A successful onboarding plan ensures that new employees feel welcome and connected to your organization and helps in setting clear expectations and boundaries. Research shows that a positive onboarding experience leads to employee retention.
A positive onboarding experience is particularly important for newly hired employees working remotely. The following is a guide for hiring managers to help navigate the challenges inherent in remote onboarding.
New Hire Activities
So much of our work is relationship-based. How do we manage, motivate, and engage staff from a distance, and how do we maintain relationships with our colleagues and stakeholders?
- Provide specific guidance on completing new hire activities remotely and securely.
- Make sure your new hire signs up for MIT’s virtual benefits orientation.
- Send new hires IT hardware. Be sure to confirm the shipping address and phone number. Order computers and other necessary hardware well ahead of the start date. Confirm they have received all necessary equipment for their work and ask your IT department to assist with setup as necessary.
- Arrange training with your IT department. Schedule a meeting in advance so the IT staff may assist the new employee with the initial equipment set-up. The set-up can take a significant amount of time so consider allowing up to two hours for this. Remote workers should become familiar with:
- File-sharing applications and cloud backup software;
- Computer security; and
- Password management and data encryption tools to protect their devices.
- Schedule a follow-up meeting for the IT staff to check in with the new employee to ensure the equipment is working properly.
- Request an MIT phone number in advance to ensure the new employee can make and receive calls through MITVoIP as of their first day. This will eliminate the need for the new employee to use a personal cell phone number.
Welcoming a New Hire
Send a welcome note from your team and/or your department leadership.
Get them up to speed on the Institute and DLC culture. Remote employees are part of your culture, despite not being in the office. To help them understand the culture, share:
- The MIT Campaign for a Better World video
- The MIT News YouTube Channel
- MIT Social Media Hub
- See what MIT employees have to say:
- Pictures and videos from all-hands meeting
The “buddy” system is an effective tool for any onboarding plan, especially in the long-term; it helps to make sure your remote workers feel supported at all times to ensure a good employee retention rate. It’s an easy way to make new hires feel comfortable and part of the team very quickly. With the buddy system, new hires will have a peer acquaintance to show them the ropes, answer their questions, and help them get to know the team.
When onboarding a new hire, designate another remote employee as a “buddy.” Ideally, the buddy will be someone who has been with your DLC for a while already.
Work Expectations and Goals
Work schedules. Be clear about specific time blocks during which your remote employees must be online and available. To avoid any misunderstandings with new hires, make sure to communicate the Institute’s work from home policies and your DLC’s practices from the start.
Ensure new hires understand how to use your communication tools. Describe the best ways to contact team members and how to troubleshoot communication technology.
- MIT email
- Group messaging tool such as Slack
- Video conference software such as Zoom
- Webphone application such as Broadsoft
Communication agreements. During onboarding, make sure new remote employees understand which forms of communication require an immediate response and which are less urgent.
Set specific goals and expectations. Make sure hiring managers:
- Develop and share a task calendar after a new hire’s training and onboarding sessions;
- Define short- and long-term goals; and
- Schedule frequent check-ins to discuss upcoming projects, progress, and to resolve potential issues.
Frequent check-ins. Joining a new organization can be intimidating, especially if the employee is new to working remotely. Check in often to see how they’re doing.
- Frequent check-ins help new employees feel supported and keep them from feeling overwhelmed.
- These calls help you understand any difficulties and whether they’ve settled into their roles.
Set up meetings with their team members and other key employees. These meetings could be one-on-one and/or group calls. During their first days, remote employees should meet with:
- Manager and direct reports; and
- Employees from other departments with whom they’ll work closely.
Arrange role-specific trainings. It’s often challenging to train remote employees, as real-time communication is usually limited. To effectively train remote workers:
- Provide individualized training and mentoring;
- Arrange for the new hire’s colleagues and other Institute SMEs to meet and train the new hire; and
- Use online training courses and follow up after each training session to answer questions.
When onboarding a remote employee, it’s good to set clear goals to keep new hires from feeling lost or overwhelmed. A 90-day roadmap plan is a great way to keep new hires feeling engaged and productive while working toward a clear and defined objective. You may format the roadmap any way you like; it just needs to have a list of actionable tasks that the new hire can complete within those 90 days.
The roadmap approach also allows an employer to give recognition to a new hire early in the onboarding stage. This gives new hires the opportunity to shine and succeed early on, which has been known to boost confidence and improve longevity with the organization.