In this golden age of remote work, not everything is moonlight and roses. Among the many challenges companies are facing, remote onboarding sticks out like a sore thumb.
And understandably so! Switching from a regional or national talent pool to a global one is an unprecedented event. Nobody wants to miss out on fresh talent, wherever it may be.
But before making leaps and bounds, let’s put one foot in front of the other.
In this article, we will go over the processes involved in remote onboarding, and show you why automating these makes sense.
Regular onboarding vs remote onboarding: What’s the difference?
Think of a traditional first day at a new job. Some of the activities that traditionally take place during this stage include taking a tour of the office, meeting the team, getting set up at a new desk, and scheduling the first batch of tasks.
Most of these are attainable for remote workers as well, although in a different manner. Walking tours become virtual tours. Meet-and-greets happen over phone or video calls. The first tasks get detailed and scheduled within a productivity tool.
You will likely encounter more differences as well, such as:
- Disparage time zones
- Unexpected interruptions
- More nuanced cultural differences
These environmental changes can lead to some friction. Companies and new hires will find themselves in a new scenario characterized by:
- Bigger potential for misunderstandings and miscommunication
- Lack of “organic” communication between colleagues and teams
- Difficulties in transmitting certain company culture aspects
- Higher reliance on technology
- Heightened need for soft skills and proactive communication
- Need for more thorough documentation and other digital assets
As a result, traditional onboarding workflows will need a tune-up. And here’s where automation can help.
Benefits of automating the remote onboarding process
Both companies and employees can benefit from automating the remote onboarding process. The goal of doing so is to improve every aspect of the experience for all the involved parties.
For businesses, automated onboarding facilitates operations for asynchronous teams in different timezones, reduces errors in data collection and paperwork, and saves time and money.
For employees, it offers a less stressful adjustment period, shorter onboarding times, and a personalized experience where no time or resources go to waste.
To put into perspective what an automated remote employee onboarding might look like, let’s now take a look at specific examples.
9 remote onboarding steps you can automate
Nothing beats an organized, clearly outlined onboarding workflow to onboard new employees.
While this sort of standardization is more commonly found at bigger companies, there is no reason for any company to have it.
In the end, breaking down the onboarding process into actionable steps guarantees efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
With this in mind, we are going to show you a 9-step onboarding process, and how to automate each one of the steps in it.
From getting the paperwork ready to assigning the first tasks, we are confident that the following list will add value to your onboarding process.
Let’s take a look at it.
1. Get the paperwork out of the way
The first major hurdle that cannot be avoided during onboarding is all the paperwork involved. From employment contracts to tax forms and health insurance, the amount of paperwork the onboarding process encompasses can seem daunting.
Thankfully, this is a great case for automation. This process can easily be digitized, involving fewer errors as a result.
When signing documents, Integromat can prompt an esignature solution to enrich a spreadsheet. This automation example allows HR managers to make sure which documents are completed and which are pending at a glance.
2. Accelerate the collection of a new hire’s personal information
Manual data collection is notoriously flimsy and prone to errors, and automated data entry can help make the process smoother.
To automate this process, HR departments can create a personal information survey that every new employee can fill during onboarding.
For the survey part, you can use form-building solutions like JotForm, Cognito Forms, and Survey Anyplace.
Integromat can then be configured to send form answers into a spreadsheet, a document, or a productivity tool for posterior evaluation.
3. Keep your team up to date about new hires automatically
Keeping track of every new employee is particularly challenging for companies that:
- Are growing fast
- Have a high rate of employee turnover (think Walmart, or Amazon)
- Both of the above
Making sure that teams and managers are aware of who’s getting hired is hard. The last thing you’d want is for a new employee to be forgotten about on their first day, which is even more likely to happen when everyone is working remotely.
A simple automated scenario can help alleviate this by notifying team members every time someone joins the company.
4. Give access to the tech stack
Creating accounts and sharing access keys to new employees can rapidly turn into a significant time commitment. Do you really want to manually share usernames and passwords every time someone new joins the team? Or even worse, store them all in a public spreadsheet?
Integromat can help, automatically creating user profiles and accounts before the ink on the contract even dries up, and without any effort on your part.
5. Create lines of communication
Spontaneous small talk works magic at the physical workplace, but is difficult to emulate remotely.
In this age of remote work, you have to work with what you have: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, and so on.
Most communication tools like Slack allow you to configure bots and predetermined actions based on triggers. But how can HR leverage this?
An option is to set up an automated welcome message to introduce new employees to team members and key stakeholders. In the message, you can include all the repetitive information, so you don’t have to type the same words over and over.
Fortunately, this is easily doable with the following Integromat template - a simple greet bot you can manage from Airtable.
6. Send out reading materials
Guiding employees requires you to provide reading materials. In this line, dumping a handbook on your new employee’s (virtual) desk can be a tempting way to approach employee training, but might end up being a waste of time.
Here, a knowledge base tool is your friend to distribute information in a user-friendly manner. This is also a great way to avoid answering the same questions on a recurring basis.
Automation tools like atSpoke can add a layer to that knowledge base experience, allowing new employees to ask their questions directly on Slack and providing answers that are sourced from the knowledge base.
7. Meeting time: Introduce stakeholders
While a remote setting won’t allow for the proverbial first lunch with the team, collaborators still need to meet virtually and get to know each other.
Thankfully, this is made easy by video conferencing tools, but you still have to manage cumbersome tasks like setting an agenda, scheduling the meeting, inviting everyone, and sending out reminders.
Tools like Calendly facilitate the process of organizing and remembering meetings, by syncing calendar views and sending out reminders.
Yet, people can still forget, and adding another automated notification is sometimes necessary. Better safe than sorry!
8. Start on the right foot with clear goals
Employee onboarding has a deep impact on the performance, well-being, and satisfaction of new employees going forward.
Regardless of the methodology you use to track performance (such as OKRs and KPIs), setting clear goals will help new hires succeed.
Setting objectives is not something you’d want to automate as it requires communication and is an ongoing topic. Nevertheless, automation can jump in and help keep these goals front and center.
9. Encourage feedback (and stay on top of it)
As we mentioned, remote employee onboarding involves a learning curve for HR and recruiting teams.
Chances are your first remote hires will get the worst of it, but you should be able to improve and provide a better experience as time goes on.
This can be achieved by continuously collecting feedback, and actively applying the lessons you learn from it.
A great way to stay on top of this is to keep it in a centralized place, where you can access all the info at a glance, and be notified whenever a new response comes in.
Luckily, this is easily achieved with an automated scenario. To make sure you never miss out on an incoming feedback form, set up a notification in your preferred communication platform.
Super easy, and forever convenient.
Automating employee onboarding in a remote environment is all about empathy and being able to put yourself in the other’s shoes.
New hires will value a smooth onboarding experience, and feed off of it to start working in full force.
On the company side, asking where automation makes sense is the first step towards improving the related processes.
Also, let’s not forget: The pool of candidates just got a lot bigger. Wouldn’t it be great to have more time and resources to onboard more people in a satisfactory way?
If you think so, then it’s time to try something new.