Virtual Office Featured Article

The Importance of Properly Onboarding Remote Employees

June 07, 2017
By Daan Pepijn, Contributing Writer

The world is increasingly going global, and so are businesses, which leads to a rising trend in remote working, particularly across borders. In a recent survey by, remote workers were found to be more productive, less stressed, and happier with their work-life balance. For businesses, it also means big savings, in terms of office space and other expenses associated with maintaining a larger workforce in a single location — especially if the business can hire offshore where labor costs might be lower.

Remote working also keeps an organization working together more closely. According to the same resource, businesses that allowed their employees to work remotely have 50 percent lower attrition rates. It is the so-called future of work. In fact, a recent Gallup poll has found that 37 percent of workers are already doing some remote work arrangement of sorts.

However, while remote working can do wonders for productivity, the downside is that employees tend to be less involved with their teammates. This leads to some difficulty in terms of keeping cohesion and teamwork within the organization. In a recent post, Hubstaff cites “lack of community and differences in culture” as one of the biggest disadvantages of telecommuting.

It is therefore important to help maintain some semblance of cohesion when it comes to organizational culture – employee engagement is, after all, essential in ensuring productivity. It is difficult enough to ensure a good fit at a physical workplace, and the distance of remote work compounds it even more. Thus, to ensure that the organization benefits from the advantages of remote working, businesses will often need to exert additional effort in ensuring remote workers are on the same page as their office-bound counterparts in terms of collaboration, focus, and understanding of the organization’s mission and goals.

Making the onboarding process easier through tech

One of the first things that an employee encounters when joining a company is onboarding, which is usually accomplished by HR staff or a more experienced colleague. Through onboarding, a new employee can learn the ropes, so to speak, and also get a better understanding of the business, its processes, its people, and its expectations.

Onboarding should not be considered a one-off activity, wherein an employee is simply given the corporate manual or handbook and left to study

Image via Pixabay

it on their own. For smaller organizations, a cursory introduction to each staff member, a tour around the office, an overview of the company procedures and policies would probably take a day or two to accomplish — not to mention training the employee in the nuances of doing his or her actual work. For bigger companies, this could be a lot more complicated, and fully on-boarding a new employee could take several days or even weeks.

For remote workers, however, the onboarding process might be drastically different, given that they don’t have the luxury of actually meeting their counterparts — or even the hiring manager — in person. In many cases, remote employees will only meet each other very rarely. Most of the time, people never even get to meet each other physically.

Thus, HR managers would usually resort to remote means of onboarding. Here is where technology can do wonders. For HR managers or personnel who do not have the time or ability to personally walk a new employee through the onboarding process, a webinar platform offers a convenient way to deliver relevant material to either one or many participants. In addition, a webinar can also help improve the image of your company, writes Anges Jozwiak, Marketing Director at ClickMeeting, a leading webinar software. “Webinars are a great tool human resources specialists can use in their employer branding activities. They can help you attract valuable job candidates instead of sending them to competitors,” she says.

Webinars have gone beyond the usual one-dimensional and one-direction approach of delivering a message. Modern webinars offer interactive material wherein audiences can give feedback. In addition, several members of an organization can be co-presenters, adding to the collaborative nature of webinars.

A unified workplace culture can help ensure good working relations

Cultural differences can play a big part in workplace dynamics, especially when the workplace is distributed. Not only that, but some challenges are basic enough, but not always easy to overcome — such as time zone disparities, some differences in communication attitudes and mindset, for instance.

Time zone differences can be particularly challenging to businesses that have production or development needs. This means that organizations might be working asynchronously — and this poses some challenges in terms of efficiency and the ability to get things done.

For this purpose, teams need the ability to hand-off their work to their colleagues when there are time zone differences. For distributed teams, there also needs to be a system whereby employees can keep up-to-date with each other’s activities.

A collaborative application is the bare minimum for accomplishing this, and for organizations, platforms like Slack can offer significant advantages, in terms of team communication. Platforms like Trello and Asana can help with project management. Meanwhile, SharePoint will be a viable means of sharing knowledge and ensuring timely access to information in one’s intranet.

What matters here is building collaboration into the team culture, and not just using applications for the sake of using them. Wade Foster, co-founder and CEO at Zapier, says that the company’s distributed team uses video-conferencing apps like Hangouts for some virtual face time. “Chat is awesome, but being able to talk in real time and visually see someone is still pretty important for some issues … During these chats, it's always fun to have a five-minute personal check up just to see what the other person/people are up to.” Foster adds that culture should be built into everything that the organization does — including how you talk to customers, how you communicate with each other, and how much work people do.

In addition, Zoho’s (News - Alert) Meera Sapra says that culture does not only apply to work, but it is also important to connect with colleagues on a personal level. “At the end of the day, work is not about where you’re from but what you can learn and do together. And that’s what makes for a great workplace culture.”

Here’s where proper onboarding also comes into play. Employee onboarding should not only involve learning the ropes of a company, but it should also involve being able to truly connect with other members of the team. After all, people will be expected to work closely with each other, regardless of whether they are physically together in the same building, or located across cities, countries, or continents.

A final word

True company culture can make or break an organization. Having great work culture can attract brilliant employees, and it can also keep them inspired, engaged, and productive. Bad organizational culture will result in an ever-revolving door, which means your team will have a hard time keeping great talent. For remote teams, it pays to put more focus on ensuring people gel well with each other, even across the miles. Beyond tech, people should find true connections and take advantage of the tools to manage work and the opportunities to connect.

Edited by Alicia Young

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