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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Welcoming workers when the world’s gone remote

Onboarding new remote employees and helping them quickly reach peak efficiency requires a well-designed—and often redesigned—strategy.

Welcoming workers when the world’s gone remote
[Studio Romantic/Adobe]

With millions of people continuing to work remotely even after their offices reopened, it’s clear that we now live in a world gone remote, and we’re probably not going back. This radical shift means that talent management best practices have also radically changed. The tried-and-true processes developed by many organizations for talent acquisition, development, and retention are obsolete in many ways. They were designed for a world in which we no longer live.

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As co-founder and CEO of a technology company providing tools to facilitate deeper engagement with remote workers—and one that itself is built on the remote-work model—I can tell you one thing: Onboarding remote employees and helping them quickly reach peak efficiency requires a well-designed—and often redesigned—strategy. You may have to restructure your employee acquisition and integration process so that every new employee can have the best experience and chance of success possible, even if they are fully remote.

Let’s look at some ways companies can effectively welcome and onboard workers in a working world that has gone remote.

EXPAND AND REVISE THE HIRING PROCESS

The ability to hire the best talent available—regardless of geographic location—is one of the many advantages of living in a remote world. However, this means expanding and revising the hiring process and all associated pre-boarding activities to include the possibilities, probabilities, and realities of remote hiring.

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Where possible, tailor your open positions so they can be performed either remotely or in person. And make sure management has the skills, tools, and procedures in place to interview remote workers and then choose the candidate who is not only most qualified but also most likely to succeed in a remote environment.

In addition to traditional interviewing procedures, such as establishing the required experience, you must also address specific remote aspects of the job. This includes setting clear expectations regarding job duties, asking specific questions designed to evaluate a candidate’s task and time management skills, and even assigning candidates a task and then evaluating their performance.

ACCELERATE THE ONBOARDING PROCESS

Once you hire a candidate to fill a remote position, it is essential that you connect with their team and get them up and running quickly. A comprehensive onboarding package is an effective way to do this. Using a combination of video tutorials and detailed instructions, you can provide new employees with all they need to understand their job, where they fit within the company, the apps and systems they will need to use, and details about the company’s internal and external communication methods.

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Additionally, it is imperative to immediately introduce new employees to their fellow team members, either through live video chat or—if time zones are an issue—personalized welcome videos.

It’s also important for you to learn about your new team member so you can help them succeed. Ask them if they need additional equipment or applications to help them do their job more effectively, how they learn best, what makes them feel appreciated (words, gifts, etc.), and even what their hobbies are.

FOSTER CONNECTIVITY AND COLLABORATION

Helping remote employees feel connected to their teams and the organization as a whole is critical to their success. It’s not uncommon for employees to spend as much as 80% of their time working on tasks that require collaboration with teammates. To enable effective connection and collaboration, use platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Workspace to engage with remote employees in real time.

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These tools can establish a culture of open communication among team members. Consistent use of video conferencing, screen sharing, chat, and other communication methods helps remote employees stay in regular contact with their co-workers and management teams. Such ongoing support and communication help ensure remote employees feel an important sense of stability and security.

In addition to fostering collaboration with teammates, be strategic in looking for ways to build camaraderie. When it comes to remote employees, it’s important to find other ways to build rapport between co-workers who have traditionally relied on the water cooler, break rooms, and hallway conversations.

One way to do this is to establish a buddy system that pairs each new employee with a seasoned team member. The team member is responsible for helping the new employee get their footing within the organization and integrate into the fabric of the team. This system helps them better understand and engage with the company culture, while also setting them up to mentor someone else down the road.

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ESTABLISH WELL-DEFINED REMOTE WORK PRACTICES

Perhaps more than anything else, it’s critical to establish well-defined, repeatable remote work practices that you can use with every new remote hire. To thrive in a working world gone remote, scrutinize your current onboarding processes and correct any deficiencies or shortfalls related to remote hires. Once in place, conduct regular reviews to ensure the updated processes are working effectively and that new remote hires are successfully being integrated into the organization.

The reality is that remote work probably isn’t going anywhere. If anything, the remote workforce will likely continue to grow. If companies don’t have structured plans and processes for onboarding remote employees, they’ll have difficulty attracting and retaining top talent.


Bilal Aijazi is CTO and co-founder of Polly — a popular app on major workspace messaging platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Google Chat. 

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