Remote Onboarding: Tips & Advice on Hiring Virtual Employees

October 26, 2020
Clock Icon 5 min read

As the number of workers seeking remote employment increases, successfully hiring virtual employees is a skill many companies and managers are quickly learning and adopting. Before the worldwide spread of coronavirus, and the subsequent 2020 lockdown, 1.54 million people in the UK worked from home. At the height of lockdown, this soared to 60% of the UK working population doing so from home. 

Even before the pandemic, remote working was increasing in popularity. In 2015, 4.3% of people mainly worked from home, by 2019 this had increased to 5.1%. Around the world this trend continues, with as many as 70% of people working remotely at least one day a week. 

There is no doubt that remote working is attractive to both workers and employers, and this has led to a change in attitudes around the world on where people can work from. Remote working has also led to an uptake in remote working systems and better remote onboarding of these new, virtual hires. Do you know how to successfully onboard virtual staff? Our article will provide you with advice on how to do so.

A remote worker hosting a group video call online

What is Remote Onboarding?

Most people go through onboarding with a company when they start a job somewhere new. Usually it involves meeting the team, being introduced to stakeholders that are key to the role, and learning about the company culture, attitude, and working environment. The process of onboarding employees is not new, and many companies are seeing the benefits of being remote-first in their approach to onboarding. Where employees are working remotely, the onboarding process and activities occur remotely too.

As an employer or manager, remote onboarding can be a bit daunting. You’ve worked through the hiring process, found a great employee, and now you want to help them feel welcome, involved, a part of the team, and embedded into the company culture. Achieving this virtually can be difficult, but is easier when you have structures and processes in place. 

Remote onboarding is an essential part of business growth. With 81% of workers feeling that flexible working makes a job more attractive, proactively engaging with remote working, telecommuting and working from home will set your business ahead, and help you attract the best talent from all over the world. Take a look at our dedicated article to learn more about managing remote workers.

A remote worker involved in a group video call online

What are the Advantages of Hiring Virtual Employees?

Some businesses have been forced into hiring virtual employees due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, some companies have been using this process for some time. The benefits of hiring virtual employees are well documented. 

The obvious advantage to hiring remote workers is that you are not limited by geographical talent pools. Opening up virtual recruitment means that you can hire people from anywhere in the world. You will find this makes your company more attractive to potential employees, who increasingly look to have a better work-life balance. Working remotely and offering flexible working, wherever your employees are, shows that you promote a better work-life balance. 

Female working remotely on her laptop

Studies show that the flexibility of remote working generates increased productivity. Workers are more productive when they can pick their own schedule, with 82% of UK workers choosing to stay with their employers if they are offered flexible working. With high job turnover being a big cost for businesses, keeping hold of the employees you already have will save the company money. Furthermore, many employees willingly work longer hours to get the task done when they are working from home. Not needing to rush off for the train home makes working ‘an extra 10 minutes’ more feasible. 

Another consideration for hiring virtual employees is that it keeps business overheads down. Without the need to buy or rent commercial space, and fund the overhead costs alongside it, businesses can save money and reduce their environmental impact. Employees too can save money without spending for their daily commute, buying lunch every day or buying clothes for ‘office wear’. 

With so many advantages of virtual teams, it is important that the remote hiring process is correct and runs smoothly, so you can hire the right people for your business. Take a look at our tips and advice in the next section to help you achieve this.

Interviewing a potential candidate remotely

8 Tips for the Remote Hiring Process

Hiring the right people for your organisation is essential, and with remote hiring becoming more competitive, you need to be confident you are making the right hire choice. Below, we’ve compiled some top tips and advice to help you do so.

Attract the right candidatesdrop down menu

When hiring remotely, most candidates will have to rely on your digital presence to learn about your company. Make sure your business is recognisable as trustworthy, with a clear company culture. You want people to envisage themselves working in the company. To aid this, you should clearly explain what the job involves, use comments from employees to describe what a typical day looks like, and clarify what flexible working you offer.

Use video callsdrop down menu

You may think that remote workers won’t meet and therefore you don’t need to see them. But when we cannot see people face to face, we must rely on other forms of communication. Using video calls in interviews gives you an opportunity to gauge their personality, and give you a sense of how they communicate. Additionally, to a potential employee, use of video calling gives them a chance to see how the business operates. To learn more about conducting video interviews, take a look at our dedicated article.

Ask the right questionsdrop down menu

Many people became remote workers during 2020 and not through choice. Those people will be aware of how much adapting it took to adjust to this way of working. When asking interview questions during your virtual recruitment process, think about what you learned from remote working. For example, instead of asking ‘how do you work collaboratively on projects?’, you may find it more insightful to ask ‘what communication tools do you use when working with remote teams?’

Consider techdrop down menu

The advancements in technology are what really make remote working possible, and profitable. When hiring candidates, make sure they have access to good internet and the right technology. They may need training but it is essential they can use the tools the rest of the company operates with. This will enable your new start to be productive wherever they are. Furthermore, paying attention to your candidates and employees’ working environment shows great commitment from the company to the individual. This is a real bonus for onboarding – and it helps you to keep informed of their wellbeing and prevent isolation.

Be culturally awaredrop down menu

Virtual employees could come from anywhere in the world, and that is one of their strengths. However, as a manager, you must understand cultural differences and how they can impact on a person’s communication and work style. Studies show that diverse teams come up with more creative solutions, so make the time to understand the background that your candidates are operating from.

Communicate company culturedrop down menu

It can be difficult for new starts to get a good sense of the company culture when working away from a centralised hub. Therefore, as a manager it’s important to introduce virtual employees to the company’s values and culture early on. Understanding the company’s vision, mission and values helps build a team, with everyone working towards the same goals. Communicating these to your remote new starts will deepen their connection and build better working relationships.

Set specific goals and expectationsdrop down menu

Remote workers should be just that, able to work whenever they are online. They shouldn’t be held up by a bad manager or a company’s lack of direction. Make sure when hiring, the candidate knows what is expected of them. As a manager, take the time to define short and long term goals and keep them on track with scheduled meetings and catch ups. This will encourage good productivity and also help resolve any potential issues or conflicts.

Include an assessmentdrop down menu

A useful way of differentiating between candidates is to ask them to complete a small assessment. For example, you could ask for a typing test for an admin role or a plan of a social media content calendar for a marketing role. Remember to keep assignments short and explain that you will not use their work beyond the interview process. An assessment will give you an idea of their skills, their motivation and how they tackle a task. You can use this to evaluate whether the candidate can do the job, and assess their ability and skills for the role.

Remote onboarding is key to making sure your virtual employees are happy, aligned with the company and working effectively. It can be difficult to manage, with concerns over staff isolation and their wellbeing, the risk of time theft, and too much micromanagement. The tips and advice outlined in this article should give you a good foundation for hiring virtual teams, but remember it is a learning curve. As a manager, be aware that people are unique and it’s up to you to find what works best for you and your team.  

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