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Remote onboarding – a 10 step plan to successful hiring

By James Bessant, 1st November 2020

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The ongoing global coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly every company and how they operate. From whole industries having to temporarily close, to businesses changing their working structure to adopt a work from home (WFH) strategy, we are now entering a digital, WFH phase which will impact how all companies are structured going forward.

The top-performing companies have already recognised this is an opportunity for growth. By carrying on existing hiring strategies and adopting fully remote onboarding processes, they are attracting talent who would not necessarily be available to them in less turbulent times.

Significant benefits are there to be gained from remote working including increased productivity and better employee retention levels, using the current global crisis to instigate enterprise-wide change, is a smart action to future-proof your company in a fast-changing business world.

With the projection from 2017 of half the UK population working from home being super-charged forward by the coronavirus, here are the first five of a ten step plan to help you adopt a smart, remote onboarding process to keep your business moving successfully forward.

  1. Successful onboarding starts during the hiring process​

Whether remote or not, a great new employee experience is often defined by what they hear during the interview process. If key elements of the onboarding process are discussed and most importantly, then followed through with, the new employee will already have a set expectation of what will happen during those key first few days and weeks:

  • Are they aware of how they will be managed (direct management and dotted line reports)?
  • What hours are you expecting the person to work?
  • How much flexibility will you provide to someone working from home to set their own daily structure?
  • Did you discuss accountability measures and goals during the hiring cycle?
  • What will the training journey look like and can it be consistently run remotely?
  • Have you asked them how they work best? (you can go as far as creating a document to complete on this for a new joiner)

Clear communication at an early stage will set all new starters up for success. This is even more critical when applying a WFH strategy as the employee won’t have their peers and manager directly next to them to help shape that initial experience.

  1. Keep your house in order; onboarding checks are crucial

It is essential to remember that hiring a new WFH employee still requires the same checks and processes as someone who is office based.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the UK government has relaxed the right to work checking process to minimize the need for face-to-face contact. It’s important to note this is a temporary change and will revert back after the crisis is averted.

Make sure reference checks are always undertaken; try to get feedback on how the individual works on their own, look into time management skills and consistency in achieving goals and objectives in their role.

Using cloud-based onboarding solutions such as Peopledoc, Hibob or ADP, allows a streamlined way of managing the administrative cycle to ensure no single document is missed, even if someone is in a different country.

  1. Remember, the employer is still responsible for health & safety

Even though you can’t see the working environment directly (especially due to the coronavirus), the employer is still responsible for the protection of the occupational health and safety of staff who work from home.

Employers need to carry out a risk assessment of all the work activities carried out by their workers under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It is also good practice for the new employee to carry out a self-assessment of the risks from work activities carried out in the home.

For 99.9% of roles, the risks will be slim but make sure you are aware if someone is having building work done to their house and check you have seen the home office setup they plan to use. Simple things like making sure they are using a suitable chair really matters.

  1. Get their kit ready (and know who’s paying for what)

It’s crucial that IT work closely to help a remote onboard happen. From laptops to telecoms, the employee needs the right equipment to do their job on day 1.

To comply with the current restrictions, one example could include having a secure location in your office which the new employee can access at an agreed time and date to collect everything needed. This minimises people contact and ensures all company equipment is carefully monitored until the point of collection.

Using company approved courier services is also viable, particularly where the new employee is not within a realistic commutable distance of a company office.

Finally, make sure employment contracts clearly outline who is responsible for paying costs of WFH. If expenses can be claimed, also ensure these are highlighted to the employee to avoid issues further down the line.

Bonus tip – an employee welcome pack always goes down well and shows you’re thinking of the new starter. Pens, t-shirts and mugs are the common items but there are many creative things which can also be offered.

  1. Plan day 1-5 carefully

You’ll already have a clear onboarding journey for someone coming into the office. This should be no different for someone working from home. Build a structured virtual onboarding schedule for the first five days, trying not to cram everything into day 1. Agree with all the stakeholders involved what needs to be done by who and have every task clearly outlined in each schedule (including the new employee of course!).

Key areas to incorporate into those first few days include:

  • Using video to meet all key stakeholders (senior management, line manager and team members)
    • Try not to overwhelm the person immediately with unnecessary meet & greets. Who are the key individuals this person will be closely aligned to in their role? Use tools like Zoom, Teams, Skype or Hangouts to coordinate face-to-face contact so personal relationships can be developed
    • Include the person with team calls which impact their workload ASAP. This helps them to get up to speed ASAP but also allows them to share their own knowledge and expertise (that’s why they were hired in the first place)
  • Condense down induction calls to be as short and sharp as possible. Face-to-face, someone will inevitably look to keep their focus but if they are having a two-hour induction on something not overly relevant to their job, you can be guaranteed someone’s concentration will waiver when working from home
  • Utilise video training modules; these work well for certain individuals (you did find this out during the hiring process, didn’t you?). If training material isn’t cloud based in your company, using screen recording tools like Loom and Movavi are a quick and easy way to pre-record material while talking through processes
  • Using screen sharing on Zoom and Microsoft Teams is an ideal way of conducting live 1-to-1 training. Seeing what you’re talking about makes the onboarding experience for a home worker much more interactive

The second part of this 10-step plan will be available from 14th April 2020.

Tags: James Bessant, onboarding, remote onboarding, Recruitment, covid-19, Coronavirus

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