6 Remote Onboarding Mistakes—and How to Avoid Them

5 minutes • Jan 14, 2022HROnboardingEmployee Engagement

Over the last couple of years, remote work has become increasingly common. In fact, according to a 2020 study by Growmotely, roughly three out of four professionals expect remote work to become the standard. 

Don’t get us wrong. It’s no secret that a remote or hybrid workplace offers several benefits, such as increased organizational productivity and less risk of talent attrition. But, a remote or hybrid workplace also comes with unique obstacles. Namely, it can be harder for employees to develop relationships and for employers to foster a sense of belonging among team members. And complicating matters more is that welcoming new hires can be particularly challenging in a remote or hybrid work environment. 

With the average cost of hiring amounting to $4,425 per person in the United States, improving your ability to retain new employees is essential—especially in the midst of what’s being termed the “Great Resignation,” an era of unprecedented job resignations.

So, what’s one of the most effective ways you can better set up your new hires for success and encourage them to stay with your organization for the long haul? With a high-quality onboarding process. Here are the six most common remote onboarding mistakes that organizations make and how you can avoid them.

1.   Leaving Out Pre-Onboarding Protocols

It’s the new hire’s first day! They’re smiling during their first Zoom team meeting, excited to tackle their initial tasks. 

Many organizations view a new hire’s first day as the start of their relationship. But, that relationship actually begins before a new hire’s first day. Waiting until an employee’s official start date to make contact and engage them often leaves that employee feeling disconnected. 

Instead, develop a “pre-onboarding” process to get things rolling for each employee before their official first day. In a few simple steps, you can help new hires overcome the challenges associated with first-day-on-the-job jitters and increase the likelihood of their success. 

Your pre-boarding process should include sending out a detailed welcome email approximately one to two weeks before an employee’s first day. Be careful not to inundate them with information, as this can overwhelm new employees and compound feelings of anxiety. Instead, provide some basic information on what to expect during their first day so that you can put them at ease and reiterate how excited the team is to have them. Other pre-boarding ideas include sending employees swag and a link to your org chart so new hires can gain an understanding of the reporting structure at your organization from the get-go. 

2.   Neglecting Your Organization’s Culture

Another mistake that can compromise the remote onboarding experience is neglecting to foster an organizational culture that is welcoming and inclusive of remote employees. 

It’s true that many remote workers enjoy the flexibility of working from home. But, working from home puts them at a higher risk of burnout and disconnection. This makes it important for organizations to retool their values to help both new and current employees succeed in a remote or hybrid work environment. 

The communication experts at 4PSA recommend the following ways to enhance your current culture:

  • Celebrate staff achievements: Every member of your organization is integral to the overall success of your business, and it’s essential to regularly show your appreciation. This can take the form of simple “thank you” emails or be as elaborate as an annual banquet for top performers.

  • Encourage work-life balance: When employees work from home, it can be all too easy for them to neglect to take their lunch or forget to take breaks. Encourage your staff to take regular breathers even if they’re not in the office.

  • Empower your team: Encourage your mid-level leadership to act on their own brilliant ideas and take suggestions from their team members. Not only will managers feel empowered, but their direct reports will feel heard and more engaged.

  • Retool existing meeting policies: By limiting meetings to essential stakeholders and creating company-wide meeting-free scheduling blocks, you can avoid overloading employees with constant Zoom meetings. This will help them be more productive, boosting morale in the process.

Your onboarding protocols should educate incoming staff members about your company’s ethos and values and get them excited about the amazing, remote-friendly team they’ve joined! 

3.   Failing to Invest in the Right Tools

If you want your remote workers to be successful, you should equip them with the right technologies. Employees should have the right technologies at their fingertips as soon as possible so they can effectively navigate the onboarding process and their on-the-job duties. Consider this finding from Workfront’s 2021 State of Work Report: nearly 50% of employees say they’ll consider leaving a job if they’re frustrated with the technological tools. 

Specifically, look into investing in the following types of tools recommended for hybrid and remote workplaces: 

  • A remote onboarding tool to help remote workers quickly get up to speed with who’s who and help them build connections with teammates more easily. 

  • A team communication tool such as Slack or Microsoft Teams for seamless collaboration. 

  • Project management tools for managing the onboarding process and team projects. 

  • Time tracking and productivity tools to help remote employees stay on top of their tasks. 

Not only will these tools be invaluable during the onboarding process, but they will also make it easy for new hires to stay connected and productive after they’ve settled in.

4.   Not Involving the Larger Team in the Process

Contrary to popular belief, an effective onboarding program involves several departments, not just HR. 

Ideally, the onboarding experience should be led by the new hire’s supervisor or manager, since that person is who the new hire will be interacting with the most (at least early on). Make sure to also involve other managers and supervisors the new hire will interact with, as well as senior leaders who can offer insights into your organization’s culture, mission, and business goals. 

Still, involving only these personnel above isn’t sufficient for onboarding remote hires. Without the same opportunities for interaction afforded by an office setting—such as the proverbial watercooler moments—you’ll need to take introductions a step further. One way you can approach this includes setting up 1:1s or Zoom “coffee dates” with everyone on the team or in the new hire’s department, depending on the size of your organization.

5.   A Lack of Clear Expectations

One of the biggest mistakes organizations make during onboarding is failing to clearly convey their expectations. This is particularly important for remote employees, who may have a harder time intuiting what’s needed or wanted since they’re not in an in-person setting.

A great solution is writing out a 90-day plan, which outlines the new employee’s duties and responsibilities over the first 90 days (some companies may opt for 30- or 60-day plans instead). The plan should clearly communicate all the required training, expectations, and projects. Additionally, the new hire’s initial 1:1 video calls with the team should include any and all expectations. 

6.  Not Getting Employee Feedback

Every onboarding system has room for improvement, especially in these times when many companies are still adjusting to hiring remote employees.

While it’s great for managers to check in with new hires frequently throughout the onboarding process, it’s not enough. Onboarding surveys from HR are a must for collecting feedback. If you send out the surveys while new remote hires are in the middle of onboarding, you can quickly gather the results and make real-time tweaks to their onboarding experience. You should also use those results to inform your onboarding process for future hires moving forward. So, if 

Here are some best practices for effective onboarding surveys from the experts at SurveyLegend:

  • Create an online survey that enables you to easily analyze responses. 

  • Tell respondents what the purpose of the survey is (such as, “this survey is to help create a better onboarding experience for future hires”). If they know what the survey is meant to accomplish, respondents will be more likely to answer in an honest, reflective way. 

  • Inform new hires who you’ll share the survey results with. Whether you’re planning on only showing the HR team their results, or are planning on looping in their supervisor as well, or any other combination, the new hires deserve to know. 

  • Keep the survey short—ideally, it should take 15 minutes or less for respondents to complete. 

  • Consider following up on onboarding surveys by sending new hires surveys every month for the initial three to six months of their employment. 

  • Make the survey statements the respondents have to rank actionable, such as “I understand what this organization is set out to accomplish,” and “I have all the necessary technology, tools, and resources I need to succeed in my role” so that you can more easily address negative responses. 

Remember: Remote Onboarding Is a Process

Ultimately, every organization’s remote onboarding process will be different. It can take time to figure out what works best for your organization—especially since remote work is brand new for many of us. But by continuing to regularly check in with your remote new hires and staying open to their feedback, you can ensure you’re doing everything on your part to make each new hire’s experience as positive and successful as possible.

Pingboard can help you create a winning remote onboarding process for your new remote hires. Sign up for a Pingboard account to set up your remote hires for success from the get-go.

Want even more tips on building and maintaining a winning work culture? Listen to our podcast!

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