Skip links

How to engage staff when you’ve never met them face-to-face

StaffCircle we’re recently mentioned in the Global Banking & Finance Review publication, Guide To Onboarding New Employees Remotely.

Onboarding remote workers presents businesses with a new set of challenges not faced when onboarding in the workplace. The familiar induction process, built around face-to-face introductions and meetings, needs to be modified for the digital sphere especially when people are forced to work from home.

Communication is often the biggest challenge for remote works. Having a timetable for the first couple of weeks with regular check-ins and clear tasks for the new employee to fulfil will enable them to adapt quickly to the culture and keep on top of their goals.

The first few weeks for an employee will stay with them throughout their career with you, thus it’s important you set clear processes for yourself as well as your new recruits.

1. Introduce them to your company’s culture

A strong company culture permeates throughout the workforce, but it’s harder to get a feel for this when everyone is working remotely. Building your company’s core values into the framework of your performance management system helps to clarify and promote it to your new hires from the outset.

Providing them with a digital version of your company handbook or a digital welcome pack, along with any other text or video resources discussing your company’s culture can help to strengthen these values. You should also update any induction packages you have so they are relevant to a digital workplace.

2. Hold virtual meetings with their team members and direct reports

When introducing a new hire to team members and key contacts, do this via video calls. While you can’t replicate the face-to-face induction process entirely, these calls will help to quickly establish relationships and strengthen communication.

Hold these initial meetings on their first day, linking them with a sponsor or mentor to help them find their way in the company and keep them connected to their team through any other channels, both work-related and informal social digital spaces. Ask co-workers, managers and direct reports to introduce themselves and explain their roles and how they might be able to help.

3. Establish their work expectations and objectives

Comprehensive performance management tools which allow everyone to track and update their objectives and key results are the backbone of your company. You can use these to clearly establish the work expectations and objectives of your new remote workers so that they are clear about their immediate tasks and longer-term goals.

Set out their key projects and short-term deliverables up front and make sure they have liaised with the relevant team members they’ll be working with. Once you have defined the goals and added them to the relevant communication channels in your performance management tools, you can establish benchmarks for performance which managers can track directly.

4. Make sure they have the software they require

Mark Seemann

Mark Seemann

From day one ensure they have access to the right software and IT to do their job, leaving them without will leave them feeling left out. Help them set up their company emails, cloud storage systems and any other programs they require. If you are providing equipment make sure all software and applications are ready installed so they’re set up to start work immediately.

Make sure they have access to your company’s internal communications platform, allowing access to goal tracking, absence requests, intranet and any other internal systems they need. You can also help them to complete any HR paperwork online such as employee contracts, making use of e-signature tools to eliminate unnecessary paperwork.

5.  Catch up weekly, monthly and quarterly

Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of How To Invest Your Time Like Money, explained the importance of one-to-one meetings in an interview with Harvard Business Review“One-on-ones are one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager. They are where you can ask strategic questions such as, are we focused on the right things? And from a rapport point of view, they are how you show employees that you value them and care about them.”

Schedule regular weekly conversations as well as monthly and quarterly appraisals ensuring these regular touchpoints are maintained. If they are having any difficulties settling into the role or if they have any other feedback to pass on, these informal catch ups will help managers identify any cause for concern, both in terms of workload and mental well-being.

6. Training and development

Set up a training programme early, and get new hires used to learning news skills.   It’s important to check their training for specific tools unique to your company, make sure they are put in touch with the relevant employee and training documentation.

Build a library of training videos/documents and interactive courses and link any product demonstration videos and other resources to help them to better understand their role, making them easily accessible via your internal communications platform .

Refine your onboarding process

Onboarding processes can sometimes leave a lot to be desired, and a survey from Accountemps in 2019 revealed that 6 in 10 workers met with mishaps when starting a new job, now it’s all being done remotely. Refining the process is essential to address any problems with communication.

Conduct surveys of any previous employees who were onboarded for remote positions to see what they suggest you can do to improve the processes and provide better resources. The full cycle of onboarding is an exercise in engagement, and done well it will boost productivity, encourage collaborative working and enhance the innovative capacity of your business.