Onboarding remote employees Overview
Blog //29-07-2021

Onboarding remote employees Overview

by Claire Ross, Head of Culture and Engagement

Businesses across the country are on the cusp of a fundamental change to their working culture. With hybrid working set to make the shift from a pandemic era emergency experience to a more permanent part of the work structure, this change will bring with it a number of significant challenges which businesses will need to be aware of if they are to ensure a successful post-pandemic recovery.

One of the biggest concerns for organisations is the perceived disconnect between employer and employee that may come about as a result of a hybrid or remote set up. This is of particular concern for HR teams who rely on close contact with their people in order to remain effective. HR teams have already bore-the-brunt of many of the necessary changes made by organisations over the past year and the scope of their role means they will inevitably play a crucial role in driving the success of any new set up.

One of the main areas of concern is around the challenges faced when onboarding remote employees. As much as businesses have been able to remain agile and in many ways more productive over the course of the pandemic, the challenge of recruiting and introducing new starters into the organisation will present one of the most significant challenges for businesses as they move into  a more permanent hybrid model.

Research by HR Reporter found that 38% of HR professionals claimed that remote onboarding was harder than in-person, with 52% citing the lack of relationship building opportunities as one of the most significant challenges presented to them.

As businesses across the country prepare for the wider shift to a more permanent hybrid workforce, the challenges facing their HR teams in recruiting and onboarding talent has the potential to represent a significant roadblock to future growth and success. 

In this piece, we will explore some of the challenges facing HR professionals around remote onboarding, and what steps organisations can take in order to help mitigate the impact of these concerns. Ensure continued business success by guaranteeing talent recruitment safeguarding productivity and profitability in your business.

What is remote employee onboarding?

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Put simply, employee onboarding is the process of inducting a new employee into an organisation, introducing them to and helping familiarise them with company culture as well as standards and practices. An effective onboarding process plays a crucial role in helping new starters become acquainted with their new place of work and can empower them to become an efficient and productive team member as soon as possible.

Remote onboarding is the process of introducing a new employee to an organisation without the traditional face to face element normally present in the recruitment cycle. Remote onboarding relies on HR professionals leaning upon virtual platforms such as video call technology and HR systems in order to help bridge the gap between recruiter and applicant and help provide as seamless an experience as possible in lieu of meeting in a physical location.

What are the four phases of onboarding?

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A well-defined onboarding process is absolutely vital in helping businesses attract and retain the talented people they need in order to drive success. Research by HR tech weekly found that lack of a structured onboarding process can lead to new employees leaving a business within a year of joining. As businesses look to make a strong post-pandemic recovery, they can ill afford to be constantly returning to the recruitment cycle and therefore, it is important that their onboarding process is as structured and well defined as possible.

The onboarding process is typically broken down into four stages:

1. Orientation- This stage involves introducing any new hires to the wider organisation, familiarising them with company culture as well as offering an opportunity for them to be introduced to senior leadership and any team members. Traditionally, thisse phase would also involve a tour around the office space, although this may not be feasible in every instance in a hybrid set up.

This is perhaps one of the most crucial stages in the onboarding process as it presents the greatest opportunity for organisations to set out their ethos and expectations for new starters. Gaining the proper context of their new place of work will be vital in helping new employees feel welcome as well as empowering them to become independent and productive as soon as possible.

2. Role training- This stage is all about getting a new hire oriented with their job role and responsibilities. A well developed orientation experience can help new starters hit the ground running and the more clearly an organisation can explain processes and responsibilities, the sooner new employees can become self-sufficient and productive. A key element to traditional role training will have been shadowing an experienced employee, learning processes first hand and gaining valuable insight. The initial training of an employee can very well determine their long term future with an organisation, so it is very much in everyone’s best interest to make sure that this process is well considered and embedded.

3. Transition- This period usually occurs 2-3 months into an employee’s lifecycle at the organisation and represents a new starter transitioning permanently into their role. Most organisations implement some form of probationary period as a way of assessing the ability of new hires to meet requirements and this period of transition should serve as a seal of approval, demonstrating an organisation’s faith in a new hire. This step is entwined with role training as the effectiveness of the initial onboarding can determine if an employee passes their probation.

As an employee transitions into their role permanently, it is important that this doesn’t mark the end of the onboarding process. HR teams along with direct supervisors should actively drive conversations around employee expectations and to clearly define goals moving forward. HR professionals in particular act as leadership focal points and it is crucial that they communicate with transitioning employees about the ways in which they are there to support them moving forward.

4. Ongoing development-The final step in the onboarding process is the ongoing development of employees. Although for many organisations, this step acts as a way marker representing the end of the onboarding of a new employee, it is important that emphasis is placed upon the “ongoing” element and that it doesn’t represent a hard stop to conversations surrounding the growth and development of employees.

As with the transition period, this stage is best supplemented by a dual pronged approach, with HR teams and supervisors acting in concert with the employee and driving conversations around further development and their overall career path. HR systems supplement this step perfectly as they provide a single platform with which to chart an employee’s journey and ensure an organisation never loses sight of their needs.

How do I onboard employees remotely?

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As mentioned previously, the question of how to onboard new starters in a remote capacity is still one which HR teams are grappling with. As a traditionally open, people facing role, HR professionals have been struggling with virtual onboarding, with many feeling that it is a disconnected process, one which loses the human element so important when introducing someone to an organisation.

It is one of the unfortunate truths that the onboarding process will inevitably feel slightly disconnected when bringing in new remote workers- Losing out on the chance to introduce a new starter to the physical office space, face to face shadowing of colleagues as well as just simple introductions, are all factors which may seem suddenly far more daunting and unwieldy.

As with all elements of the hybrid workforce, the answer lies in technology. Businesses should lean on the same virtual platforms which served them so well during the height of the pandemic. The hybrid workforce represents a significant shakeup of the traditional working model and our relationship with technology will need to change in time with it. 

Video interviews have increased by 159% of the course of the pandemic and it is clear that video conferencing technology will form the backbone of the onboarding process for remote teams. While there really is no substitute for a face to face interaction, video calls and regular check ups between recruiters and prospective new hires can help bridge the gap somewhat and help ensure that human element remains.

Cloud based HR systems offer a single, comprehensive platform to easily manage and maintain a candidate’s journey from initial application, right the way through to their integration as a full time employee. Having a complete overview of a new employee’s information in this respect will be an asset for HR teams as it means they are always able to remain aware of any requirements either from the new starter or company’s perspective. 

In the day to day working world, HR systems are designed specifically to empower HR teams and as remote onboarding looks to become a more permanent aspect of the working structure moving forward, the technology and systems businesses have in place will need to be agile enough to ensure that HR professionals are able to offer as seamless and inclusive an onboarding experience as possible.

Virtual platforms can also be leveraged in creative ways to offer substitutes for the traditional onboarding process: Virtual office tours could be offered to new starters, even if they will be primarily home based and virtual quizzes or other team building exercises can be adopted as ways of introducing new employees to their colleagues and can ultimately help make the process feel a little less isolated.

Essentially, the core of a successful remote onboarding will rely on two key aspects: Communication and fostering that sense of belonging which is so essential to feeling comfortable and confident in a new job. When looking at the set up of their organisations moving forward, HR teams should be assessing the technology and systems at their disposal and asking the question of whether they are suitable to help them achieve those objectives. Moving forwards, organisations should be able to lean on their systems and ensure that they are able to bridge the gap between company and new employee.

How onboarding can affect an employee’s engagement and productivity.

In essence, the onboarding process demonstrates a company’s level of investment in a new starter. A thorough and well embedded onboarding process can go a long way towards instilling a sense of confidence and long term satisfaction for new starters.

Research by PCMA found that a negative onboarding experience contributed to a massive 64% of new hires leaving a business. The old adage of only getting to make one first impression certainly holds true when it comes to bringing in new talent to an organisation and businesses would do well to remember that their ethos and commitment will be as much under scrutiny as the performance of any new hires.

The onboarding process is an opportunity for organisations to demonstrate their level of commitment to new employees and to create a welcoming environment. Businesses who are able to put into practice a well structured and defined onboarding process, will find new starters remain engaged, self-sufficient and productive.

It's clear that professional development and growth is a priority for many: A Linkedin workplace survey found that an astonishing 93% of respondents felt that they would be more likely to remain with their current employers if they offered opportunities for advancement and development. The onboarding process is the opportunity for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to fostering the development of their people and by folding discussions around growth and long term career plans even in the earliest stages of an employee’s lifecycle, businesses will find their workforce is more engaged and content.

Conclusion

HR teams pride themselves on being the torchbearers of company culture. Their importance and the scope of their role has increased greatly over the course of the past year as organisations across the country have understood how vital it is to stay connected with a disparate workforce. It is understandable therefore that the long-term shift to hybrid workforces and the issue of how to onboard new employees remotely, will be a cause of some concern to these professionals who so pride themselves as championing the human elements of their business.

Businesses have already proven themselves to be agile over the course of the pandemic and as we move towards the new future of working, that same spirit of adaptability will have to be harnessed in order to ensure the success of hybrid workforces. As understandably eager as everyone is to return to a sense of normality, organisations should appreciate that by taking a proactive approach and actively driving conversations around how to support their HR teams in ensuring they can offer as seamless an experience as possible when engaging with remote based employees.

We’ve seen that the greatest factors determining the success of onboarding are communication and bridging the gap between organisation and candidate. Whilst there is no proper substitute for face to face interaction during the recruitment process, the virtual platforms available to organisations should offer the agility needed to ensure that the human element remains.

At Advanced, we believe in the power of technology to allow people to achieve more. We understand how important it is that the systems you have in place are comprehensive enough to help you drive success as the country makes the switch to hybrid working. Our Cloud HR solution has been designed by experts in the field specifically to empower your HR teams and to ensure that they can offer a seamless experience when bringing new talent into the organisation, regardless of where they are working from.

We’ve designed Cloud HR so you can better support your employees’ needs - both now and in the future. We believe HR teams are pioneers, not task robots.

How our HR Software can help you

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Claire Ross

Claire Ross

PUBLISHED BY

Head of Culture and Engagement

As Head of Culture & Engagement, I'm focused on building positive moments that matter which in turn strengthen the relationship our colleagues have with Advanced. Our employee experience is key to our business performance and from a background as a HR generalist, I see every aspect of the employee lifecycle as an opportunity to reinforce that we are an employer of choice.

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