There are many benefits to having a remote workforce. Remote employees allow employers to avoid the overhead costs associated with full-time on-site employees, and, according to numerous studies, being free from distractions in the office allows remote employees to accomplish more work in less time.
For an employer who uses a remote workforce, conducting a successful onboarding process is vital, said Tricia Sciortino, President of eaHelp, because it helps to ensure that remote employees are as productive as possible, and it can reduce or prevent employee turnover. She’s had plenty of experience dealing with remote employees over the past six years as President of eaHELP, a company that provides virtual assistants. The 400-employee organization is entirely virtual; all of its corporate employees and assistants work from home.
In his article, “Onboarding Options When Face-To-Face Onboarding Is Not An Option,” George Bradt, chairman of PrimeGenesis, a transition management company, said there are “efficiency and cost-saving advantages of utilizing a virtual environment for some aspects of onboarding.” For employers he said the onboarding process “requires assimilation into the business and culture.”
To help employers onboard their remote employees better, Sciortino offered these five strategies:
- Virtually welcome new remote employees. To make remote employees feel as comfortable and welcomed as possible, Sciortino said to send out a welcome message. This will help make the new employee feel like part of the company, and let them know the company is excited to work with them. Equally as important, help current employees become familiar with new remote employees. “You don’t want emails to magically appear from a new staffer in your existing team’s inboxes,” Sciortino said. Have remote employees join company videoconferences and calls, even if they don’t know every detail of what is being discussed, so all employees can be introduced and working together as soon as possible.
- Be intent, deliberate and innovative. While onboarding remote employees does not necessarily require more time than onboarding in-house employees, Sciortino said, “It does take more intention and deliberation and perhaps ingenuity.” Employers can’t just stop by a remote employee’s office to offer advice, so they must customize and plan training in advance.
- Create a detailed training schedule. This will help remote employees make the most of their first few weeks on the job. “Remote workers are very deliberate about producing results, demonstrating value, and keeping in communication with their teams,” and they are “often much more self-directed,” Sciortino said. Providing specific tasks with detailed instructions on how to complete them will help remote employees be productive immediately.
- Use the technology available. Today’s technology can help bridge the gap between remote employees and the workplace. “Train on webcams,” Sciortino said. “It is the next best thing to face-to-face.” She also uses tools such as Jing, a computer service that allows users to share videos and images of their computer screen to provide new employees with visuals to help them learn how to do their job more quickly.
- Follow up regularly. To gauge remote employees’ progress, Sciortino encourages employers to “build in follow-up meetings at 30, 60, and 90 days to make sure the new team member is feeling engaged and included.” Constant communication is necessary to ensure a successful onboarding process. Further, the discussion should be two-sided detailing what has and what has not worked well so far.
Being well versed in the best strategies to onboard remote employees can help to identify necessary tools and resources so that employees’ can ramp up quickly and smoothly. Despite their physical absence from the workplace, a remote workforce can yield tangible results, and a well-executed onboarding process amplifies these results while deceasing time to productivity.
AnnMarie Kuzel is an editorial intern at Human Capital Media. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.