16 Ways to Improve Your Remote Onboarding Experience (with Examples)

Improve Your Remote Onboarding Experience Blog Feature 2

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A seamless and welcoming remote onboarding experience is a sure-fire way of engaging new remote employees from the off. But for organisations set up for face-to-face inductions and introductions—like us!—this year, remote onboarding has certainly been a challenging adjustment. Here’s our 5 situational challenges with 16 actionable takeaways to help you improve your remote onboarding experience.

We had big recruitment plans for here at Hive in 2020, and while the small matter of a pandemic may have slowed them down a tad, we weren’t going to let them halt completely. 

But welcoming a whole host of new Hive Heroes meant that we weren’t left with much time to adjust our onboarding experience for remote employees. And amid a lot of organisational change, some furloughing and changing reporting lines, it’s fair to say that remote onboarding has thrown a few challenges our way.

Now, it looks like the future for Team Hive is that working from the office will become optional, so we’ll have the opportunity to hire completely remote employees in the future. 

This means we’re going to have to nail our remote onboarding experience.

And what better way to do that than to gather intel from the Hive people managers and newbies affected most, so we can understand the challenges, document the solutions and let our takeaways shape a solid remote onboarding plan going forward. 

So without further ado, let’s hear from Team Hive’s Ryan and Jenny, Charlotte and Ritchie, Craig and Edward, Mike and Stephen, and Guy and ShukHing.

Re-defining performance expectations

Working remotely, we lose the ability to ask a niggling question, do a quick demonstration, or even just observe team behaviours—so it’s likely that new employees will take a bit longer to get up to speed during the remote onboarding process. 

Situation: 

Jenny accepted her role as a People Scientist prior to the world of lockdown and company-wide remote working. As her manager, People Science director Ryan was responsible for shifting to a remote onboarding process and delivering the best possible first impression.

Intel:

“The best onboarding experiences have a lot of touch points before the person starts. We used that time to ensure Jenny was clear on what she was coming into—we thought consciously about what was fair to ask performance-wise, and the real difference has been allowing things to be more slow-paced. We focused on how we could create a good experience for this talented individual who we were excited about bringing in.”
“By the time I started, I already had a good relationship with Ryan, so even though there was this physical barrier, I felt more confident reaching out if there was anything I needed help with and speaking up when I knew there were gaps in my knowledge. There’s been a real conscious effort across the business, as well as in the People Science team, around establishing good relationships and promoting a great team spirit.”

Takeaways

  1. Create plenty of post-offer touchpoints with new recruits
  2. Build strong and positive manager-employee relationships early on
  3. Emphasise and signpost support available 
  4. Adapt and communicate performance expectations

Empowering employee autonomy through trust

Remote working will take away more elements of typical people management that occur in the office; we can’t always keep an eye on what people are doing—and that’s okay. There has to be a real element of trust between people managers and their remote employees. 

 

Situation: 

Content writer Ritchie started at Hive in our first full week of completely remote working, missing the furlough cut-off. Content Strategist Charlotte had roughly two weeks to help him get up to speed in the role before being furloughed at short notice.

Intel:

“Trusting that the people you’ve hired are capable of doing their job well and want to do their job well is key. I spent my two days before being furloughed signposting Ritchie to the tools, the resources and the people who could help him to do his job; reiterating the reasons we hired him and our faith in his skills. As a Marketing team, we had to be open to the change in team dynamic and give Ritchie the creative freedom to own his work.”
“I joined Hive too late to qualify for furlough, which put me in the odd situation of being responsible for work that a wider team would normally deliver, just a couple of weeks after starting. But Charlotte made it clear that she trusted me to handle it, and that gave me a lot of confidence. Sink or swim moments can be risky, but it’s a great learning curve when they come off.”

Takeaways

   5. Trust the abilities of your new starters and build their confidence

   6. Don’t micromanage—give recruits the autonomy to own their work

   7. On your newbies arrival, lean into potential changes in team dynamic

Creating the perfect combination of process and tech

Another key to success in any remote team is the right technology to support it. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so you have to tailor it to your own needs, as that tech will have to support the different processes you have in place.

Situation: 

Software Engineer Edward’s offer was accepted pre-pandemic and various organisational changes meant his start date was postponed. He joined Hive around the time most of the team returned from furlough—so Head of Engineering Craig, his manager, had to support both Edward’s onboarding and the wider team’s return.

Intel:

“Returning furloughed team members whilst onboarding Edward was certainly challenging. We needed to get everyone delivering value as soon as we could, which meant getting back to processes we’d lost touch with. We re-imagined our retrospective process using Hive’s Open Door feature, which gave visibility of what was going well and what wasn’t, and the actions taken to address them. It’s great when you get to use your own tech! The feedback has been vital in unblocking the team and allowing them to become more productive.”
“Open Door has been a really great facilitator for feedback and has helped us focus meetings on what needs improving and what’s going well. What struck me the most was how easy it is to be confidential—something that’s difficult to do without the right tech. It’s been easy to be forthcoming with issues, leading to really productive outcomes, which is really valuable when you’re trying to immerse yourself into a new team.”

Takeaways

   8. Gather focused and regular feedback from your new starter and the wider team

   9. Adapt processes to suit a newly dispersed team

  10. Provide a confidential environment for feedback to encourage honesty

 

Making new employees feel part of the team

Physical barriers can make new employees feel isolated. To make them feel fully immersed in the team, collaborative efforts can go a long way. We need to strike the right balance between team efforts and giving remote workers the right tools to learn autonomously.

Situation: 

Customer Success Manager Stephen had one day at Hive HQ, followed by a company-wide remote-working trial on day two. But government guidance meant that trial became permanent. Meaning that Mike, Stephen’s manager and Head of Customer Success, had to adjust the onboarding plan with a few hours notice.

Intel:

“One thing that we’ve been reliant on in our onboarding process is the ability to just have a chat with people, or grab a coffee. But with Stephen joining the business the day before lockdown, we didn’t have that much time to change up our process, so it’s been a real team effort from Customer Success. While the team collaboration is great, we can’t always rely on that, so we need to have a more well-documented process and share our knowledge.”
“To me, our biggest strength in Customer Success is collaboration. The element of support and training to help guide me through my new role was really helpful for getting up to speed while feeling like I was part of the team. That’s not to say the onboarding process couldn’t have been better if there was more time to prepare, but the aspect of involving the wider team was great for me.”
Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones
Customer Success Manager

Takeaways

   11. Encourage a collaborative effort to welcome a new starter

   12. Get the wider team involved in support and training

   13. Create a well-documented remote onboarding process

Preserving organisational culture

Immersing people into culture when working remotely will always be a tough one; it’s harder for people to build relationships, it’s harder to observe team dynamics, and it’s ultimately harder to see the interactions across the wider business that help define what your organisational culture is.

Situation: 

UX Designer Shuk Hing’s manager, Guy (Product Director), was furloughed when she started at Hive, meaning she had a temporary reporting line until he returned to the business a few weeks later.

Intel:

“Bringing a new team member into the organisation when COVID-19 hit was going to be a challenge—even more so when their manager was out of the business. We adapted quickly and changed the people management responsibilities to provide the right support, to make Shuk Hing feel welcome and immersed into our culture. We kept the social side of things going with regular virtual team lunches, and we’re doing weekly check-ins to make sure that, from a wellbeing perspective, we’re all in a good place.”
“I feel like we did really well in the product team considering we didn’t have that physical environment where it’s easier to build relationships. One thing for me was feeling disconnected from the wider business without those day-to-day interactions in the office—so I decided to reach out to people across the business proactively for general chats which has helped me to gel into the culture a lot more.”

Takeaways

   14. Ensure people managers cultivate your values and ways of working 

   15. Create opportunities for social interactions across the business

   16. Pay extra attention to the wellbeing of new starters (who may not feel as comfortable speaking up)

Next step: time to focus

There’s a lot to take in there, so we’ll offer the advice we always give our customers when a flood of employee feedback comes in and they want to take action: focus on one or two areas for improvement first and get change firmly embedded across the organisation, before moving on to the next goal…

We asked our CEO and Founder, John Ryder, what he thought was the most important next step for Hive when it comes to improving our remote onboarding experience and he lingered on our last point:

“As an organisation, you want to be clear about what the culture is, what the definition of it is, and what good looks like. A lot of this is reliant on osmosis, which is difficult to achieve when you’re remote. A lot of culture is underpinned not by what’s written down, but by what’s seen and observed—and the two have to work together. There’s definitely an opportunity for Hive to improve here."

So where will you focus your improvement efforts first? 

What areas of the remote onboarding experience do you need to focus on as a priority? 

Ask the people it’s affected the most: your new recruits and people managers.

They’ll no doubt shed more light on the areas of remote onboarding that need the most attention, and while you’re at it, you can take the time to start re-imagining what you want your (remote) employee experience to feel like—from onboarding and beyond!

Good luck with your remote onboarding improvements! If you fancy finding out more about remote employee surveys or need some good advice on visualising your culture in a remote working world, simply book a call with our Hive specialists and we’ll see how we can help 🙂

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