How HR Can Tackle the Biggest Challenges to Remote Onboarding

In today’s remote workplace, HR is faced with a number of challenges to remote onboarding.

Many supervisors never meet new employees face-to-face and they must onboard, train, and manage those new hires remotely.

This can present problems over time, such as decreased motivation, engagement, and productivity.

Since telecommuting will undoubtedly become a more permanent part of the modern workplace, even after COVID-19 ends, it is important to tackle these challenges head-on.

Below, we’ll explore how HR and supervisors can mitigate these problems and ensure that new hires have a smooth onboarding experience.

5 of HR’s Top Challenges to Remote Onboarding, with Solutions

Here are 5 solutions to some of the biggest obstacles faced in the remote onboarding process:

1. Challenge: Feelings of Isolation or Disconnection

During the pandemic, remote working became the norm. Companies who had never hired remotely were required to hire employees, many of whom had also never worked remotely.

Normally, employees meet their coworkers face-to-face and interact in an office environment.

Remote workers, however, are disconnected from that environment and often work from home.

For employees that lack experience working alone, this can breed feelings of isolation and disconnection from their teammates.

In turn, that can make it difficult to build comradery, a workplace culture, and fully integrate new remote workers into the company.

Solution: Ramp Up the Online Social Interaction

Managers must set aside time to socialize online.

“Virtual water cooler chats” can not only be relaxing and enjoyable, they form an important social glue that can bind teams together, reduce feelings of isolation, and boost morale.

Various telecommunications tools can be used for this purpose, including video conferencing tools, social media applications, and workplace chat tools.

2. Challenge: No On-Site Technical Support

A great deal of technical support comes from informal questions and answers to coworkers or managers.

When employees are located a few feet away from their team members, it is much easier to freely ask for help when learning new software.

Online, however, it is a completely different matter.

If new hires feel like they are bothering someone every time they send a message, then they will be far less likely to ask for help.

Over the long run, this can be detrimental to the employees’ learning curve, and it can even result in poor performance and more errors.

Solution: Offer Always-On Support

There are several ways to work around this problem:

  • Use digital adoption platforms (DAPs) to provide a permanent, automated digital training solution
  • Create chat groups or chat lines that are permanently open between designated team members
  • Proactively assert that employees can ask for help whenever they want

Of course, in addition to encouraging employees to ask for help, it is also important to provide that help.

Taking these steps can help employees feel more welcome and become more productive in less time.

3. Challenge: Poor Adherence to Procedure

In an office, many managers will often rely on frequent day-to-day communication and support to ensure employees stay on target.

However, without that daily backbone of support, remote employees will often find it harder to meet performance goals and adhere to proper procedures.

This can result in many of the same problems covered above – poor performance, more errors, and less engagement.

Solution: Standardize Business Processes

Business process standardization refers to the detailed development and documentation of workflows and processes.

A standardized process:

  • Includes documentation that employees can follow
  • Outlines specific tasks for each workflow and process
  • Describes expectations and goals

Designing processes, especially for large organizations, can take time, but it is well worth the investment.

4. Challenge: Difficulty Collaborating with Teams

According to a survey by Buffer, difficulty collaborating with employees is one of the chief difficulties for telecommuters.

This is understandable, of course, for many of the reasons covered above.

When employees lack social contact with their team members, it is often more difficult to build informal communications.

Those social connections often form a social lubricant in the workplace, greatly facilitating collaboration and teamwork.

Solution: Clearly Document and Enforce Communication Protocols

One solution to improving collaboration is providing ample opportunity for online socialization, as covered above.

Another is to ensure that communication protocols are clearly outlined.

To this end, it can be useful to require the use of software that can enforce this automatically, such as project management software.

5. Challenge: Aligning New Hires with the Workplace Culture

Organizational culture refers to the values, beliefs, and attitudes that are held by a company and its workforce.

That culture plays an important role in organizational communication and effectiveness.

If, for instance, employees are misaligned with that culture, it can create friction and inefficiencies in the workplace. Culture also affects how well an organization can adapt to the prevailing culture of the marketplace, which is why so many experts advocate adopting a digital culture today.

In a remote work environment, however, it is difficult to align new hires with the company culture.

As with the other issues covered above, a lack of in-person communication, socialization, and informal messaging all make it more difficult to align employees with company values.

Solution: Boost the Implicit and Explicit Cultural Messaging

Many of the solutions covered above can help, such as increased social time and workplace documentation.

Corporate culture should also be taken into account during the hiring process, since talent selection directly affects how well employees fit into the workplace.

Once remote workers are hired, it is important to be explicit about the company’s values and incorporate those into remote employees’ workflows.

Doing so can both ensure that employees’ efforts align with the company’s, while also helping workers to find more meaning in their jobs.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.