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5 Tips for Successful Remote Onboarding

Recruitment and hiring have changed dramatically. Today we evaluate, hire and successfully onboard candidates we may have only met online.   

While a thorough interview process can help us feel confident about their skills and competencies, the real challenge is helping them successfully navigate the nuances of workplace culture, team values, and individual work styles from a distance.  

As professional recruiters, we know the impact a new hire can have on your organization is often shaped in the first few weeks. So today we’re asking:  

What steps can companies take to ensure the onboarding process is welcoming, valuable, and productive?  

To help answer our question, we reached out to some of Vancouver’s top leaders and HR professionals to find out how they’re tackling this issue. Together, they offered five solid strategies for successful remote onboarding.

 

1. Surprise and delight 

Letting your new employee know you’re thrilled to have them on the team is a critical component of successful onboarding. Jessica Hodgson, Director, HR at Later, says “Since we can’t surprise new employees with their desk creatively set up on their first day, we mail a box of company branded swag to their houses.” This thoughtful gesture is a simple, effective way to help a new hire feel welcomed, valued, and connected to the team.  

Cathy Lim, Director of Human Resources at Hothead Games, agrees. At Hothead, they find ways to offer a “red carpet” treatment. To provide a next-level experience, Cathy has personally delivered welcome packages to the homes of new local hires the night before they start (from a safe social distance).    

At Elastic Path, new hires receive designated funds to help them enhance their home office space. 

The ability to surprise and delight new teammates sets a positive tone and has lasting impact. Remember, “... people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou)  

How can you surprise and delight new team members?

 

2. Humanize and connect  

How you introduce a new teammate can help them form key connections early on. So get creative and personalize the experience. 

Zoë Brownsell, Senior People & Culture Advisor at Elastic Path, humanizes introductions by asking new hires a few personal questions like “‘What’s your favorite vacation destination?” They incorporate these answers into the company-wide introduction which can then become talking points during calls with the team.  

At Later, Jessica says they practice “over introducing people”. Since new hires will miss out on the natural opportunity to connect with others in-person at the office, they schedule informal online meetings and help introduce them to a wide range of colleagues.  

At Smart Savvy, our go-to introduction activity is called, “So you were born... then what?” Participants are invited to share 4-6 personal or professional milestones that helped shape them into the person they are today. This activity fuels so much connectivity and conversation that we often invite the whole team to participate each time we bring someone new to the team.  

How can you increase a sense of connectedness on your team? How can you amplify some of these activities through additional channels like Slack and/or social media?

 

3. Plan, prepare, and track

“You can’t over prepare when it comes to onboarding”, says Cathy Lim from Hothead Games. Before a new hire starts, Cathy shares a Day 1 Plan with them. It outlines what they’ll be doing on the first day, who’ll they be connecting with, and links and tools to bookmark.  

The team at Elastic Path designed an onboarding Trello Board. Each new hire is assigned a mentor and they work through the board together during the first three months. Among other things, the board covers content like how-to guides, an intranet intro, and links to employee policies and guidelines.

What tools does your team already have in place? How can those tools be refined to fit with a remote onboarding experience? 

 

4. Don’t reinvent the wheel, adapt it  

Remote onboarding isn’t about invention, it’s about evolution. If you have an established program that’s working, don’t abandon it; adapt it.

When Catherine McVey joined the HR team at FirstService Residential, right as the COVID pandemic hit Canada, her HR colleagues, Lydia Tay and Sarah Khan, were intentional about providing a successful onboarding experience that was consistent with their traditional in-person process.  

“We didn’t use the situation as an excuse to put things off. We kept as much consistency as possible to maintain our usual standards.” Lydia explained.   

What’s worked well for your team in the past? How can you adapt established processes for a remote experience?

 

5. Over-communicate

“If you need something, let me know” is not a model for success — especially with remote onboarding. Communicate frequently and proactively. Schedule daily one-on-ones and make yourself available. This level of connection will become a lifeline for new hires. 

Lydia from FirstService explains that they established a consistent communication program that includes a daily 15-minute check-in each morning, a weekly individual review, and a weekly team meeting. They use these times to set priorities and review strategic goals and objectives. It’s also an opportunity to socialize, connect, and “lean over to the next desk.”  

At Elastic Path, Zoë matches new hires with a mentor from the team. The primary role of the mentor is to offer support. They set up times to connect with their new teammate, share insights and tips, and make themselves available to address all kinds of questions. Talk about access!  

How can you amplify your teams communications process when you’re remote onboarding?  

 

Final thoughts

Starting a new job can be nerve wracking and navigating the challenges of a remote start can feel foreign, disjointed, and overwhelming. As leaders, it's our job to ensure that our new hire is set up for every success, so they exercise the skills and talents we hired them for.  

What actions can you take today to adapt your onboarding process for a remote working world? How will you set your new team members up for success?

 


Jaylene CrickJaylene Crick  
Director of Recruitment

Jaylene is our lead recruitment consultant. She forged her experience with 15 years in tech marketing before making the transition to marketing recruitment. Jaylene brings energetic dedication, unstoppable work ethic, and her ability to consistently give 110%, proven by her hundreds of placements and innumerable close relationships with both candidates and clients.


Smart, Savvy + AssociatesSmart, Savvy + Associates are experts in helping marketing and communications leaders find people and develop teams that thrive and deliver inspiring results. As a people performance company, we specialize in finding marketing and communications talent in the Pacific North West. We also offer training programs for leaders and teams as well as options to become a certified coach or get coached.

Jaylene Crick

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