How do you conduct onboarding for remote workers?
We’ve been making leaps and bounds here recently and I’d like to share the background to show how things can improve over the years. For quite a while, new folks were generally thrown in the deep end and expected to swim. We looked for lots of self-starters, but after a while we realized that some people would really love to learn how to work remotely.
Since figuring that out, we’ve been striving to document things internally more so that new people can start by reading some of our guides. It’s exciting to get a new job, but it shouldn’t be intimidating. We’d ideally like to minimize stress and instill confidence as much as we can.
We use a Company Orientation Checklist, which we manage with process.st. Additionally, every new colleague has a job coach and an orientation leader. During their first few weeks, they have daily meetings with their orientation leader and regular check-ins with their job coach to make sure they have the resources they need to learn.
We have a paperless system. When a candidate is hired and has passed the testing, we invite them to a training class and once accepted we send them the necessary paperwork via email. The candidate completes the paperwork and it is submitted electronically using Docusign. We install the necessary software, by appointment, using remote set up.
Our current process for local hires is done in our office, but the actual onboarding is processed online. We will have a virtual process in the near future that replaces the in-office piece using a video presentation along with a Google Hangout with HR.
Authentic Form & Function
Even though onboarding usually takes ~3 months in total, we’ll generally spend a couple of days with each new hire right away on various video chats to walk each person through the daily processes, their role, and how that flow begins to play out each week.
While it would be easy to hand out tasks, we’ve found it paramount to spend that extra time “hand holding” as a new team member gets off the ground. We want to be available and present to answer any questions as that process evolves.
As we are looking for people who are self-starters, the onboarding is not a defined process but a reaction to the needs of the person. Somebody, after having access to the Github repos (or other resources required for the role), is able to start without much help and can ask questions along the way. Others need more help with pairing sessions using Google Hangout or, if we see fit, having that person join somebody else for a few days.
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 member to learn at their own pace, and to revisit the content, and review procedures whenever they have a question!
It varies by position, but all new team members go through an onboarding process 1-on-1 with their manager, who helps lead them through everything. They are given a thorough manual detailing their job, what’s expected of them, lingo they should know, etc. It’s a bit of a trial by fire, since we move so quickly. By their second week, team members are expected to start contributing to the company. It’s all very exciting and fast-paced.
We have all of our on-boarding 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.
We hire people full-time, but they start with three trial phases – 2 weeks, another couple weeks and one month, where we assess and communicate their progress and our feedback after each phase. This is not an internship or so, just a part of the onboarding process where we don’t assign anything crucial and let them spend more time learning our products or code base, interact with team members, learn how to communicate properly and adjust to our working process, as well as take on training courses or coaching sessions with our team members in order to be fully productive and able to participate as much as the other folks on our team.
Everyone has Trello boards with information, tasks and suggestions to work through. Team members spend a bunch of time on line with their manager, have a Hangout with the HR team, are allocated a ‘Wing Buddy’ and we use Blissbook.com as our Induction Handbook. This bit is critical and we put heaps of emphasis on making sure everyone has everything they need from day one, and a connection to people who can answer any questions.
We invite every new remotee to come to Cologne for the first week and up to a month for the onboarding. During that time we’ll have a bunch of different trainings in order for the new team member to learn as much as possible about the company. If the new colleague is not able to come to Cologne then s/he will have to join the trainings online.
Onboarding can be challenging for hiring on-site workers, let alone someone who is remote. Luckily, we have really honed in on this process by using tools like DocuSign, checklists, and overly communicating to make it as smooth as possible for everyone involved. Making sure they understand your virtual door is always open helps and so does sending new employee “swag” within their first few days as a “Welcome to the Team!”
Fog Creek Software
We typically bring new remote employees to the office for their first week. We bring their team in as well so that training and onboarding can happen in person. We also use our sister company’s product, Trello, to create an onboarding board tailored to each new hire. The board has lots of background about Fog Creek and lays out important tasks for the new hire to complete before the end of his/her first week (ex: filling out paperwork, etc.) At the end of the week, I (Allie) meet with each new hire to go over particularly important things on the Trello board, explain our company org chart, and to get the new hire an opportunity to ask questions
We use Trello boards for the onboarding—every new member gets their own onboarding board, which can be continued as a personal board after the onboarding. Within the board, there are several cards for sessions with team members who explain how things work at GOhiring. Through this process, our new members learn and meet their team members at the same time. To make sure everything is going well, there are check-ins with the team throughout the first weeks.
We ship laptops pre-installed with all of the software needed. We have a dedicated training and onboarding team to guide new-hires through getting organized, settled and oriented on all of our systems and processes. All of that communication is done through email, phone and screen share.
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.
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.
They get all tools, instruction how we work, get to know our team and projects and they already are invited in our social slack channels before they have their official first day.
Our recruiting platform is designed to allow anyone interested in working for us to self-promote and start the onboarding process on their own. There are multiple checkpoints of course, but ultimately our system is designed to streamline the hiring of passionate people.
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.
We have them work through our website and knowledge base, then shadow other staff, and then have staff shadow them during their initial interactions. We also constantly give feedback on client interactions.
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.
After an offer is accepted and contract signed, onboarding starts. We provide the candidate with a company email and all needed accounts, we share a welcome kit with the routine of work habits, and we put the candidate in touch with the training leader to coordinate their training. We also introduce the candidate to the whole company.
We start by giving new hires access to all the tools they need to do their job. We use some tools like 1Password for password management, and Justworks for payroll onboarding. We provide a set of documents that cover things like company policies and procedures, and we’ll also point them to the appropriate knowledge base articles in Confluence depending on their role.
For each new hire we also come up with a set of goals to be accomplished over the first couple of weeks at Packlane. These can include things like watching our skillshare video, performing some tasks with our internal tools, or scheduling meetings with relevant colleagues and supervisors. During the first week of onboarding we also schedule a brief “welcome” video conference that everyone at the company is invited to join and introduce themselves while getting to know the new hire in a casual format.
- We have a master Trello board we copy for each hire that lays out in detail the access needed/given, the benefits enrollment process (zenefits.com), notes about our culture, and who to talk to about a given topic.
- If we are lucky, we are hiring someone in a town where we already have staff and they will pair at some location for a week or three to get up to speed quickly. If it’s, say, a EU hire, we will ask them to work U.S. hours for the first several weeks to shadow our core U.S. team to get to speed before reverting back to their own time zone and working with the other EU team members. As we grow our presence in other time zones, we will likely do away with the U.S. team shadowing, except for the most technical positions. However, working U.S. hours with us also helps them to get to know everyone and immerses them deeper into our culture.
We use the onboarding feature from Bamboo HR to ensure that all the right forms and documents are read. We identify opportunities to further cement our culture and SOPs through our one-on-ones and regular weekly meetings to gauge how the new hire is doing.
We also keep a close eye on the metrics to make sure everything is going smoothly. We’re able to identify most issues with this alone.
Lastly, we encourage them to engage with the team in our company Slack channel. It’s important that they feel comfortable enough to joke around and we know we’re on the right track when they finally do.
We have an internal training course that is led by a key staff member. They learn all about our business, customers, and product. The training is assisted with videos and projects. Overall it should take a couple hours a day over two weeks.
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.
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.
Once an employee makes it through our interview process, we include them on all of our critical tools: Gmail, Google Drive, Daily Standup meetings on Google Calendar, Trello and Slack.
The new employee is then taken through our “Company and Culture introduction”. In most cases, I (Sieva) get to personally take them through this presentation which is an overview of what we’ve accomplished to date, where we are headed and their role in the company.
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.
Via Skype. We have a member of the onboarding team who is dedicated solely to remote employees.
We have not had the need yet, but we have a plan to put in place an onboarding process for new people covering the technology we use, our working practices, how the company fits together, and how the product works.
We have an onboarding information packet which includes all the necessary information, policies, guidelines and forms. “Paperwork Day” has become an inside joke with us because the first day you join can be a little overwhelming with all the forms you need to go through. However we’ve digitized absolutely everything we can and we use services like DocuSign which have really made things easier.