The Essential Guide to Onboarding Remote Employees

Onboarding remote employees tends to be a lot harder than onboarding regular employees. While the internet era opened up new opportunities for employment, it also posed some challenges. Employing remote workers has a lot of benefits: cheaper costs, high-quality talent that would’ve otherwise not been available, and so on. On the same note, however, as the whole thing is a relatively new “concept,” it can be hard to get it up and running.

Creating a structured onboarding program is key. According to a 2007 study by the Wynhurst Group, when employees go through structured onboarding, they are 58% more likely to remain with the organization after three years.YEC

Time zones, for example, tend to be a problem, as it makes communication harder than with someone in the office. When onboarding remote employees, you need to establish how you’re going to deal with the time-zone issue.

They could, for example, be online at specific hours for meetings or brainstorming, and do the individual work at whatever time they prefer.

In general, however, there are 4 key topics you need to address before going remote:

  1. How to Hire Remote Employees
  2. Using the Right Tech for Onboarding Remote Employees
  3. Communicating with the Remote Employees
  4. Creating a Remote Culture

How to Hire Remote Employees

Hiring a remote employee does not work exactly the same as hiring a regular employee. While the soft and hard skills you look for are the same, there are several other factors to consider (with a minor difference).

In terms of soft skills, look for someone who strives in a self-directed environment, someone who’s happy to sit in their own space and do work they’re passionate about. Someone who needs daily office interactions is probably not the right person for the job.

The most important factor in remote work, however, is the position itself. You’re not going to hire someone remote to do in-person sales meetings, for example. You need the position to be something the individual can do on their own, without too much supervision.

On a similar note, it’s better to hire remote for one-off jobs, such as Writing or developing. It’s easy to just give out a task and wait for the results – pretty simple input/output concept.

It can be a bit harder, however, to develop a marketing strategy with 5 other people online and execute it in unison. If you want to go for the later, then it would be recommended to hire someone with previous experience in remote work.

This makes it more likely for the person to pick up the ropes a lot faster, than someone who’s only used to interacting with coworkers face-to-face.

Using the Right Tech for Onboarding Remote Employees

Since remote work is mainly based on technology, it’s no surprise that you’ll need the right tech tools to make the whole thing run smooth.

The first step of onboarding remote employees is the paperwork. You can’t just drop off the papers in on their desk, as you’d do in an office. Instead, you can use different online signature tools such as DocuSign.

The same tools can be used for, well, any other kind of paperwork you’ll need to sign from a distance.

Of course, you’ll also need real-time communication tools. E-mail doesn’t really work with remote, and yelling out for sure doesn’t (unless you can yell across the Atlantic).

Some of the tools you can use for this are:

  • Slack
    • Slack is a team-based communication tool, where you get a chat room with everyone on a project or part of the department. You can send/receive files, and the entire chat history is archived for your convenience.
  • Basecamp & Asana
    • On top of communication, you’ll also need a way to distribute the tasks. You’ll need everyone to know what they have on their plates and keep track of everyone else’s progress. Both Basecamp and Asana do just that.
  • Tallyfy
    • If you’re hiring your remote employees on a more operational basis (i.e they have to do a set task over and over again), then Tallyfy is a lot more convenient than a simple task tool. It allows you to draw out the process, include all the needed tasks to complete it, and make sure all the relevant employees get their to-dos.

When onboarding remote employees, you should also introduce them to the right tracking software. In most cases, you’ll be paying them on an hourly basis, so you’ll need a way to get the exact hours (and at the same time know that the remote employee is putting in the right hours). For this, you can use tools such as:

  • Upwork
    • Upwork is one of the biggest freelancing networks, which comes with its own time-tracking software. It keeps track of the hours, the tasks the remote employee is working on, and how productive they are in terms of keystrokes. The app is free on the side of the employer, but it costs from 5 to 20% of the employee’s pay.
  • Toggl
    • Toggl, on the other hand, is more focused on tracking productivity (in addition to typical time/pay tracking). It shows how long each task is taking the team member and provides a dashboard on your team’s performance. The price range if from 9$ to 49$ per member per month, depending on company size.
  • TimeDoctor
    • TimeDoctor works the same way with Toggl, with payment integration as a bonus. You can use the tool as an all-in-one solution for working with remote employees. The price on TimeDoctor ranges from 10$ to 49$ per user per month.

Communicating with Remote Employees

Whether your company mainly consists of remote employees or on-site, you’ll need to get the communication between teams real clear.

One thing you’ll need to figure out early on is how to keep everyone in the team aware of what’s going on. Some teams just need to be in-sync for everything to work out.

So, when managing remote teams, do daily stand-ups. At the beginning of each workday, the team talks about what work they’ve done the day before, and what they’re going to do the next day. With stand-ups, you can make sure that everyone is on the same boat, and they feel engaged with the company. For this, you can use any kind of video chat software, such as Skype.

Speaking of engagement, you might also need to talk to your remote employees one-on-one every once in a while. You would do this in an office, so you should also do this remote. Such talks can be motivating, and you’ll always have a clear grasp on how the employee feels about the company and how everything is going.

Creating a Remote Culture

The one benefit on-site offices usually have over remote teams is the culture. Team Buildings, after-work drinks, water cooler conversations – all that make the company feel united, bringing coworkers closer together.

As a given, the closer the employees are to each other, they’re more likely to put in their best for the company, less likely to quit, and are generally going to be a lot more productive.

If you want your remote team to work as well as an on-site one, you’ll need to create a sense of “culture” for everyone.

Here are a couple of things that the top companies around the world use to create a remote culture:

  • Send out company swag every once in a while. Think, t-shirts, bracelets, etc. This can make employees feel more of a sense of “belonging.”
  • Set aside time for chit-chat. Small-talk around the office is common – it’s very rare for an employee to sit and work non-stop the entire workday. Start off the remote workday with general chit-chat, before jumping into work.
  • Online team-buildings. Team buildings tend to be physical activities. Since in the case of remote work, that’s impossible, you can try translating it to playing games online.

No matter how effective those methods turn out to be, however, nothing ever beats genuine human contact.

So, if you can afford it, it’s always good to bring your company together on an annual or semi-annual basis. If you have a mix of remote or on-site team, then you can invite the remote employees to work in the main office for a week or two per year.

Or, on the other hand, if your company is fully remote, you can take the bunch of them on a company-wide getaway somewhere exotic. The trip can be extremely productive AND beneficial for the employees, as they get to put faces on their coworkers.

Did our guide help you with onboarding remote employees? Did we miss any important tips? Let us know down in the comments!

If you tend to hire a lot of remote employees, you might want to give Tallyfy a go. It can help streamline & automate most remote employee onboarding tasks. Or, read how we’ve helped VPOIDS increase employee productivity through automated onboarding processes.

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