Imagine that it’s day one of a new job. You’re staring at a computer monitor and wondering what to do with your time, because you have no idea where to begin. This illustrates an onboarding process that’s lacking to say the least, and yet, it’s not entirely unusual for companies—including those that have transitioned to include remote workers—to fail to prioritize properly onboarding new remote teammates and bringing them up to speed.
In some cases, as companies have experimented with different management models, a democratization of sorts has occurred with internal processes. What was once a much more structured experience has become an informal, collective effort. For example, in many organizations, the human resources team previously oversaw the orientation of new hires; today, onboarding new teammates is often a task left to managers or employees themselves.
When a new addition involves a remote colleague, what was once a straightforward face-to-face approach becomes slightly more challenging. While onboarding isn’t rocket science, it is nuanced; many organizations try to empower any team member to make it a better experience for all involved. (The positive impact on company culture will be worth it!)
Here are seven steps you can take as a manager (or as a peer) when onboarding new remote teammates, while making them feel more at home from day one:
1. Organize the chaos.
Does your boss or team know where your projects stand or how to find critical pieces of information? Begin reining in your file nightmare by filtering your work into broad, searchable categories saved both locally to your computer as well as to the Cloud. Your peace of mind (and any fresh faces on the team) will thank you.
2. Make signposts.
What good is organized materials if a distributed teammate can’t make heads or tails of a file name? Use logical, consistent nomenclature for all of your files and folders so that others don’t have to guess what Stock_2_Villa.PPT was all about. Include the project name, date, and other important information, such as version number or the surname of the person who created the file.
3. Leave virtual breadcrumbs.
Searching is a knowledge worker’s best friend, but you can help a colleague even more with just a little effort. If a project has many related materials that live online, you can and should create directories (think ‘Cheat Sheet’ of embedded links) that lead others toward your style guide and other important materials. You can also provide links to relevant resources within Google documents or other files, which will take time out of hunting.
4. Be a tour guide.
Show and tell may have ended in kindergarten, but you can pick right up where you left off. Offer to take a recently hired employee for a spin around your internal websites and platforms, giving them the ins and outs of which Slack channels to join and how your boss prefers to have projects updated. You’ll help them feel welcome and will begin building a solid working relationship at the same time.
5. Encourage ongoing questions.
At some point, your new remote teammate may feel that it’s past the time for them to ask questions about how to submit reports or where to look for the right conference line. Let them know from the outset that you’re expecting questions for as long as they have them; after all, an answer that moves them forward faster is more efficient than aimless searches that could adversely affect your customer experience.
6. Request feedback.
No onboarding process should be a one-way conversation. New, far-flung employees can be an excellent resource for what’s working (and what’s not) within your company’s existing process; if you ask, just be prepared to listen and heed their advice. This will help you improve upon your internal organization and shorten the time it takes to get others up and running.
7. Update resources.
Few things are more frustrating in a remote worker’s world than investing time and attention in studying resources that are woefully out-of-date. Make it a point to curate your corner of the web, seeing to it that files are updated or replaced as necessary on a regular basis. If a project or collection of materials isn’t recent, you don’t need to delete it—just make its obsolescence obvious. (How, exactly? See #2.)
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