sure that this new hire knows everything they need to, and ensure that there is no loss in translation moments. The hands-off approach is useful when you consider that it allocates time and resources elsewhere, but definitely becomes an apparent concern for the logistics of new employees to become well-acquainted with their responsibilities without having to virtually hover over their shoulder.

Trusting Employees

In a similar manner to the reliability of work effort and ethics, trusting employees becomes a difficult task for HR and other managers when they are putting faith in the employee to become self-sustainable past the integration timeline. It is obviously important to get them caught up to speed, ease them into tasks, and otherwise foster relationships with them to make them feel welcome, but trusting them to be self-motivated is always a concern. This is a concern in any case, but it is only exacerbated by the digital canyon created by remote work.

Remote onboarding is not a new phenomenon but it might be an interesting and foreign concept to you. Now that you are caught up to speed on this interesting idea of the workplace integration method, you can see why it is useful to know and educate yourself on, and maybe even coworkers or employees.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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