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How to virtually onboard your new starter

The pandemic has had a disruptive effect on people’s jobs and career prospects. It has forced many people into seeking new opportunities, and has turned home into both a living and a working space for many others. Whilst there is yet no strong indication of when (or if!) ‘normal office life’ will resume, the positive news is that many organisations are still hiring. This means that new employees are starting new internships and jobs at organisations without ever having physically met any of their colleagues, or without having ever visited their organisation’s office.

As an employer, it is important to think about your remote induction processes before you offer any roles to ensure things run smoothly when your new hire starts. We’ve put together this guide on how to onboard new employees in a fully remote work environment, while ensuring that they are set up for success and feel like part of the team.

Step 1 – Contract and offer paperwork

As soon as your offer has been verbally accepted, aim to send out your offer in writing, ideally with a contract of employment/training agreement. E-signing is a quick and easy way to wrap up documentation, and many of our employer partners use DocuSign.

You will want to ensure you have agreed on a secure way to obtain proof of eligibility to work, payroll information, and tax details, as well as details of any employment references you may need.

Step 2 – Equipment and setup

Make sure your new starter has all the right equipment they need to work remotely. You’ll need to conduct a Work From Home audit covering wi-fi, laptop/PC, footrest, office chair and desk, mobile/phone line, printer (if needed), headphones, mouse and mouse mat, cables, and chargers.

Don’t forget to check with the new starter what their working environment looks like, for example, where will they be working (bedroom, office, living room?) What kind of setup do they have at home? Do they have the appropriate space to set up their workstation and do they need any adjustments to help them work effectively? Any health and safety questions that would ordinarily be carried out if an individual were working onsite should also be asked when they work at home.

Ensure that the new starter has all the necessary information they need to log into the company intranet. Do they have the correct access rights, logins, and passwords? Do they know who to speak to in IT support if they have any problems? The smoother the first day starts the better it is for everyone.

Step 3 – Induction

The key to a successful start rests on the induction; use video conferencing to communicate with the new starter.

Seeing a friendly face will help them feel at ease as they settle into their new position.

Establish work hours, methods of catch-ups, and meeting platforms. Encourage your staff to take regular breaks and not to exceed contracted hours so that the lines between work and home are not too blurred.

Set out the day’s agenda. What should they expect? When should they take lunch? Is there a regular time for team updates?

Draw up an induction timetable for their first week and, if needed, book time with any or all of the following:

Senior Management Team – To give an overview of the company, its vision, achievements, and goals

Finance – To check payroll processes, expense claims, and any other financial benefit queries

IT – To go through data security, permitted software lists, shared passwords, security practices, antivirus and malware updates, where emails and files can be stored.

Make sure you communicate and collaborate regularly.

Step 4 – Introducing the team

Introduce your new colleague to as many people as possible in the first week. Sometimes it’s easier to do this informally or in short one-on-ones. At other times it is very helpful to see everyone together. If you have any videos or photos of the office showing how it would usually be, share those.

Add them to any WhatsApp or Facebook groups that your company may have, to help them feel integrated and invite them to any social get-togethers.

Ensure the line manager is available to make contact on the morning your new person starts and every day for at least the first fortnight.

Step 5 – Explain team duties

Manage expectations by letting your new starter know how work will be assessed and when reviews will take place. How often will you update them with their progress or let them update you? Schedule these times in your diaries. Aim for daily updates, with an overall recap at the end of each week.

Prepare a skills checklist and arrange for any necessary training. Do you have team updates in addition to any other arrangements, and if they are asked to attend, what do they need to prepare for those? How should they deal with any queries they may have? Do you share a task calendar or have a shared project management tool? Do you use instant messaging for urgent queries? Taking the time to go through these things with your new starter will help them to feel more at ease in their first few days.

Step 6 – Communicate and ask for feedback

And finally, make sure you communicate and collaborate regularly. Ask for feedback on how the remote onboarding process is working and if there are any suggestions or recommendations for improvement. Being asked for feedback will not only help the new starter feel valued and believe their opinion counts! It will also help you the next time you onboard a new starter.