Onboarding Telecommuters: 7 Tips for Orienting New Hires

onboarding telecommuters

If you’re among the 38% of trailblazing employers who embrace remote work as an inevitable and positive transition in workplace customs, according to the Staples Annual Workplace Survey, onboarding telecommuters green to remote work is inevitable. Read on to learn how you can establish a strong foundation for new hires unfamiliar with telework, cultivating a thriving telecommuting culture that lasts.

 7 Tips for Onboarding Telecommuters

Your new employees are excellent assets to your team. They help you improve business processes and refine your company culture. You want to give them every opportunity to seamlessly integrate into your team while giving space for fresh ideas. With these seven tips, remote enabled companies can curate a successful strategy for onboarding telecommuters.

1. Utilize Interactive Platforms

The platforms and tools you use to engage with your remote workers is the foundation a fruitful communication culture. You want to choose software, apps, and devices for your team that enables them to easily transition between multiple work environments. This means offering a suite of collaboration tools that can:

  • keep them connected like Slack, Bitrix24 or HipChat;
  • help them store and share files on and offline like Google Docs, OneDrive or DropBox;
  • encourage them to engage with each other interactively like Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts.

Think critically about the kinds of data you need your team to have access to and share on a daily basis. What tools can you provide to your new remote team that will inspire them to perform at their pinnacle? There are no one-size fits all solutions.

More aptly, there are a variety of structures you can employ that will work best if you are confident in your company culture. For example, if you are a publishing company that has multiple daily, hard deadlines and many quick changes occurring minute to minute, Slack is a simple way to instill the principle of responsiveness during business hours.

Slack’s settings allow remote teams to operate independently and in connection with other teams, sharing files from Google Docs or DropBox. Its alert settings allow employees to tailor notifications to specific keywords such as #today or #asap, so that no one ever misses a critical update.

Find your key tools and build a communication technology strategy around the platforms that perform best. Don’t be afraid to make changes if you find you’ve outgrown your current tools.

It is worth the time and effort to experiment so that new employees understand the value of integration. Soon, your recent trainees will be able to suggest additions and tweaks to the system that benefits the company as a whole.

2. Establish Intentional Training

While onboarding telecommuters, interactive collaboration platforms won’t be much help if your new team isn’t well versed in them; therefore, don’t assume new telecommuters are knowledgeable about all your software tools. Even if they’ve encountered it before, providing explicit training on how your brand utilizes your technology is key.

Give an overview of your usage policies and provide ongoing training for more advanced features, which will save your company the inconvenience of backtracking on training a few months down the road. Then, clearly define the misuse of company technology to avoid the gray area of accountability when disciplinary action must be taken.

Training should be a continuous process for all your team members. Particularly in remote work, designing self-paced e-learning solutions are a phenomenal way to evaluate knowledge acquisition and provide needed direction.

E-learning should not only be a key feature of onboarding telecommuters, but also should be intricate at each level of your company. Online courses can help sharpen the skills each member brings to their team and creates a culture of excellence by rewarding initiative with certifications.

Ensure you set targeted expectations about how these courses should be used. Are some courses mandatory? Can they lead to more advanced roles within the company? Additionally, provide incentives for regularly completing training beyond the mandatory starter courses. You’ll increase employee engagement and watch the skill levels of your employees skyrocket.

3. Create a Culture of Open Communication

Beyond establishing the tools and training mechanisms that support success, remote workers must feel that they can and should stay connected to their supervisor and teammates. Open and honest dialogue is cultivated by carving out time for everyone to get to know each other. It may seem like a difficult task virtually, but with the increasing ease of video and group chat technology (and a bit of creativity), you can create ways to keep your telecommute team engaged for the long haul.

Why is this important? Studies like Stapes Advantages newest report show that employees value companies that see them as complete human beings and care for their well-being.

Utilizing available methods to express emotion such as memes, gifs, and emojis may seem unprofessional in a traditional sense, yet in a virtual space, these expressions are key to coming across as genuine and giving new employees space to express their unique personalities.

Maintaining a personable and compassionate culture in a remote company requires strategic effort. Try holding a virtual office party, engaging your team in online games appropriate for an office environment, conducting employee surveys, and sharing holiday plans and recipes. This year, Virtual Vocations team members participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange.

There are countless ways to keep the conversations flowing, boost morale, and ensure important concerns or questions are raised when necessary.

4. Commit to Giving and Receiving Regular Feedback

Remote workers not only need consistent comments and evaluations of their performance, they need these interactions to be in-depth. When you do not have the ability to physically sit down with an employee, you can utilize video, screen-share, and drawing tools to make the learning process much more intuitive.

One-on-ones are necessary to the success of your young virtual team. These meetings are not only a chance for employers to learn more about the strengths of their team members and provide direction, but also a forum for remote workers to express concerns, give their own feedback, and make suggestions.

It is crucial that these meetings happen at an appointed time and not just whenever possible. Employees need consistency and the assurance that they are important enough to gain an audience with you at regular intervals. Additionally, if a scheduling conflict arises, always, always reschedule and try to seldom cancel a one-on-one meeting.

Adjacent to the one-on-one is the team meeting. Fostering leadership within new remote teams can be a challenge. However, when you establish a meeting routine, and allow each member to gradually take on responsibility within the scope of the meeting, you identify new leaders you may not have spotted in a crowded office boardroom.

Every great leader doesn’t have the same extroverted personality. Telecommuting allows for an equalization in power dynamics that can be very helpful for bringing out innovative ideas from unexpected sources.

5. Equalize Timezone Advantages

One of the great benefits of remote companies is that you can hire top talent from across the country or around the world. However, as you begin to integrate your new talent into ongoing meetings, the timezone dilemma quickly arises.

Although it may be possible for employees to work different schedules, instances will arise when everyone needs to meet at once.

If you are located on the West Coast, be mindful of your East Coast counterparts and try to schedule end-of-shift meetings a bit earlier in the day so that they don’t consistently have to log on at 8:00 p.m.

In contrast, even if you only have one team member in Bejing, with everyone else on Pacific Standard Time, consider occasionally altering your meeting schedule to accommodate them. From the employee’s perspective, it makes a world of difference to feel your time is valuable to your employer.

6. Instill Accountability

Regardless of how flexible your telecommuting work arrangements are, there will always be one or two outliers who test the boundaries. Accountability is a key component of every team, and the need for transparency is amplified in a virtual setting.

Often, procrastination on a consistent basis forms bad habits that can lead to missed opportunity. Establish high expectations from the very beginning.

Consider utilizing time tracking software and implementing check-in times to avoid employees taking advantage of their position as a remote employee. When a project falls flat, or a meeting is missed, be sure to address the negative ramifications, focusing on actionable steps.

If there is one team member who is consistently late for a standing meeting or check-in, ask the remote employee for suggestions on a better time, or consider implementing a policy that states the number of missed meetings allowed without disciplinary action. Every workplace needs structure and policies that protect the integrity of the business, and this is more imperative when your team works from home.

7. Consider a Company Retreat

If your company is 100% remote with a geographically dispersed team, it may not be possible for everyone to gather together in a single location. However, if your company is big enough, consider holding satellite retreats for employees located in the same region.

Even if your conference happens virtually, facilitating the sense of unity that comes with a company-wide event builds loyalty and pride. Establishing an event that celebrates the history, growth, and future potential of your company and its staff is a great way to retain your talented remote workers.

Build a Strong Foundation for Onboarding Telecommuters

As the boss, it is your responsibility to foster a clear, shared vision for your remote staff. You can guide your new remote workers toward success by empowering them to see their flexible work as more than just work-life balance.

Remote workers are beginning to set the pace for the professional world. Tapping into that excitement through ongoing opportunities to learn more about how to work effectively is a great way to set a foundation for excellence they can pass down to the next round of new telecommuters.

Have you implemented any of these strategies for onboarding telecommuters? Share your answer when you connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to hear from you! 

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