A mere 10 years ago, the idea of onboarding and training new employees remotely might have seemed to many like it would be impossible, or at least come across as tedious and strange to new employees.
But today’s videoconferencing technology has advanced by leaps and bounds to make remote training possible — and sometimes even preferable to in-person onboarding and training. With the right tools, employees can do things like learn about their new positions, meet their new colleagues, and learn a lot of the new jobs required of their positions, all digitally.
Of course, many remote training best practice requirements have ramped up in light of the pandemic of 2020. But even as we eventually feel safer from the threat of COVID-19, remote training will still offer relevant advantages.
To complete remote onboarding effectively, you’ll need to make sure you can collect all the important documents completed from afar, then you’ll have to make sure that new hires feel at home and have the tools they need to do their jobs properly.
Here’s what we advise for each of those steps to abide by remote onboarding and training best practices.
Completing the basic hiring paperwork
Of course, the technical aspects of onboarding may be the first ones you think of when it comes to the task — and thankfully, they’re the easiest onboarding task to handle virtually.
Your HR rep may have delivered benefits enrollment forms and the employee handbook to new employees in the past and collected signatures with a pen, but these days, documents can be securely sent and signed over the internet. Various apps use touchscreens to collect employee signatures, and some may substitute a checkbox for the traditional signature.
With many human resources and recruiting software programs, administrators can add onboarding steps to a workflow sequence, which saves them time and ensures that no steps are skipped.
Making new employees feel at home
Helping new employees feel connected to their new employer, their new colleagues, and their new role is a little trickier to do remotely than it is to collect hiring paperwork.
However, it is possible to help new employees feel at home at their new employer even if their work is done at home (at least at first).
Here are a few tactics to use when onboarding and training new employees.
Have a goal: Before beginning the onboarding process it’s important to think about the most important topics and values that you want to communicate.
Make virtual introductions – If you can’t introduce employees in person, you can introduce them via email or on a group chat. Include a few personal facts about the new hire, such as where they live or where they have previously worked, and encourage the rest of the employees to respond and welcome the new employee.
Arrange video calls with key colleagues – In-person may be the best way to meet new people and establish relationships with colleagues, but video calls go a long way toward giving employees a good sense of who they’re working with. New employees can “meet” their colleagues virtually one-on-one.
Host virtual social events – If your team stays mostly remote or has permanent remote employees, virtual “getting to know you” exercises can be fun and help new employees get acclimated. A few ways employees may choose to connect socially are playing group online games, participating in online discussions, and attending virtual happy hours or other virtual events.
Training new employees remotely
New remote employees will need to be trained on their critical tasks and responsibilities, and although some instructions may be just fine to send in written form, others should be delivered in a more visual or personal way.
Video is a great training solution when you’re onboarding remotely.
As we explained in our post on virtual training when the need first spiked back in the spring, pre-recorded video-based learning is generally called e-learning, while virtual training that’s held online with a live instructor is called Virtual Instructor-Led Training, or VILT.
Modern online training blends the advantages of a live trainer with the technology of remote learning in a fresh, live, and interactive experience.
You may want to consider using examples that arise in the virtual world derived from in-person kinds of concerns, such virtual environment protocol.
You may not need advanced technology for every type of training, but for more complicated or nuanced topics — or for employers with larger workforces — you may want to take advantage of features like these:
- Group activities – Modern software can automatically put training participants together into smaller groups to discuss material via video in separate chat rooms. These video-based breakout sessions give participants a chance to get to know one another and share meaningful insights more personally.
- Live feedback – In live presentations, the presenter can read the room and occasionally ask for a show of hands to illustrate their points and get a general sense of the group’s experiences. Virtual platforms also have this ability, allowing presenters to poll participants with simple agree/disagree options.
- Discussion – ELI’s video platform allows participants to click a button to raise their virtual hands and wait to be called on by the moderator to speak. Moderators can also refer to their easily-available list of participants and call on participants at random.
- Social interaction – The simple introductions that often happen in live training sessions can happen via a chat application within the VILT platform. Participants can use chat apps to react to the training content and videos in real time.
Beyond more formal training sessions that new employees will need to take, less formal training should still happen during routine check-ins. Managers should use virtual meeting software to make sure that new employees have what they need and continue to make progress.
Remote training is here to stay
In the wake of COVID-19, many companies are embracing the advantage of hiring more remote employees — or even going fully remote with their workforce.
But even those organizations that don’t go remote may still continue to advise their employees to work from home if they exhibit even minor illness symptoms. After all, a healthier workplace offers productivity advantages throughout the year, even when we aren’t facing an outbreak of potentially deadly diseases.
Other employees may find it more convenient to onboard remotely at first as they arrange their relocation to the company’s headquarters. However, perhaps most employers will still embrace in-person work and in-person onboarding, but can still leverage the advantages of remote training.
Because remote training programs are often recorded or at least recordable, employees can review material whenever they want — initially during training and later when they actually have to perform the task they were being trained for. Employees may also find it easier to move at their own pace and in a way that feels natural to them.
Remote training is also a great option for when employees who have spread across multiple locations or even time zones all need to learn something new.
One key example of when this might become necessary is in the case of sexual harassment prevention training, discrimination prevention training, and training on other civility issues that the entire workforce must receive on a regular basis.
At ELI, we’re long-time experts at offering this type of civility training completely remotely in a VILT format with features that make the training engaging and interactive for participants. We can also supplement the virtually led training with e-learning. Read more about our training delivery options.
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