For many IT and service sector businesses, remote work has become the new norm. While the hiring process for remote positions may not differ significantly, onboarding and retaining remote employees can prove more challenging than in mixed work environments. Consider this scenario: You’ve found the perfect candidate, and they’re set to join your team in a month. What’s next? How can you foster a sense of belonging when they won’t be sharing an office space with your team? Here are some ideas compiled by an HR Onboarding Host—an unofficial but indicative title that demonstrates your company’s commitment to the importance of onboarding and attention to detail in this segment.
Pre-Onboarding Engagement: Onboarding should begin long before the person’s start date. Send important and reassuring materials and information, akin to how car dealerships provide follow-up information after a vehicle purchase. Ensure the content is appropriate in terms of length, frequency, and tone, and avoid overloading the new hire.
Proactive IT Setup: Set up the new employee’s email account in advance, ensuring they are fully connected and equipped before their first day.
Tech Equipment Delivery: Define, order, and dispatch necessary tech equipment. Pay attention to personal items that can enhance the employee’s experience without incurring significant costs. Reuse items that can be shared among remote team members.
Welcome Package: Along with their computer, screen, and headphones, send a non-digital notebook, a coffee mug, and a company-branded hoodie or other items that convey a sense of your office space. Consider a “Secret Scents of the Company” flask as a fun, aromatherapeutic gift.
Regular Onboarding Meetings: Schedule regular onboarding meetings with the leader and/or a designated coach or buddy. Clearly outline goals and tasks to be achieved during the employee’s first, second, and third months of employment. Provide time for highlighting the employee’s strengths and areas for improvement.
Establish Clear Rules: Create and agree upon clear rules while remaining attentive to the individual needs of remote employees. Building a safe space and fostering trust are essential for successful ongoing collaboration.
Traps and Solutions for Remote Bonding
- The risk of solely focusing on an employee’s work contributions while neglecting their personality and personal circumstances, including national holidays.
- Weekly Coffee Breaks: Organize virtual coffee breaks, especially during the first few weeks, to help remote employees connect with their team. Consider “blind” coffee breaks for larger teams.
- Virtual Team Building: Foster a sense of shared virtual space through team channels for jokes and casual conversations. Send small seasonal gifts for birthdays, Christmas, and other occasions.
- Health and Fitness Challenges: Offer gym memberships, fitness apps, and wellness challenges to promote employee engagement and well-being.
- Professional Development: Allow remote employees to attend online or in-person courses in their home towns, enhancing their language and computer skills.
- Company Updates: Conduct short (maximum one-hour) company-wide updates to promote understanding of what’s happening in different departments and the overall business.
- Open Communication: Encourage open communication and feedback, providing employees with opportunities to share their thoughts and suggestions.
- Regular Appraisal Meetings: Schedule regular appraisal meetings to review goals and align the employee’s career path with their aspirations.
- Mentorship and Buddy System: Offer mentorship for professional questions and a buddy for informal support. Consider a more experienced peer for both roles but avoid making the direct manager the mentor.
- Active Meetings: Encourage movement by conducting meetings over the phone or using video conferencing while suggesting employees take a walk.
- Yearly Live Events: Plan at least two yearly live events, such as summer team-building exercises and Christmas get-togethers, to strengthen team bonds.
- Gaming: For younger teams, consider multiplayer games as an engaging option.
- Recognition: Recognize and reward individual and team successes with praise and financial awards.
- Home Office Improvements: Provide funds for remote employees to improve their home offices with better chairs, standing desks, and other ergonomic equipment.
Remember, all employees, whether remote or on-site, seek a balance between what they invest and what they gain from their work. Both the employee and the company should address the question, “What’s in it for me?” The answer for the employee involves clear communication and identifying their needs, while the company benefits from higher engagement, improved decision-making, and longer-lasting careers within the organization.
Article written by Petra Treven Bernat, CFR Global Executive Search Slovenia
Photo source: Freepik