I've written about how I felt about my experience of starting a new job remotely. Not naming names, but I received feedback that I could've made the post more useful by listing some pointers on how to make a remote onboarding experience smoother.
to appease critics who think my meanderings just won't do, I've set down below some tips, based on my experiences, on what you could do to help someone settle into their new role remotely. Some (most?) of these are probably no-brainers. Many of them aren't even specific to remote-working. But given that many of us used to working in person are onboarding people remotely these days, these steps may well be taken for granted and thus slip through the cracks.
1. During the hiring process, be transparent about how the organisation is currently dealing with the pandemic and what the plans are for the near future
Is everyone working from home? Is the office open? Will they need to go to the office on the first day? How flexible is the current arrangement?
2. Remind the new starter—well in advance—of any paperwork that needs to be completed before they start working
Do they need to fill out any forms to select their work devices? Do they need to send you their address to have those devices delivered to them? Nudge them about it.
3. Inform them of when and how their work kit will be delivered
Is everything going to be delivered to them? Will they need to go to the office on the first day to register their staff pass?
4. Let them know if their devices need to be set up in advance of their joining date
Be sure to let them know via their personal contact details if they are expected to join any meetings first thing on Day 1.
5. Once they have joined, clarify the work arrangements followed by their immediate team; and how flexible these are
When do people generally start their day, take their lunch break, call it a day? How much leeway is there?
6. Point them towards an up-to-date organisation chart—if not of the whole organisation, at least of the immediate stakeholder teams they will likely need to collaborate with
In my experience, this one's easy to forget but goes a long way in helping the new joiner orientate themselves.
7. Share a prioritised list of:
- Stakeholders for them to meet
- Which tools / licences they need and how to get them
- Documents to bring themselves up to speed
8. Offer to involve them in something you're working on
I was invited to join as a note-taker or observer on a study someone was conducting, to get a sense of how the team normally go about it. This was massively helpful because whilst it didn't require my full commitment, it gave me a sense of how things were typically done in the team. And because my participation was relatively passive, it allowed me to focus most of my energy on onboarding activities.
9. Keep them in the loop
This one's really obvious—but also super easy to overlook. Within the office, it's relatively easy for a new starter to learn about the goings-on and follow along just by being seated near teammates and other colleagues. That becomes a lot harder when everything's happening remotely. So be sure to actively involve the new person: whether that's inviting them to meetings or giving them added context to inside jokes and team banter.
10. Suggest Slack / Teams channels for them to join
This is closely related to the previous point. Point them towards where all the action is!
11. Ask them how they would like to be line-managed
Would they like feedback as-it-happens via chat or in scheduled one-to-one calls? Quick, more frequent catch-ups or longer, less frequent ones? I really appreciated my manager, Janelle, bringing this up in one of our first catch-ups. Not everyone works the same way and that becomes even more significant when everyone's working remotely. Take that into account.
12. Remind them that it's okay to find things confusing and give them more time than usual to settle in
It's hard enough for someone to wrap their head around a new domain / organisation / culture when everyone's in the office. Doing it without the added context and cues that being in the same physical space provides, makes integration that much more of an uphill task. Be empathetic and understanding of that.
In conclusion: be nice. And then be nicer. Simples.