The face of how we work has shifted dramatically in the last few months due to the ever-evolving COVID-19 global pandemic. With timelines remaining indefinite and an undoubtedly “new normal” settled, we are in a space where we need to adopt new tools and strategies to make remote working environments feasible and effective. The pandemic has upended many of our traditional business processes — including employee on-boarding.

The COVID pandemic has pushed many companies to choose remote working as a norm. IT infrastructure is in fact allowing employees to work from home indefinitely. Hence it will be very important for companies to create a structured on-boarding plan specifically for the remote employees to seamlessly integrate them into the organisation.

The first day at a job is overwhelming for most employees with new workspace, new team, new technology and systems. The feeling is more conspicuous in case of a new employee in a virtual work scenario.

As the saying goes, “first impression is the last impression”; what the employee experiences during the first few months plays a big role on the employee’s success and the first tryst with inclusion in the organisation. Here are some of the approaches to an effective on-boarding programme for your remote workforce.

1.    Celebrate new beginnings – While the logistical elements of on-boarding like Laptop, ID card, Email Id, Login ID & passwords are what every company provides, it’s key to start by welcoming new joinees to the team. Kick off a successful remote on-boarding experience by sending a virtual introduction about your new team member to the company, sharing a little bit about who they are, and how they will be contributing. This will help your new employees feel connected to the company and empowered to create effective working relationships with their peers.

2.    Get some Face Time – During remote on-boarding, all meetings with your new employee should be done over video call to establish a face-to-face personal connection. It’s pretty impossible to completely replace in person connections, but it’s worth a shot until your new hires are back in the office again. Do remote team building activities like trivia or a happy hour where everyone joins with their own beverage from home and or just be in their own skin.

3.    Set Clear Expectations – Once you’ve established an interpersonal connection with your new employee and the team, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of remote on-boarding. Create a new-hire checklist that details everything your employee needs to know to be successful within their role. A training schedule should be developed along with time to check-in with your remote team member to see how they’re progressing and answer any questions they might have. It can be tough to know what makes a new boss happy in general, even more so when starting remotely. Clear expectations will help your new hires start off on the right foot. That’s kind of the whole point of on-boarding in the first place, right?

4.    Set 30/60/90 days’ Goals – When on-boarding remote employees, the main difference is that you may have to create a more detailed list of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there, so nothing gets missed. Bear in mind that not being in the same physical space, or even the same time zone, might make new hires feel uncomfortable about asking questions via email or instant messaging. Attempt to be proactive and share a plan in advance with respect to the 30, 60 and 90 days goals.

5.    Virtual Buddy – The main challenges faced by a remote workforce is apart from feeling a sense of isolation & not knowing their team members, they don’t know whom to approach when they have questions. While the manager – employee relationship is still building, they may want to have someone from their peer group who can help them. Have a team buddy to pair up with the new joinee whom they can approach in the first few months for questions regarding the company culture, values, policies, or any other query they might have for which they may be hesitant to approach their manager. This helps immensely in team building and motivating the new hires to work as a part of the team towards common goals.

6.    Feedback – Feedback is very crucial to the entire process. Work out a detailed feedback form that can be filled by the new employees after 1, 3 and 12 months describing their experience with the company and the teams. The feedback received from the new employees provides a fresh perspective and helps you better your on-boarding programme for the future employees.

7.    Manager’s Role in building Psychological safety of the new joinee- The role of the Manager in ensuring that the new joinee settles down in the company, in the team, is comfortable with his deliverables, can approach him/her with concerns is critical. Ensuring all Managers are trained and enabled to build Psychological safety in teams would be key to not only successful new joinee induction but overall team productivity.

According to a study by BCG, companies with an effective on-boarding process for new hires showed 2.5 times more revenue growth and 1.9 times more profit margin. On-boarding cultivates new hires to be “part of the team.” Done well, it can also supercharge new employee productivity by boosting motivation and job satisfaction from day one. Inclusion begins from the first day of Employee Lifecycle; when everyone is included, everyone wins.