Remote Onboarding: Setting Teams Up for Success

Onboarding is a tricky process and can be even more complicated when bringing on a remote team member. New employees rely on their managers for guidance during their first few months as a source of critical company knowledge and support in their day-to-day.  A strong onboarding process can improve employee retention by up to 82%. This becomes even more important when we’re operating in virtual settings. 

The Society for Human Resources Management defines onboarding as, “integrating a new employee with a company and its culture, as well as getting a new hire the tools and information needed to become a productive member of the team.” Many companies have adopted this definition and focus just as much on culture as they do on tools and information during a new hire’s first few months. 

When bringing on a new team member remotely, it’s critical to implement structure in order to integrate them into the team more easily. By utilizing onboarding roadmaps, OKRs, and communication guides, you can ensure that new hires get onto the same page quickly and easily in order to start making valuable contributions as soon as possible. 

Create an onboarding roadmap with clear milestones 

Onboarding roadmaps help integrate new hires into their roles without overwhelming them with tasks and information. They clearly illustrate the initial path forward by providing new hires with milestones related to learning, team contributions, and role independence. We typically recommend a 30-60-90 framework for onboarding roadmaps, because they separate these processes into easily digestible timeframes. 

When creating an onboarding roadmap, set distinct goals for these 30-day increments to establish clear expectations and milestones. These milestones help employees stay focused on their day-to-day goals while staying tied into the larger departmental picture. 

When a new hire joins the team, their first thirty days should be focused on learning. This includes being introduced to company norms and getting a sense of the culture. During this time, new employees should be connecting socially with new coworkers and any key people such as department heads or members of the management team.  HR and the hiring manager should take care to ensure that this experience is a positive one, as it sets the tone for the rest of their tenure at the company. 

Days 31-60 are about contributing and aligning with team members. This might look like contributing to strategy discussions, creating reports or presentations, and digging deeper into social frameworks at the company. Managers should start discussing any challenges that their new hire is experiencing and support them in problem-solving.  

Days 61-90 should focus on reaching independence in the role. By this time, new employees should be ‘doing’ their jobs. They might still make mistakes at this point, but those mistakes should be related more to lack of context or uncertainty with systems, as opposed to them still feeling like they’re settling in.

Throughout this time, consistent check-ins will go a long way towards aligning expectations and making sure that your new hire is progressing along the desired track. This is the honeymoon period at any company, so it should be filled with excitement and support as they become more ingrained into their role and the company. 

Set OKRs to establish performance expectations

Another key tactic to onboard remote new hires is to set OKRs to establish performance expectations. The definition of “OKRs” is “Objectives and Key Results.” It is a collaborative goal-setting tool used by teams and individuals to set challenging, ambitious goals with measurable results.  OKRs help new employees get on the right track by clearly outlining what they are expected to accomplish in their role over the next quarter. 

However, OKRs do not just need to focus on professional performance expectations. By encouraging new hires to set up personal development OKRs, you’re showing them that you care just as much for their skill development as you do for their professional development. It’s important to have conversations to clearly differentiate between which will contribute to company success and which are focused on personal development. 

One key factor of strong employee engagement is when employees can see that they are progressing. OKRs set employees on a path of ownership and success, which leads to greater engagement and a sense of belonging at the company. 

Discuss communication norms 

Setting communication norms becomes so much more important when communication is only happening virtually, and the nuance of in-person communication no longer exists. The goal here is to establish a certain level of predictability when communicating with team members. 

Managers and their teams should discuss communication norms for emails and slack, for example, the general level of urgency for each and which warrants a more immediate response. Time zones should also be taken into account when working with a distributed team.  If teams are scattered across different locations, setting the expectation of standard working hours can help streamline communication. 

By setting these guidelines and standardizing them across the organization, new hires can more easily acclimate themselves to company norms. Communication skills are probably some of the most important skills for a remote team to master, so codifying existing norms and setting guidelines for different methods goes a long way towards making it easier for people to share information. 

Empower managers on remote teams to set teams up for success by setting communication norms and clear expectations. From day one onwards, remote teams need to prioritize transparency to maximize productivity and efficiency. The goal of any onboarding program is to make sure that new hires feel confident to move forward in their roles while positively impacting the success of the company.

Author Bio
Adi Janowitz is VP of Customer Success at Hibob