How to Keep Your Onboarding Human While Working Remotely
How comfortable are you with onboarding and connecting with your employees from your home? If onboarding practices are not given much importance in your company, you might want to pay attention, because this company claims its remote onboarding practices have had a positive impact on its bottom line.
Buffer, the social media management platform company, has been strongly committed to remote work, even before it became a thing due to COVID-19. With no central office and a team spread across time zones, Buffer throws GIF parties on its 24/7 active chatroom to celebrate every successful employee onboarding. Here are a few lessons from Buffer that will help you calibrate your remote onboarding program.
A lot of folks confuse the concept of employee onboarding with employee orientation. By defaulting to employee orientation instead of onboarding, we perform only a fraction of what is needed for successfully onboarding an employee remotely.
Assess Onboarding Processes and Retire Those That Are Outdated
Buffer used to have an extensive onboarding program in the form of a 45-day boot camp. The boot camp was built on two-way communication, allowing both the new hire and the company to see if the relationship would work or not, a little like dating. The 45-day boot camp included assigning the new hire to three buddies — a leader, role, and culture buddy — and setting up the new hire’s accounts to dive into the tools headfirst even before fully exploring the culture and values the company upholds. There were one-on-one chat sessions, weekly pairing calls, and mini sync-ups. However, the disadvantages of this approach were big: The new hire could not enjoy any benefit, retreat, or equity during the boot camp.
In retrospect, Buffer realized this onboarding process seemed more like an audition rather than support, which destroyed the rationale behind creating it in the first place. The company decided that a complete overhaul was required to unify its onboarding processes.
Before deciding if your onboarding process is good enough, list what you expect from onboarding. Knowing the results you want from the process and then reverse-engineering it based on those goals will help you decide if your onboarding process needs a revamp or not.
Reengineer the Right Chunk of the Onboarding Process — The Art of Leaving Things Undisturbed
If you know your onboarding feels a bit off but don’t know where to begin, it’s better you stop right there so as not to disturb what is good already. When Buffer felt the boot camp did not serve the required purpose, it decided to retire most of it. In trying to foster its culture in new hires, Buffer realized that onboarding is not about how your employees can conform to your culture, but about how you can expand your culture by learning from your employees. So, Buffer decided to continue offering the same amount of training, feedback, and coaching to its new hires, but it considered those new hires to be full-time employees, eligible for all the company benefits, while going through onboarding.
While reworking the onboarding process, Buffer realized it had its fair share of slip-ups, like laptops arriving damaged and more. The major requirement of the process was making the new hire feel acquainted and valued by the company while working remotely. Instead of spamming the new hire with messages, Buffer decided to stick to a few meaningful welcome emails :
• An ecstatic welcome email
• An email collecting basic info
• An email with an introduction to the new hire’s managers and buddies
• An email with an overview of remote tools and what to expect on day one
• A central onboarding document with important links and a day-by-day checklist of tasks and resources to help each new hire establish a solid relationship with the team.
Take a Personal Interest in Your New Employee and Their Development
At Buffer, new hires are encouraged to provide feedback to the team on both the product and the culture. Buffer’s values enabled the company to learn from its mistakes and optimize its onboarding workflow to focus more on the value fit of new hires rather than the culture fit. To be a value fit, you don’t have to belong to the same background, have similar life experiences, or share the same abilities as your peers. You only need to be aligned with the same values and goals as the company.
What is impressive is the extra mile that Buffer goes to improve the lives of its employees, both professionally and personally, while onboarding. Every employee is given a fitness band, and the company congratulates its employees on progress toward their fitness goals. Every new hire is also provided with a Kindle they can use to read any book of their choice — not necessarily job-specific books. In line with its core value of transparency, Buffer has also made its salaries public.
Buffer helps its remote workers build a meaningful connection with the company by helping them live the company’s values every day. Genuine personal interest and transparency go a long way in cementing a loyal bond with new recruits.
It is pivotal that you start onboarding your employee even before day one. You might need to involve multiple hands from various departments to ensure your new hire has a smooth and humane onboarding experienced while working remotely — e.g., IT to provide laptops and accessories, legal to draft the employee contract, design to create a personalized welcome email, admin to provide an ID card, and operations to ensure all of it gets shipped safely and on time. Collaborating with so many different teams for onboarding might seem like a Herculean task, but HR software tools like Freshteam offer you easy solutions.
Create onboarding checklists that can be quickly replicated in no time and do away with repetitive tasks each time a new employee is hired. You can even automate the entire workflow by simply moving the new recruit to the onboarding queue.
If you learn one thing from Buffer, let it be the passion to build a remote yet cohesive team. There’s no better place to start than with getting your onboarding process right.
Freshteam by Freshworks is a smart HR software tool that helps make your onboarding process smoother and more humane with its numerous intuitive and easy-to-use features. It has transformed how businesses onboard their new hires and is designed to aid HR managers, especially while working remotely. Freshteam helps recruiters attract top talent from multiple channels and move them through screening, interviewing, onboarding, and offboarding — all with a few clicks. You can check it out for free here.
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