Remote work is a powerful tool. It’s an opportunity for employees to achieve better work/life balance, avoiding the exhausting commute, and the traveling costs of going to work.
This modern workstyle is also an excellent thing for businesses who want to reduce office overheads and access a wider talent pool. 50% of the workforce will be working remotely before we know it.
The good news is that the digital world is making remote work easier than ever. Video conferencing means that people can interact face-to-face even when they’re not in the same office.
Collaboration tools make sharing work and documents convenient. There are even cloud-based tools to keep your teams productive wherever they are.
However, even as the remote landscape evolves, companies are still facing problems with welcoming new team members into their organizational structure.
The Problems with Onboarding a Remote Workforce
Most companies already have a strategy in place for welcoming new traditional employees. You might spend a day introducing your candidate to the people they’re going to be working with. If anyone has trouble with the new software or hardware they’re going to use, internal IT teams are there to help.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to achieve the same kind of onboarding experience when your teams work remotely. This often means that team members are thrown in at the deep end, with no understanding of company culture, or the expectations that they need to adhere to.
If you’re not careful, a poor onboarding process can lead to a relationship with your remote team members that makes them feel disengaged and disconnected from the team.
This increases your risk of employee turnover and means you spend more time and money looking for replacement workers.
So, what can you do?
Learning the five biggest challenges of onboarding a remote workforce and how to fix them is a good start.
Challenge 1: A Monotonous Process
Some companies fall into the habit of making the onboarding experience a boring and tedious process. Maybe you send your team members a handful of PDFs or documents and hope for the best. However, there’s a good chance that your employee will dive into working without even reading these documents.
Unfortunately, if your employees don’t read the information you give them about your business model and processes, they could break rules and make mistakes.
You could tell your teams that understanding your documentation is mandatory, but it’s much easier to make the experience a little more engaging.
For instance, consider giving them a brand quiz at the end of their onboarding session. If they get all the answers right, they can get an award, like a branded hoodie, or a mug.
Branded merchandise as a reward or a gift will also encourage a sense of belonging for your team members and cement the fact that they’re now an important part of your family.
It’s also worth giving employees a deadline for when they need to finish signing papers and returning personal information. This will prevent candidates from just putting boring reading sessions off until a later date.
Challenge 2: Delivering the Right Support
Just because your employees tell you that they’re willing to work remotely, doesn’t mean that they’re equipped to do so. Many candidates apply for remote jobs, assuming that they’ll get everything they need to stay productive from the company.
Just like you would make sure that your team members have the tools they need on their desks in the office, ensure that they have the right equipment at home too. This could mean giving your employees some discretionary spending money to buy a desk and a new computer or sending them out critical tools, like a business phone.
You also need to ensure that your employees know how to access all of the software and equipment that they’re going to rely on. If your team member is new to remote working, then you might need to give them an entry-level introduction to cloud document sharing and video conferencing.
Making sure that your team members are properly prepared for their jobs, and that they know how to use their tools will reduce the risk of mistakes.
Ensuring that your employees have access to the right tools also lowers the risk of employees using personal tools that aren’t secure enough for your business.
Challenge 3: Feelings of Isolation
Remote working has many benefits to offer the right employee. It’s a chance to choose your own hours in some cases or work from the comfort of your own home with no distractions.
However, there are downsides to this style of working too. If you’re used to being surrounded by your colleagues in a busy office, you can start to feel lonely.
The more isolated your team members feel, the less likely it is that they’ll have a strong connection to your company and want to stick around. That’s why it’s important to get to work on building relationships between your colleagues as quickly as possible.
Assign a mentor to the new people on your team so they have someone to turn to whenever they’re feeling nervous or they need to ask for help.
It’s also worth having weekly or monthly meetings where employees in the same group can chat over video conferencing sessions and get to know each other.
Remember, the conversations that your team members have don’t always have to revolve around work. Playful sessions outside of work hours are a great way to build stronger relationships and boost engagement.
Challenge 4: Lack of Engagement
Speaking of engagement, it’s one of the toughest things for a business leader to cultivate in any working environment. Experts tell us that only 15% of employees are actually engaged in the workplace. Making your remote team members feel connected to your business is even harder because you don’t have any face-to-face interactions to build on.
Fortunately, there are many ways that you can boost engagement. One option could be to make sure that you give remote employees chances to earn rewards and get recognition for their work.
Recognizing your remote employee’s hard work with a “thank you” message or a gift from time to time is a great way to make them feel more involved with your business.
Another option could be to motivate your employees with some lighthearted competitions. Leaderboards where employees can fight for the top number of sales or the most completed calls in a month encourage team members to work harder.
If your employees feel like they’re working towards something valuable, they’re more likely to give you their all.
Don’t forget to keep your remote employees informed and educated too. Regular training sessions when new tools and processes appear in the workforce are essential.
It’s also helpful to create regular newsletters where you can share information about what’s happening in your company with your team. From day one of onboarding, let your employees know what you expect and how you’re going to keep them in the loop.
Challenge 5: Poor Company Culture
Despite what some people think, there’s more to company culture than having a pool table in your break room. The term ‘company culture’ describes the thing that makes a business special. It’s the processes that your team uses to get tasks done, and the values that guide you in your work.
When onboarding your new employees, be sure that they know everything there is to know about your company. Share documents and videos that explain your company’s vision.
Let your employee know how you’re going to measure their success and what they can do to really impress you.
Remember, giving your employees a sense of meaning, and an insight into how their work influences the rest of the business gives them more of a sense of pride in your company. Feeling that they’re part of the team will help your employees take ownership of their work.
Additionally, introducing your employees to company culture is a great way to make them see their value in the organization.
If at any time you notice that your employees are not happy or struggle to meet their goals, make sure to find time for one-on-one sessions to get to the bottom of the issue.
Having an employee on board who doesn’t feel happy in their workplace can lead to bigger problems down the road. Address any problems in the beginning before they start affecting other team members too.
Onboarding Your Remote Employees
Companies all around the globe are beginning to see the benefits of hiring remote employees for their team. With a remote workforce, you can access talent from around the world, find niche skills, and reduce your office overheads.
However, if you want to get the most of your remote workers, you need to make sure that you’re welcoming into the team the right way. A successful onboarding strategy is how you start your relationship with your team members on the right foot.
The steps above will help you improve your existing onboarding policies, but don’t forget to learn from your team members too.
Ask them to give you feedback on what they like and dislike about your onboarding procedure, then adapt your strategy from there. Their feedback will help you fine-tune the process for future employees.
You can then rest assured you’re welcoming people who have a high chance of staying with you for a long time.
Guest Submission by Michelle Laurey. Follow her on Twitter.