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.
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.
- Create plenty of post-offer touchpoints with new recruits
- Build strong and positive manager-employee relationships early on
- Emphasise and signpost support available
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 🙂