How to onboard remotely & increase staff retention

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Onboarding is the process of integrating new employees with your business. Helping them to understand the culture, values and practices that will allow them to become an effective member of the team. However, it is more than just setting someone up with an email account, log-in details for your IT systems and giving them the company handbook to read on their first day. When done properly, the process starts at interview stage and continues up until their probation period ends. 

Are you onboarding new hires successfully or dropping them in the deep end, setting them up to fail? Get the key things right, every time, and there’s no reason you can’t achieve uniformity in a successful process that guarantees happy employees and high retention rates. 

Start early

Try taking an automated approach to the onboarding process. Think through your onboarding process, record each step, and then make sure every new hire has the same experience so that they join with the right impression of your business.  

If you have forms that need completing, personal details you need to collect or information and resources that they’ll need on their first day, make sure it’s taken care of well in advance. This will give your new hires confidence that they’re joining a business with a structure in place, which is especially important if you’re a startup that’s looking to attract candidates from more established companies. If you used a recruitment agency, ask what support they offer to ensure a seamless transition from candidate to employee.  

For remote onboarding, make sure that you’ve prepared for everything that is usually done in the office to be done just as easily when your employee isn’t physically in the office. If training is normally given in person, get your training materials online and have those who are responsible for training to practice a session over video and iron out any issues before rolling it out on new joiners. It might sound obvious, but it’s not until you run through things that sounded great in theory, that you actually come unstuck. 

No one wants to start day one drowning in an inbox full of emails to action. Rather than overloading new hires with emails, can you switch up some of your methods of gathering information or giving training? Typeform questionnaires are a great way to collect information rather than form filling and give a greater sense of achievement once completed. 

It also pays to set expectations early on what’s required in the role as well as conduct. Anything you can do to help new hires understand your company culture and how you work remotely before they join will benefit both parties. 

Establish a support system

If you’re onboarding people remotely, they won’t have the benefit of being in an office environment where they can easily ask their co-workers questions. If you think back to your first days on the job you probably had a bunch of questions that you were able to get an answer to quickly by asking the person next to you. Now imagine you were at home with no one to ask but the same amount of questions. You’d probably stop yourself asking all of them because you don’t want to bother your manager by inundating them with emails or phone calls.  

So that new joiners don’t have to worry about how many questions they ask at the start of their employment or how important their manager might perceive them to be, consider putting a system place to help. One possible solution would be to make someone a designated Onboarding Partner or pair them with someone in the business who can check in with them at regular intervals and keep an open line of communication. 

Introductions. Whilst your new hire may have met the key players that they’ll be working closely with at the interview stage, they are now one of the team and should be welcomed by them as colleagues. Decide who in the business it’s important for new joiners to sit down with in their first week, and ensure this happens for every hire every time. You can also encourage colleagues to reach out over social media, connect on LinkedIn or invite them to follow the company page so that they start to feel a part of the business even before their first day on the job. 

I’d recommend that in addition to senior management, direct line managers and teammates, that they also take the time to speak with business support and whoever deals with payroll so if there’s ever an issue they know who to go to get it sorted quickly. Not being paid on time in your first month or being subject to dreaded emergency tax can be stressful and even a possible reason for people leaving during their probation period so make sure new hires know who to contact. How about going one step further and having your payroll manager contact new joiners in their first week to ensure they have the right bank account and tax details. 

Commit to your new hires

Most businesses have a 6-month probation period with anywhere from one week to one month’s notice period on either side. So in essence what you have is an initial contract agreement that either party can pull the plug on at a week or month’s notice. Therefore, if your new joiners have it in the back of their mind that they can be let go, or jump ship, at short notice during the first 6 months, why would you stop the onboarding process after the first week?  

It takes more than 5 business days to acclimatise yourself to a company’s culture and ways of working. Employers want to be looking at onboarding as a 3-6 month process, mapping out what needs to happen at each stage leading up to the probationary interview with plenty of opportunities for feedback on both sides along the way. If employees are remote, it’s imperative that they have weekly, if not daily, video calls with their direct line manager or colleagues. 

As long as you see the onboarding process as having the end goal of producing fully acclimatised employees who will be in a position to help onboard new joiners themselves after 6 months, your chances of retaining talent and having a winning team will be greatly increased

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