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Best Practices for Onboarding Globally Distributed Team Employees

We blinked, and suddenly the future of work became now. Work cultures started adapting the virtual life. However, some things remained constant. Like before, first impressions are everything, even today. Hiring is only one-fourth of the equation when it comes to building a globally distributed team. The rest is making them feel comfortable enough so that they can be at their best. In a physical office environment, newly hired employees can directly talk to other coworkers and set up a meeting to understand the training process and get to know the work culture, etc. However, how does one onboard new employees virtually with the same effectiveness? Here’s what has worked for us and some amazing companies, take a look!

Stay away from standardization

Customize the onboarding process to the individual, instead of leveraging a standardized framework. Onboarding doesn’t have to be a one-day process, it could be spread across three days, five days, a month, etc. This helps to create a natural work structure for the new hire while they become familiar with your company. Onboarding doesn’t have to be extremely time-intensive either.

For example, Facebook has a 2-month long boot camp program, which is an intensive program designed to develop leadership qualities in new hires. This also lets them gain a holistic view of the entire organization and learn to achieve the highest standards in their work. Facebook doesn’t put the new members into a team but instead moves them across departments to grant them the autonomy to select the best team for themselves.

Consider virtual buddies

A virtual guide doesn’t have to be a direct manager, it can just be someone senior. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a person and can be a handbook. Mentoring is critical, for remote work can be isolating, and asking questions can at times be intimidating. Doist arranges Mentortrips, where a new team member flies to meet their mentor and works with them for a week. This eases the learning process, strengthens communication, and develops rapport & trust among team members.

The HR team at Twitter has a more creative approach to virtual guideship. Their onboarding plan, called “Yes-to-desk” is a 75-step-guide comprising everything a new employee requires, from the time he/she says yes to the offer to the time he/she sits on the work desk. The company also provides new joiners with all the details of their co-workers and what to expect on their first day along with some goodies.

Reduce information overload

Onboarding in a completely remote environment can be a little overwhelming at first and to avoid that, teams can consider rolling out information about their respective organizations and training new hires at a slower pace. Shifting traditional onboarding content to short instructional videos gives the employee time to engage with the same at their own pace. Interactive methods that could be used for onboarding such as a short meet and greet or creating a channel on collaboration tools that directly enable the new hires to ask queries are alternate options.

Encourage cultural immersion

Creating a cohesive company culture can be challenging in a remote environment where the manifestations of all the values can vary depending on the individual’s interpretation. And therefore, communicating company values to new hires at the induction stage, and engaging with them becomes all the more crucial. In fact, it becomes more critical to create a stronger work culture. Communicating company values to new hires can be difficult, therefore it is important to keep them engaged and connected. For smaller companies, this can mean conducting daily stand-ups or office-wide virtual meetings for updates; for larger firms, it could be monthly or quarterly video town halls with updates from the CEO, virtual team celebrations, etc. The key is to keep workers engaged and involved.

Ask for feedback

Staying in close communication by asking for feedback and regularly initiating conversations with them builds rapport and establishes that they can reach out to you whenever necessary.

Feedback could be taken over surveys, polls and several other formats, depending on the tools used by an organization. Some questions you could include:

  1. Was your induction into the company smooth?
  2. Were all aspects of the job role, from the description, interview to onboarding communicated appropriately? If not, what could’ve been communicated differently?
  3. How were the first few weeks at our company, did you feel welcome?
  4. How was your first impression of the company?
  5. Do you feel confident in approaching leaders for guidance?
    An initiative by Zappos encouraged new hires to quit if they didn’t find the job interesting enough. Here’s how it works- Zappos would pay them $4000 to quit. The logic behind this was that the company only wanted to hire those people who actually enjoyed being at work. Offering to pay employees to leave filters out any bad hires that only want to be there for the money. It is important to create a process to actively filter out employees who are not engaged in their new role.

Building a global remote team takes a lot of consideration and planning. When a company chooses to go remote, it becomes extremely integral for the managers to plan a successful virtual onboarding process too. Through a strong onboarding plan, firms can improve employee retention and productivity. Sourcing talented people from across the world is one part. Providing the environment where they thrive is another.