Many onboarding practices (think Welcome coffee, office visits, afterwork drinks…) are no longer compatible with fully remote or hybrid work. To adapt to these new ways of working, Human Resources had to digitize their integration process. This is no small challenge, considering that a failed onboarding costs a company around 8,330 dollars¹ and that one out of three executives has already resigned following a bad onboarding experience.² But how do you go about it when the recruits you want to onboard are working remotely?
In this article, we reveal five best practices to successfully onboard your new recruits remotely. To illustrate this topic, we have collected the testimonial of the Société du Grand Paris (SGP), which has onboarded more than 350 employees remotely (permanent, fixed-term, alternating work-study, interns, temporary workers) since March 2020.
Best practices for remote onboarding
Not all managers are familiar with remote onboarding. Therefore, think about making them aware of good managerial practices before new recruits arrive.
Here are the main ones:
- Introduce the employee to the whole team (by chat or email, for example)
- During the first few days/weeks, organize regular video-conference meetings with the new employee to discuss his or her tasks, get his or her impressions of the company and answer his or her questions
- Be available and listen
- Set clear objectives to help him or her understand your expectations and become operational quickly
These best practices can be put together in a shared document that you can then send on to managers. If you’re stuck for inspiration, we recommend checking out this onboarding kit published by LinkedIn. It offers several useful resources for managers and HR departments.
Setting up a pre-boarding
Often forgotten in the recruitment process, pre-boarding consists of starting employee onboarding BEFORE their arrival in order to reassure them as well as avoid cold feet at the last moment.
Thanks to this, employees can get a clear idea of the company culture and start building relationships with future colleagues—even before their contract starts.
Like onboarding, pre-boarding requires some organization. To ensure that everything is prepared in time, create a checklist of tasks to accomplish. For example:
- Ensure that all administrative documents have been signed
- Announce the arrival of the employee by email or on your enterprise social network
- Send a welcome kit with a welcome booklet and goodies
- Prepare the integration program
- Send computer equipment, personal identifiers, and intranet access
- Assign a buddy to the employee and initiate contact between them
Establishing an onboarding program
Depending on the nature of the position, you will need to think about a more or less personalized integration program, which can last from one day to several weeks. You can include:
- A presentation of the company’s activities, the team and the offices, accompanied by photos and/or videos
- A meeting with the manager to discuss objectives, responsibilities and follow-up procedures
- A presentation of the tools used internally (with specific training if necessary)
- A welcome party (by videoconference!) to meet the team
If possible, try to diversify the formats, in order to limit video conference meetings, and avoid “Zoom fatigue” syndrome. For example, offer video tutorials, interactive Q&A, slides, summary sheets, or any other format you deem useful.
Keeping in touch remotely
Throughout the first few months, it is also important to maintain regular contact with the new employee. Here are several examples of initiatives to put in place:
- Organize one-on-one videoconference exchanges with team members and managers of different departments to help transmit the company’s global vision.
- Offer remote team building events: virtual cocktails and coffees, video-conference sports classes, etc.
- Create groups on your internal social network such as Q&A groups to answer questions from newcomers, or more informal “coffee machine” groups to encourage exchanges between newcomers and older employees.
Doing regular follow-ups
From a distance, it can sometimes be difficult to identify isolated employees. That’s why it’s important to check in with new employees regularly. You can then find out about the following:
- Are the job role and company in line with the employee’s expectations?
- Does each employee feel well-integrated in the company?
- Have they developed good relationships with colleagues?
- Do they have an appropriate and suitable place to work from home?
- Do they have all the equipment they need?
- Do they need supplementary training?
The manager can also schedule an interview in the middle and at the end of the probationary period to review the responsibilities entrusted to the employee and the integration into the company. In some companies, the employee is also asked to write a report on first impressions or to fill out a satisfaction questionnaire.
Regardless of the format you choose, it’s essential to gather feedback, face-to-face or remotely. This is what will allow you to adjust your processes and continuously improve your remote onboarding process.
Testimonial from the Société du Grand Paris
With COVID-19, the Société du Grand Paris (SGP) has adopted a hybrid work mode that allows employees to come into the office once a week and to telework the rest of the time. As a reminder, SGP is a public company created by the French State to manage the Grand Paris Express project, which aims to add 200 km of new automatic metro lines all the way around Paris.
Adèle Bourhis, in charge of change management at SGP, explains how the onboarding process had to be adapted accordingly.
Integration days to discover the company
“New employees receive their equipment and a welcome booklet as soon as they arrive. For the first two or three days, they follow an integration program with videoconference presentations on subjects such as ethics and safety on the worksites. When possible, we also organize a site visit.”
“Before the pandemic, these integration days were held in person. Now, almost everything is done by videoconference. But they’re still very much appreciated by employees because they give them a global view of the SGP and its operations.”
“On the first day, new employees also receive training via videoconference to learn about Talkspirit’s features and the tool’s specific uses. For example, we use Microsoft Teams for meetings and Talkspirit for internal communication and information sharing.”
Initiatives to strengthen cohesion
“Since the first lockdown, we have strengthened internal communication on the platform, and several actions have been put in place to improve cohesion. In March 2020, we launched a Talkspirit group called ‘We stay connected‘. It worked well for a few months. But after a while, the employees got bored.”
“We had to be creative in order to maintain the connection from a distance. We organized a hot dog workshop and a pancake workshop via video conference. It was quite unusual, but the employees loved it! I think we will continue to organize this type of event, perhaps with a fun touch. In fact, we are planning to do a blind test soon.”
On Talkspirit, we recently activated the home portal, where employees can find out about company news and upcoming meetings.
In January 2021, a community of managers was created on the platform to encourage mutual support and address each other’s issues. This is a very lively group, where webinars are sometimes organized. Finally, there is also a ‘Help’ group, where employees can come and ask their questions.
I think the groups are Talkspirit’s biggest asset for remote onboarding, because they are the ones that help strengthen the bonds between employees.”
Successfully onboarding new employees remotely requires more organization and anticipation than in a face-to-face environment, both on the human resources and management sides.
The choice of tools is also essential, since it is thanks to them that employees will be able to create bonds with their colleagues and immerse themselves in the company culture. It is therefore important to choose a platform that is ergonomic and easy to use.
Would you like to discover more best practices to strengthen cohesion and maintain the link with your remote employees? Check out the replay of our webinar: “Hybrid Work: How to Maintain a Relational Dynamic Within Teams?“
¹ 2019 Workelo article: ” 10 Key Figures for Onboarding”
² 2019 Cadremploi study
Author: Emmanuelle Abensur