5 Key Factors to Create a Successful Remote Onboarding Process that Supports the Entire Employee Journey

Onboarding on its own is a challenge to execute effectively, a complex collection of tasks and processes that can feel fragmented, frustrating and overwhelming to new employees who are trying to learn the ropes of their new organization. Add in making the process remote and the whole thing becomes even more difficult. With no opportunities to simply turn to a coworker to ask a question, new remote workers can feel isolated and adrift - not a great start to a relationship. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to create a successful remote onboarding process that supports long-term success throughout the entire employee journey.

Here are some things to think about as you look to optimize your own remote onboarding process and in turn, improve the entire employee experience…

5 key factors to a successful remote onboarding process

1. Taking advantage of the preboarding opportunity

It’s a big milestone when a prospective employee signs their offer letter. Not only does it mark the successful conclusion of the often long and harrowing recruitment process, it’s also the start of….well, ok let’s be honest -- it’s usually just the start of a few weeks of nothing until the scheduled start date. That’s a big missed opportunity (especially with remote employees who need some extra TLC to help feel connected), but one that’s easy to take advantage of.

Organizations can build on the momentum that’s been achieved in building a relationship with new employees by providing them with optional opportunities to engage with the new company in the weeks between the offer letter being signed and the official start date. To be clear, this isn’t about asking them to do any actual work (there are of course legitimate concerns regarding the payroll implications surrounding a new hires official status as an employee). It’s all about engagement. There are many ways companies can keep the lines of communication open, including welcome videos from the CEO, information about new teammates and messages from mentors. It’s all about finding touch points that create memorable moments that matter out of the otherwise neglected few weeks before a new hire officially comes on board.

2. Creating a clear and streamlined process

The challenges with onboarding are clear – it’s too confusing. New hires are inundated with tasks and information coming at them from every different direction, there’s no clear flow to the process and generally no way to know the status or progress of all the steps that need to be completed. This is particularly challenging for remote employees who are already at a disadvantage because they can’t simply turn to a coworker to ask a question. Organizations need to get onboarding right. Not only will it aid in retaining top talent, it’s a process that will be used repeatedly throughout the employee journey, with successful employees revisiting portions of the process as they advance through their career.

Organizations can get new hires started on the right foot by giving them a central location for seamless access to the enterprise systems they use the most. They can also eliminate the confusion that comes from a disparate jumble of tasks from HR, IT, Facilities, Finance, etc. by implementing a solution that offers strong workflow and task management capabilities, coupled with a digital virtual assistant tool that can guide new employees through the process and keep them up-to-date on their progress.

3. Making the most of all the moments that matter, during onboarding and beyond

When thinking about “moments that matter,” it’s usually the standard rites of passage that come to mind – onboarding, anniversaries, promotions, offboarding, etc. While those are certainly important events, limiting opportunities to engage employees and foster goodwill to just a handful of significant moments is an unfortunate waste. Whether organizations realize it or not, there are many events in an employee’s day-to-day experience that should be considered moments that matter, and they can either be optimized or squandered based on how well they’re executed. Take, for example, routine tasks like looking up vacation balances and payroll details, finding information or getting an IT issue resolved. If those experiences are too complicated and cumbersome it creates a negative experience and a wasted opportunity to build loyalty with employees.

To ensure each experience is used to its fullest advantage, organizations should talk to employees and even shadow them in their roles to gain an understanding of where pain points exist and what improvements could be made that would enhance the employee experience and simplify the work day. Some easy ways to improve experiences and increase engagement might include:

- Creating lots of opportunities for feedback. Frequent pulse surveys are helpful, as is making sure employees have channels to share their thoughts when things are fresh on their minds.

- Personalizing wherever possible. Organizations have lots of data available on employees, such as location, role and job function that can be used to create personalized and contextual communications. The more workers feel that they’re seen as humans rather than numbers, the more connected they’ll feel to the business.

- Eliminating needless busywork. Workers are happiest when they can focus on meaningful work. So simplify processes as much as possible, using tools like automation and even natural language chatbots to give works more time to focus on the high-value work they were hired to do.

- Putting people first, giving employees the tools they need to succeed . To create a holistic experience that addresses the full spectrum of employee needs, organizations should think beyond the standard job training to include topics not historically considered to be work-related.

Mental and physical well-being have gradually become a part of corporate training programs, as has inclusion and diversity training, which opens the door to better and more inclusive conversations, teamwork and collaboration. Providing guidance on how to create and encourage an inclusive workplace, while teaching employees how important varied perspectives, mindsets and backgrounds are for innovation is critical to the long-term strength of the organization (Liberty Mutual Insurance is a great example of a company that has seen success implementing this type of training. Their Inclusion in Action elearning course received such great reviews from their global workforce that they’re now offering it to other organizations, so they too can begin to build a more inclusive workplace.

4. Giving employees the tools they need to feel empowered

Efficiency isn’t just the name of the game when it comes to business success, it’s also a significant factor in the overall employee experience. Organizations that create an efficient onboarding process are sure to see success through the rest of the employee journey.

There are a number of ways to improve the effectiveness of workplace processes, many of which start by empowering employees to take care of things themselves. Take issues that require assistance from a help desk for example. Help desks are notoriously time consuming for employees, requiring lots of time on hold, the necessity of providing a litany of information like name, rank and serial number, and often multiple follow up calls to resolve an issue. Providing self-serve functionality that automates the process, filling in an employee’s known information, submitting tickets and managing all calls and follow ups can get employees back to work quickly.

Making it easier to find information is another great way to alleviate the burden of wasted time. The statistics on employees’ ability to find information are disconcerting to say the least:

Organizations can make that task simpler by creating centralized source of truth for the critical resources and information employees need. A modernized intranet is an easy way to do this without replacing any existing technology.

5. Bridging the gaps of institutional knowledge

When it comes to getting up-to-speed on information that’s just commonly known throughout the organization, remote workers are at a distinct disadvantage, both during onboarding and beyond. With no ability to simply turn to the coworker sitting next to them with a question, it’s virtually impossible to gain the institutional knowledge their office-based colleagues acquire easily through osmosis.

Creating the centralized source of reliable information we discussed above will bridge this gap to a degree, but it’s critical that organizations find a long-term solution to this issue lest their remote employees begin to feel isolated and disconnected. One solution that can be very helpful (for many reasons beyond even this) is the use of an enterprise virtual assistant that’s available around the clock and uses employee data to provide personalized and contextual answers to employees most common questions.

By getting these basic building blocks right, organizations will not only create an effective remote onboarding process, they’ll also deliver an effective digital experience that supports the entire employee journey.