More and more workers are choosing to work remotely. A survey cited by Fast Company found that more than a third of business leaders surveyed at the Global Leadership Summit in London said, “more than half their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020.” Navigating the opportunities and challenges which remote work presents will be an increasing concern for today’s organizations.
If you’re wondering how to engage with a remote workforce, start by ensuring you have a strong onboarding program in place that makes all new hires feel welcome, creates opportunities for co-worker connections, and sets employees up for success in their work environment.
Create a warm virtual welcome
In many organizations, it’s common to take a new hire out to lunch, hang a welcome sign at their desk, or give them company-branded gifts to welcome them on their first day. This warm welcome is an important step in communicating your company’s culture and values to a new hire—regardless of their location.
If you hire a remote worker, you need to plan to ensure you lay out the welcome mat in the same way. Send a welcome card and branded company gift so that it arrives on or before their first day. Before the first day, let the new hire know what time to plan for a video call (ideally at the start of their workday), tell them to brew their favorite hot beverage, and invite members of the team to join you for the video welcome. To establish equal footing and reduce overwhelm, have other participants join from their computers so everyone can be seen and heard.
Use buddies to boost bonding
When people work together in the same location, it’s natural to make connections with the colleagues you see every day. According to Gallup, those friendships can have a positive impact on job satisfaction and performance. Unfortunately, without the convenience of hallway conversations, new remote employees may have a more difficult time establishing friendships and building bonds which can lead to a feeling of disconnect.
Help ensure that co-workers make connections regardless of location by assigning buddies to boost the bonding between workers at different locations. A buddy helps establish that the remote worker is part of the team, even though they aren’t in the same place. Not every buddy pair will be a perfect match, but for the first 90 days, while the remote worker gains confidence and comfort in their new role, they’ll be supported by the feeling that they aren’t alone.
Foster a digitally-friendly work environment
Having the right tech in place is important when onboarding a new remote hire. Not only will this ease the strain of completing the necessary paperwork, but having established systems also allows for clarity, communication, and collaboration. Some critical systems to have in place if you want to foster a digitally-friendly work environment for your workers include:
An intranet allows the remote employee to access the same information available to on-site employees regarding policies, programs, organizational structure, and company initiatives.
Video conferencing and web meetings are a must to let remote workers participate in face-to-face meetings and group events.
File sharing solutions help streamline document management and ensure collaboration occurs in a way that revisions and edits are captured real-time which minimizes confusion and unnecessary duplication of efforts.
Project management systems make it easy for remote and on-site employees to understand and track progress on projects. These tools also ensure everyone has the most current timeline at their fingertips so they can address any risks.
Instant messaging is one way to ensure communication and transparency in a remote work environment. Just as employees might stop by someone’s desk to ask a question or gather a few people together in a room for a quick brainstorm, they can do the same with an instant message or group chat.
You don’t need to put expensive systems in place, just be sure that all employees understand the expectations, process, and plans for how to use the technology you do have to access and share information.
Whether it’s in-person or remote onboarding, seek ways to standardize the process for all employees to feel like they’re a part of the organization and that they’re receiving the same treatment. Look for ways to create a positive onboarding experience that makes every employee feel like they made the right choice by joining your organization. Adapting the process for your remote workers may require some juggling, but the effort is worth it. When you successfully onboard any employee, you’re more likely to retain that happy, engaged employee for years to come.
Liz Sheffield is a freelance writer with more than a decade of experience working in HR. Her areas of expertise are in training and development, leadership development, ethics, and compliance. Thanks to her mother, Liz has been writing thank you notes since she could hold a pencil. As an adult she enjoys helping organizations see how expressing gratitude to employees, coworkers, and business partners paves the way to greatness.