If you could start your company’s culture with a blank slate, what would you prioritize?
Onboarding new employees give leaders the closest thing to a blank slate for shaping their organizational culture. When first impressions matter most, the tone set during onboard will shape how employees relate to their colleagues and work.
Although the introduction to your culture starts with interview questions and hiring rubrics, the first few weeks of an employee’s tenure are their introduction to what your team is all about.
From performance expectations to the sense of community employees feel, leaders’ efforts during onboarding are critical to shaping their team’s culture.
On remote teams, establishing culture during onboarding requires greater intention. The relationships that develop naturally between new and existing employees are tougher to build over Zoom or MS Teams. Luckily many best practices translate over to virtual teams.
Onboarding is critical for building the foundations of employee engagement and productivity. Let’s dive into 5 strategies for exceptional onboarding while remote.
1. Make a great introduction to your virtual team
Start things off on the right foot by introducing new hires to your whole team. This can be as creative as you’d like as it also introduces your team and its culture to new hires.
We like to use our Daily Huddles while remote to introduce new hires. Monthly all-hands are also a great venue for new employees to introduce themselves and share their personality with the group.
You may want to ask new hires to create and share one slide about themselves and who they are. This can include hobbies, education, hometown, family, and passions. This gives new hires a chance to show off their personality and lets them know they can bring their full selves to work. Establishing a sense of belonging is critical to building a successful culture and creating first impressions that instill that goes a long way during remote onboarding.
2. Ensure new remote team member comfort
For many employees on remote teams right now, this may be their first time working from their home. Investing in their ability to work productively from home pays dividends. The returns on dual-monitors, a supportive chair, and a quiet space are well-known to anyone who has tried working at their kitchen table and contended with homeschooling or other distractions while working from home.
If your remote employees are local to your office space, you may be able to physically lend them chairs, desks, and monitors to equip their home offices. If not, you may be in a position to offer them stipends for home office equipment that keeps them comfortable and productive.
Checking-in regularly with new employees adjusting to working from home ensures their immediate productivity. Some leaders may take for granted that everyone is well adjusted to working from home. Take the time to understand their home office situation and whether they have other household members present.
If they have children at home unable to go to school, support their needs with flexible scheduling and resources. Every employee faces different challenges while working remotely. Isolation and loneliness may be especially hard on young employees, while childcare and health concerns may weigh harder on older employees. Taking the time during the onboarding process to understand and address each new employee’s individual needs will set them up for success early.
3. Foster relationship building
While remote, employees can’t build friendships over the water cooler or in passing. Managers should create time for new employees to build rapport with their remote teams. Make sure relevant coworkers schedule a time for a one-on-one meet and greets with new hires. These conversations should establish what everyone’s roles and backgrounds are and help build team chemistry.
Regular team-building events are also critical when onboarding employees to a remote team, especially if the rest of the team has worked together in person. Check out our full list of remote team building activities for more!
4. Document everything for new hires
Knowledge sharing is a critical component of any onboarding process. Whether a new employee is filling a new position or replacing an existing role, the more complete your documentation, the easier the transition will be.
In the office, new employees can sit next to experts for hands-on learning. It’s easy to turn to people for answers when faced with a new challenge. Conveying that information across video chats can be much more difficult. While screen-shares and chat tools like Slack can go a long way to recreating that learning, good documentation reduces the number of questions new employees need to ask.
Wiki tools like Confluence and Guru serve as central hubs for your team to document information and best practices. Development teams often use GitHub to share information about their codebase. Whatever the tool, having an agreed-upon system for documentation and making sure it’s as comprehensive and understandable as possible helps new employees accelerate their learning while remote.
Good documentation can benefit your team’s culture in many ways. The transparency of documenting everything makes it easier to know what work is being done and why. When employees know where to find essential information, they spend less time searching for answers and more time getting important work done.
5. Communicate clear expectations
Setting up new employees for success means defining the roadmap to get them there. The most common challenge face by new hires is a lack of role clarity and expectations. If new hires are feeling this, there’s a good chance others in your organization are too.
Setting clear expectations means transparently sharing well-structured goals. Having SMART goals for each employee that roll up into company objectives helps everyone understand what success looks like and how their work gets them there. Creating these goals for onboarding establishes which outcomes matter and what new hires should focus on.
These goals should guide regular 1-on-1’s and performance reviews throughout new employees’ time there. Maximize their chances of success by helping new hires understand and visualize what they are expected to achieve and where they stand on important work.
A company’s culture is more than the sum of the people within it. It hinges on the leaders’ commitment to embodying the organization’s core values. From allocating budget to making hiring decisions, processes need to reflect the organization’s ideals.
The transition to working from home during an uncertain time forces leaders to adapt these processes. Luckily, technology enables the rapid communication, data sharing, and necessary for preserving company culture while remote.
Tools that help communicate company strategy and define success for new hires help build a culture focused on success. Just as these practices have built thriving cultures in the past, with the right technology they will continue to do so in the future.