Having trained countless new hires over the past seven years, I’ve seen first-hand what it takes to run a successful onboarding program that inspires, enables, and engages new hires.
A new employee’s first few interactions with a company can set the tone for their entire time in the role, including how empowered they feel to reach their goals.
At Andela, where I head Revenue Operations and Enablement, we make sure that new hires are provided with the right resources to onboard as they get started with the team. Orchestrating an effective and impactful onboarding program, especially for a remote company, takes lots of planning and attention to detail. Beyond that, it requires constant upkeep and iterating to maintain a truly successful onboarding. Whether you have a dedicated onboarding team or you’re running your own show, here are my top three tips for designing a smooth remote onboarding.
Allow for flexibility around logistics
Working at a distributed company often means balancing team members across different time zones. With nearly 60% of remote workers sharing that their company operates in two to five time zones, it’s important to take the hourly difference into account when scheduling any meeting, but it’s especially pertinent with onboarding sessions. Being sensitive to the time zone that a new hire is starting in is crucial. The last thing we want is for onboarding to start at 9:00am Eastern and have someone on the west coast start at 6:00am. This means planning ahead to have onboarding sessions offered throughout the day so new employees around the globe have options for tuning in.
I also encourage the use of hybrid content in onboardings, such as self-paced readings or training videos that allow a new hire to explore all the information at their own cadence. Remember, for this fresh employee, this is the first time they’re diving into the company and their role on the team.
We’re not new to Zoom fatigue given the past year’s pivot to remote, so it’s critical to build in breaks that allow for more thorough digestion of information. Having back-to-back onboarding sessions isn’t as impactful if the new hire comes out the other side feeling more disoriented.
Effective resources lead to faster onboarding
When a new hire comes onboard, you want to make sure they’re given the most up-to-date information. I never want onboarding to be stale. Maybe a video that was recorded back in April was good, but if it no longer accurately reflects the company’s goals and initiatives, it’s time to update the content. Having a schedule for revision, such as at the top of every quarter, helps to ensure that the information is always fresh. This will help the new hire get up-to-speed more quickly. With so much information flying at the employee, the more accurate it is, the better.
If your company has a dedicated onboarding team, make sure they’re engaging with the new hire’s manager. I would say manager involvement is one of the most important parts of onboarding because you need their buy-in on the content of the program. With so many fast-moving parts, it’s critical to keep everyone in the loop by giving the managers the tools to help their new hire. The last thing you want is for the manager to assume their new hire knows how to do something when in reality they might have never learned it in onboarding. Similarly, having the manager’s input means you can tailor the experience based on what the manager sets as their new hire’s goals. Transparency is key when it comes to onboarding. If an employee knows immediately what their goals will be for the first 30, 60, and 90 days of employment (even if those goals change), they’ll feel more comfortable with hitting the ground running.
Onboarding is also the ideal time for providing context around the meaning of the work. Why does the work matter? At Andela, our engineers want to work on meaningful work. When someone new joins your team, make sure onboarding covers the big picture of the company: This is the product that we support. This is who we sell to. This is why this matters. This is how much revenue we contribute to the business. These are the types of people who use our product. That way, from the engineering team to the marketing team, each person knows the impact of their work on the larger scale. If you don’t have a dedicated team to onboard new hires, the best hour you could spend with them is giving them this business context. Employees want to know how they fit into the puzzle of the organization. They don’t want to feel like just a number or cog in a wheel. If you help them see that their work is contributing to the bigger picture, it will make the work so much more meaningful to them.
The work doesn’t end when onboarding ends
If an onboarding is successful, it will set employees up for continued growth and learning even beyond the onboarding itself. I’ve seen that as employees get acclimated, leveraging a buddy system contributes to a sense of belonging and supports new hires as they navigate their new environment. Ideally, the buddy program pairs your new hire with someone on their team who already wants to be in a mentor position. This could be someone who’s working towards a manager role and wants more practice with helping someone else grow. Ideally, this is a supportive relationship in which the new hire has a helpful ear to turn to if they have questions they want to ask in a more one-on-one environment.
As new hires transition out of onboarding, it’s important to update managers on the new hire’s progress. If the onboarding team identifies opportunities for growth, it’s a good time to let the manager know and provide resources to both the manager and the new hire so they’re able to work on this development together. You’ll want to hold managers accountable for providing the right support to empower their reports beyond onboarding.
In the months after onboarding, make sure to check in with the new hires. Encourage them to revisit playbooks, training videos, and other documentation. If there’s new information to be shared, supplement their knowledge as they start to do the application of what they’ve learned.
At the end of the day, onboard with compassion
I always remind my new team members that I don’t expect 40 hours of productivity from them in their first week. I trust that as they get up to speed, they’ll settle into their own processes. Cognitive load is a very real obstacle for new hires who are overwhelmed too soon too quickly. As exciting as a new job can be, it’s important to encourage breaks and even build them into the onboarding process. If your new hire has the time to really absorb the information that’s most important, that will pay dividends in the long haul.