Onboarding: an experience that’s a little nerve-wracking—not entirely unlike the first week of your high school career, but more exciting and definitely higher stakes. This practice has evolved in recent years, expanding well beyond the bounds of the traditional human resource department. Today, teammates from a variety of backgrounds may be involved in the introductory phase of a freshly hired employee.
Bringing someone new on board represents a critical time for any firm, but especially when they’re distributed.
Here’s how 10 different companies approach remote onboarding:
Orientation to people, principles and processes.
A multinational computer technology powerhouse, Dell has systematized the onboarding of its widely distributed workforce.
“We have all of our onboarding materials in a digital format, including a website, documentation, and video. We also have a Day 1 success team that is dedicated to providing support via chat/IM, email, and calls during the early part of on-boarding. The feedback from our new employees has improved significantly as a result of this approach.”
This fully remote product design and success firm makes internal culture a central focus for new recruits.
“The onboarding process is an important one—especially for a remote company!”
“We go through our values, some ground rules (although we only have simple ones) and we make sure we give them the opportunity to chat one on one with the rest of the team. We also cover projects, workflow, priorities and expectations.”
“From that first week on, our goal is to make newcomers feel welcome, as well as understand how important communication is to the whole team and clients. Making sure they feel comfortable to ask about anything they don’t have the answer to or are curious to know.”
This Q&A website for professional and enthusiast programmers prioritizes contact between recent hires and its entire leadership team.
“We take onboarding very seriously. Every new hire in the company goes through a series of orientation calls with each member of the executive team, where they hear about our company history, culture, goals and structure. Within the engineering team, all new hires are assigned a mentor who guides them through a six-week onboarding process where they meet people from different parts of the engineering team and learn about our culture and processes.”
Getting together in person.
Remote doesn’t have to mean working apart 24/7. This help desk software company brings recent additions to its team together in a city where a portion of its staff lives.
“Valuable face-to-face time is a great way to kick-start a successful transition into a remote company so we try to fly folks to Boston (where 25% of our team is co-located) for their first week. Sometimes it doesn’t work so we schedule a series of video chats in the first 1-2 weeks.”
These providers of online billing software support the individual choice of managers and direct reports to schedule face-time early on in their professional relationship.
“Onboarding can be done remotely, but frequently the new employees will meet up in person with their immediate supervisor for onboarding. It can be a nice introduction to meet face-to-face during onboarding to add a personal connection.”
Pairing up with virtual teammates.
Sometimes successful onboarding involves a bit of trial and error; at Hanno, more robust internal tools coupled with peer-to-peer mentoring has made a significant impact.
“We’ve gradually improved the way we onboard new employees–it used to be quite weak. We have a very thorough process documentation; an onboarding ‘track’ in Asana (which contains a whole series of tasks for them to complete, exposing them to many different areas of the company) and also try to pair this up with in-person mentoring and support. That mentoring component has been really important–those first weeks of joining a remote team as a new employee can be a real challenge, so having a buddy to help you out and guide you through all the things you can’t necessarily see is really handy.”
When digital training is a company’s bread and butter, it stands to reason that learning resources and a buddy system will be reflected in how they orient new employees.
“We put a lot of love into our onboarding because it really sets the stage for what their experience will be like at Skillcrush. Aside from making sure they get a special care package of Skillcrush goodies, and have all of the necessary tools and software in place, we pair them up with a ‘buddy’ who they can go to for advice and just chat with for fun. We also put together a ton of resources to make sure they understand the Skillcrush mission and how we do what we do.”
Learning by doing in a “safe” space.
The creators of this time tracking and productivity tool introduce colleagues to its remote environment through a brief period of project work.
“After the interview, we give everyone a small project that takes two or three weeks to complete. We don’t necessarily care if they succeed, but we want to see if the person is someone we enjoy working with, can handle working remotely, and we want to see how they approach the task.”
Using internally developed tech.
The makers of a human resources app, Kin HR “drinks its own champagne” by shepherding all new teammates through their own homegrown technology.
“Our app has an onboarding feature that creates a personalized onboarding process for each new hire. It’s important to do regular weekly and monthly check-ins with the new hires especially when you’re a part of a distributed team. Many of our new hires fly out to our headquarters in Chicago and spend time with the leadership team.”
This virtual workforce supplier combines an internal portal with synchronous interaction among its staff.
“We have built an intranet or what we call ‘our Digital Vault’ with onboarding videos, guides, and a knowledge base. It’s also a place where we post company news, video updates, and team insights. The onboarding is of course accompanied with video Skype meetings to go through the materials ‘in person’ but the Digital Vault provides the ability for new team members to learn at their own pace, and to revisit the content, and review procedures whenever they have a question!”
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