As the novel coronavirus forces millions of employees to log into the office from home, some companies are onboarding remote employees for the first time ever.
Many employers are facing unprecedented challenges acclimating fully remote workers to the office, said Cal Henderson, the cofounder and CTO of the workplace messaging platform Slack. This is includes Slack, he added.
“Prior to this, the idea that we would interview, hire, and onboard somebody never having met them face to face would have been very strange within the organization,” Henderson told Business Insider.
But, Henderson added, there are several strategies managers can employ to successfully onboard new workers. For example, helping new employees feel connected and preparing in advance can help the process go more smoothly, he told Drake Baer on Business Insider’s podcast, “Starting Up,” an interview show inviting founders who’ve kickstarted successful companies to talk about their journeys.
“We’re giving people, especially new people to the team, enough connections and touchpoints that they don’t feel they’ve just been stranded out on their own,” Henderson said.
Even though remote onboarding may be new to the company, remote work is in the fabric of Slack’s company’s culture. The company’s founding team included two fully remote members working alongside colleagues in two different countries, according to a company blog post.
Here are three successful strategies Slack is using to improve the remote onboarding process:
Keep an open line of communication with the new employee
If you’re starting a new job, it’s likely that you don’t know many people on the team, which can make it more difficult to develop relationships, Henderson said.
“Make them feel like they’re part of the team, part of the organization, and part of the culture of the company,” he said.
Henderson recommends using frequent, shorter check-ins, “just to make sure that if they’re not used to working remotely that they have that connection to their colleagues.”
Check-ins are an important tool for building remote-work relationships, and communicating with a boss frequently can make a new hire more successful long-term.
Address any logistical challenges early on
Another critical part of onboarding remote employees is providing them with the supplies they need to do their job, like laptops, desks, or monitors. It’s important to overcome any logistical issues that may come from getting workers the tools they need to do their job well, Henderson said.
For example, on the first day at Slack new hires can expect to receive their laptop. But now, the company is forced to reimagine this process by shipping laptops to employees instead.
“How do we take that remote?” Henderson asked. “How do we get the laptop shipped to them and you know, in the correct kind of setup, and how can we go through our security setup?”
According to the remote job site FlexJobs, it’s important to evaluate how an organization will meet a new hire’s equipment needs. A company can either purchase all of the new hire’s equipment (laptop, phone, printer, chair, or a desk), or it can provide only a work-from-home laptop.
Another option to consider is offering a technology stipend, whereby companies provide an allowance for remote equipment costs. If the manager’s remote work budget is tight, however, the organization may want to adopt a “bring your own device policy,” which requires workers to use their own equipment.
Build and maintain a strong company culture
Henderson said making sure employees feel like they are a part of the company culture is key to making new employees feel at home. It’s important to be intentional about the type of culture you build, he said. For example, Slack tries to create an empathetic environment where workers are attentive to the needs of others.
“There will be a culture of your organization, whether you’re intentional about it or not,” Henderson said. “We chose to be very intentional about that early on because we wanted to build an organization that we would still want to work at five and 10 years later.”
Ultimately, a company’s culture in a remote environment should not be all that different from how it is in the office, he said.
“Make sure that those people who are joining your organization feel like they’re really part of the company, instead of part of this strange cohort who have joined in a strange time when they can’t really onboard,” he said.
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