Onboarding, from both the employee’s as well as the employer’s perspective, is critical. Not only can it set the employee up for success (if done well), but also it sets the stage for the employee-employer relationship ahead.
Given that many tech employees and employers have embraced a hybrid or remote work environment, it’s time for employees and employers alike to rethink onboarding. Here are three key steps tech companies should take when onboarding today’s remote employees.
1. Start onboarding with the first recruiting contact
It’s common to begin onboarding on an employee’s first day, but think about it—onboarding really starts with the very first recruiting contact, not on Day 1 of the job. By the time the employee starts work, expectations are already formed in their mind.
Employers: The recruiting “team” (whether that be an in-house team, an outsourced recruiter, or a CTO) is the first face of the company to all prospective employees, so they should start talking about values, culture, and communication rhythms in their very first emails and phone calls with the candidate.
Employees: Be inquisitive, asking questions to get a feel for the culture you’ll be joining. Consider both the content of the answers and their authenticity.
- What are the company’s values?
- How often do they have all-hands meetings, and what are those like?
- How does the promotion process work?
- What types of people thrive there, and what types don’t?
2. Truly understand the employee’s long-term career goals
Most people gravitate toward spending spare time on the things they love. Makes sense, right? Think about yourself. If you’ve got 30 minutes of free time during the work day, what do you do?
You likely dive into something that sparks your interest, regardless of how valuable that thing is to your team’s goals. After all, you figure, you spend 98% of your time working toward your team’s goals, so that last 2% can be something you love more than anything else. For some, that’s writing blog posts or tweets. For others, that’s reading Reddit or writing code in a new language.
With the state of remote work, professional development and job satisfaction are going to come less from the cool office perks of the olden days and more from the cool things employees can do and learn that align with their long-term passions and goals.
Employers: The more folks you can find whose long-term goals and interests help your team succeed, the better. The best way to do this is to ask employees what their career goals are, and identify ways you and the company can help them achieve some or all of their goals in a way that also benefits the business.
Employees: The more you can find a team that values the career-related activities you do in your downtime, the better. Do you like contributing to open source? Find a team that would love nothing more than for you to do so.
3. Paint a vivid picture of what life at your company may look like down the road, and embrace the reality that this will likely change
Today, most people have, at a minimum, thought about where they want to be in three to five years. Many have moved or are considering moving to another physical location. Many have changed or are considering changing their careers or jobs. Many have reprioritized or are considering reprioritizing the things that are highest on their values list.
Take care not to ignore these realities in the onboarding process!
If I’m changing jobs, I want to know whether my new employer is going to require that I come to the office in the future. This is a huge question, one that no one yet has the answer to but that everyone has opinions about.
Employers: Rather than saying “we don’t know what our hybrid work environment will entail,” consider something like:
We value in-person collaboration, especially when it comes to ideation and creative thinking. As such, we are prioritizing hiring folks who are within a one-hour commute to a central office, so that we can all collaborate in person, when we choose to do so.
At the same time, we value agency and flexibility, so we will never surprise you with any decisions regarding working location. We commit to being open, transparent, and collaborative.
A statement to this effect speaks volumes about your culture and your commitment to your employees. Take this a step further by creating a collaborative and iterative process that aims to solve for both the business and the employee priorities, gathering input from employees on a predictable cadence.
Employees: Before onboarding into a new company, spend time gaining clarity on your short- and long-term priorities. What are your goals and anti-goals, both personally and professionally? And then, respect both your time and your employer’s by communicating sooner rather than later if you identify a potential conflict between what your job will ask of you and your goals. An honest conversation often leads to options not previously considered, and it can leave both parties pleasantly surprised by options they hadn’t known existed.
Putting it all together
These three tips should help you create an effective onboarding program for remote workers. Your onboarding experience is the first step in building relationships with new employees, and in a time when most of us are working from home, it’s more important than ever to get onboarding right for new team members.