Addressing the Challenges of Remote Onboarding and Training: Tips for Success
Remote working models are the new norm. According to reports, in 2022, there was a 24% increase in employees opting for remote work.
This shift benefits both employees and companies. While employees enjoy a better work-life balance, organizations get access to a wider global talent pool and can even reduce office-related costs.
Even in this dramatic digitization of work models, one thing remains constant — effective onboarding and training of new hires. However, virtual onboarding poses its own set of obstacles. Without an effective strategy, it lacks the familiarity of face-to-face interactions and can isolate your employees, reducing employee engagement and satisfaction from the start.
While technology has made remote onboarding efficient, companies may still struggle to navigate the challenges.
In today’s article, we analyze the common challenges of remote onboarding and how to avoid them to drive success.
Challenges of remote onboarding and training
Here are some pitfalls you may face while onboarding employees remotely:
1. Lack of face-to-face interaction
The first and most glaring challenge of virtual onboarding is the lack of in-person interactions.
When employees join an on-site work model, they engage with their colleagues more intimately from the first day. However, they have a home workstation and virtual meetings with their new workmates remotely.
Meetings and casual in-person chats in a traditional office help employees ease into their new roles. It offers proximity and allows new hires to observe, question, and learn operations from experienced employees.
A remote working model doesn’t provide this luxury. It involves setting up various equipment and learning the intricacies of virtual office software. This can be overwhelming for a new employee who is already nervous. This can make learning difficult and your onboarding initiatives unsuccessful.
2. Difficulty building relationships and trust
Mutual trust between employees is crucial to building a workforce that functions in synergy. Trusting bonds in a workplace shape satisfied employees. They are more eager to collaborate and produce better quality work.
It is more convenient in on-site models to facilitate better employee interactions, as it lets new hires know their colleagues in person. This builds trust and lets new hires rely on teammates.
But remote work models make it difficult for new hires to understand emotions, engage and connect with their teammates. Not everyone builds human connections the same way.
Informal socializing may work for some new hires, while some may build trust by observing the professional capabilities of their colleagues. In a remote setting, virtual interactions make it difficult for new employees to know their team, resulting in a lack of trust and poor collaboration.
3. Limited access to technology and resources
Another severe challenge of remote onboarding is the limited accessibility of resources and technology. It takes time for a new hire to learn the company's ways and how to handle the internal system properly. They need constant support and enough resources to navigate their responsibilities.
While many companies provide equipment and digital training modules to their new remote hires, employees must deal with the roadblocks independently. Prepared resources don’t give every insight a new employee may need to handle tasks. They can’t clear doubts immediately and must wait for a response to their queries.
Setting up the technical equipment and getting a hold of virtual desktops is not always smooth sailing either. This hampers new hires' onboarding experience.
4. Reduced opportunities for informal learning and socialization
Besides the formal training, informal and social learning are also important during onboarding. It drives collaboration, helps new hires acclimate to the structure, and facilitates employee synergy.
But remote onboarding makes informal learning and socialization difficult. It hinders the new hire’s capacity to innovate and adapt to their new roles. This leads to reduced employee engagement and hampers workflow.
Tips for successful remote onboarding and training
While the above roadblocks may seem intimidating, an effective virtual onboarding strategy can help you overcome them and enhance your employer brand.
Here are some tips and tricks to make your remote onboarding and training successful:
1. Plan and prepare
A successful onboarding experience demands proper planning and preparation. This stage is especially crucial if you are hiring remote employees.
If you have on-site and remote freelancers or employees, create a separate plan and timeline to cover all onboarding process aspects. Detail each step clearly and outline the expectations for every role. Set checkpoints for each goal and prioritize activities to minimize any scope of miscommunication.
Make sure the equipment and modules reach the employee before the onboarding day. This will help them get acquainted with the system early on. Build a custom benefits package for remote hires to cater to their needs.
Schedule 1:1 meetings with managers and respective team leaders. Keep the module updated and adjust it with the current recruitment cycle. With a proper plan and timeline, you can eliminate the communication challenges of remote onboarding.
Chris Masantos, founder and CEO of Petlab Co., says, “For us, weekly 1:1 meetings are vital for both remote and in-house employees. During these dedicated sessions, staff members have reserved time for open and candid discussions with their respective team leaders. This forum encourages an all-encompassing dialogue where individuals can freely share their challenges, professional achievements, and concerns. This helps to give everyone a chance to feel valued and heard and keep constant communication at the forefront of the business.”
2. Use technology to facilitate communication and collaboration
For successful remote onboarding, you must establish secure communication channels. Opt for remote chat tools so remote employees can instantly reach out with queries without scheduling meetings.
Set up synchronous and asynchronous channels to make communication and collaboration easy for remote employees. Here are some systems you can use:
Video conference platforms
Team communication channels like Slack or Microsoft Teams
Project management software with a clean dashboard.
Secure audio call system
Instant messaging platforms
3. Provide clear and structured learning materials
As discussed, limited resources in remote onboarding are a massive roadblock on your new hire’s learning journey. To tackle this, ensure your training modules and employee handbooks cover every potential challenge a remote employee might face. Many virtual assistant service providers follow a rigorous training program to ensure their virtual assistants are top-notch.
Send the resources at least a week before the onboarding day. This gives your remote hires enough time to familiarize themselves with standard procedures and rules. Break down the processes step-by-step in jargon-free language.
Make the modules goal-oriented. Share informative videos on company operations, infographics, and handbooks to accommodate each hire’s learning preference. Make sure they can access the resources whenever they want.
4. Incorporate interactive and engaging activities
Remote employees often feel isolated. They don’t get to interact with colleagues very often and feel out of place. To counter that, your initiatives for virtual activities need to start from the onboarding stage.
Facilitate virtual equivalents of team-building activities to include remote hires. This will help them shake off the first-day jitters and gel with their teammates in a non-intimidating environment.
Here are some activities you can include in your remote onboarding strategy:
Spreadsheet pixel art
Two truths and a lie
Virtual birthday parties, etc.
5. Encourage socialization and relationship-building
You must encourage specialization and relationship-building to build morale and facilitate teamwork between on-site and remote employees.
Establish an internal communication channel before onboarding new remote hires and give them access. It will allow the new hires can communicate with their respective team members early on and build a bond. This will make them feel less out of place on Day 1 and encourage them to socialize with colleagues.
Darshan Somashekar, founder of Heats.land recommends a buddy system. “We give each new employee a buddy. They regularly check in and are a resource to answer new employees' questions. This creates social interaction and helps new hires settle in.”
Despite its many benefits, perfecting a remote work model for your organization takes time. Invest in designing a well-planned remote onboarding strategy to give it a smooth kick-start.
Use workflow automation tools to eliminate friction. Make sure your communication channels are secure. Double-check whether the equipment is up to the mark. Share credentials and training resources early on.
Lastly, check in with the new hires frequently so that you can identify issues and resolve them before escalation.
Author Bio: Mehdi Hussen is a SaaS marketing and organic growth consultant. He helps SaaS businesses drive organic growth and customer acquisition through SEO and data-driven content marketing strategies. Mehdi spends his spare time musing about startup growth strategies, personal productivity, and remote work. Connect with him through Twitter or LinkedIn
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