With two-thirds of employees worldwide expecting their company to make remote or hybrid working a permanent fixture, addressing the differing needs of remote workers will be front of mind for small businesses looking to make the change.
Ensuring a consistent and enjoyable employee experience for remote workers requires a fresh look at existing programmes and approaches to ensure they are set up to work for everyone. From communication to security and support, it all starts with onboarding.
So, here are five top tips to help businesses successfully induct new employees remotely and empower new starters to hit the ground running from the get-go.
According to Eurofound’s Living, working and COVID-19 e-survey conducted in 2020 and 2021, 77% of pan-European remote workers with the right equipment were happy working from home, compared to 33% of those who didn’t have the right equipment. This shows how vital it is to ensure your remote workforce are set up just as well as they would be if they came into the office. Consider setting a budget for each remote worker to set up their home office and if you send out equipment such as laptops, make sure you’ve arranged for this to arrive ahead of their first day so they have time to check it’s working properly. Some businesses provide remote employees with an ongoing stipend to use toward their internet, phone and electricity bills. This should all be communicated to them ahead of their first day in a new employee welcome pack with step-by-step instructions for set up and install with details for any support services should they get stuck.
As workplaces become more fluid and dispersed, organisations need technology that helps to connect people, wherever they are. Modern project management tools empower remote-working employees to keep their finger on the pulse of what is happening both in their team and around the company at all times. Learning Management Systems (LMS) are also key for reaching and engaging remote workers.
The right tech devices are crucial for keeping your remote workforce included and engaged. High quality, lightweight laptops, noise cancellation headphones and USB speakers are ideal for a seamless remote working set-up and for ensuring they can easily connect with colleagues and clients wherever they are.
A warm welcome can reinforce a new employee’s decision to accept your offer and sets the tone for future employee engagement. Let them know how much you are looking forward to them joining. Since it might be a while before they meet colleagues face to face, it’s all the more important to encourage employees to reach out to them before they start via email, Slack or LinkedIn as the ‘get to know you’ process can sometimes take a little longer remotely vs in person. Share details of the new employee company-wide, with information on their team, role and responsibilities, as well as background and interests. It’s particularly important to share a photo of the new starter, as it could be a while before they meet colleagues in person. Encourage teams to set up welcome video calls with the new employee on their first day as this will enable them to start putting names to faces ASAP. A ‘welcome to the business’ email to all employees on their first day will also prompt existing employees to reach out and introduce themselves directly. Make sure to also include a photo of the new starter on this email to make it more personal, as it could be a while before they get to know what they look like either in person or remotely via a video call.
A ‘buddy programme’ is a great way to help new employees settle into their new role – buddies can help new hires with information such as where to go to for IT support and how to log a holiday. If you have a hybrid workforce, consider matching your remote workers with other remote employees who can help address questions that are more specific to this type of role. And with studies showing that employees are 90% more likely to work better for their company if their emotional wellbeing is supported, a ‘buddy programme’ can provide new starters with a designated person to go to for help and advice.
New hire surveys can help you understand what you’ve done well in the early employee experience, and where you can improve it. New employees decide in their first 90 days if they want to stay long-term, so send them a new employee survey during this time to learn about their experience. Include questions on how the onboarding programme went, whether they’ve been made to feel welcome, how they’re settling in, and if they think their goals are reasonable. Give them the opportunity to share thoughts on areas of improvement to help demonstrate their opinion is valued by the business. Analyse the insights from these surveys along with feedback gathered in a wider context (e.g., exit interviews) to make sure you’re getting a full picture.
The onboarding process sets the tone for the entire employee experience so it’s important as a small business owner that you get it right wherever your workforce choose to work. Investing in a process that engages and retains talent will more than pay for itself in the long run, leading to a happier workforce – which is always great for business.
Put in place a transparent and robust remote-working policy and take the time to communicate this to all colleagues. This will ensure everyone is on board with the parameters and rules and know where they can go to check the policy – many companies host this on a central online communications channel, so everyone can access it easily. Make the process the same for all new starters (regardless of whether they are remote workers or not) to avoid any discrepancies between the way people are hired or shown the ropes.
Revolut – one of Europe’s most valuable start-ups – recently announced that it will allow staff to work overseas for two months of the year – a trend that’s on the rise. If you are allowing remote workers to work from overseas, make sure the working abroad policy is included in the remote working policy and to avoid any pitfalls, consult with a solicitor and a chartered tax advisor when drawing it up (working abroad can become quite complex due to compliance headaches such as potential changes in taxes and benefits).
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