Hiring, Onboarding, and Retaining Remote Employees in the New Normal
In 2018, 63% of companies had remote workers, yet few companies had policies to guide them, and most companies didn’t do the hiring or onboarding from afar. Then came 2020 and suddenly, companies sent the majority of their workforces home to work as an emergency solution during the pandemic.
Now, as companies look ahead to the end of the pandemic, some employees will return to the office, but a good number will continue working from home permanently. With remote work no longer a one-off option or an emergency solution, companies must determine how to manage remote working for the masses, for the long haul.
Three of the most challenging areas to manage remotely are hiring, onboarding, and retaining employees.
Hiring from afar
Some managers are reluctant to hire someone sight unseen. It’s natural to want to establish a personal connection with an employee, and that’s harder to do when the interview is conducted on Zoom or by phone. But hiring remotely also has advantages.
It opens up the candidate pool geographically. Instead of the job being limited to people who can commute to headquarters every day, employers can consider qualified candidates throughout the region, country, or even world, which makes it easier to fill the job.
By its nature, the remote hiring process requires more structure and relies more on data, than “gut” feeling. These aspects help minimize unconscious bias--especially affinity bias, where people tend to hire those who are like them, and not who might be best for the position.
Onboarding remote workers
It’s hard enough to hire someone you’ve never met. It’s even harder to bring that person on board and help them acclimate to the company. When working remotely, the new person doesn’t have co-workers who can stop by their cubicle to say hello or ask if they want to head out for a cup of coffee. The newbie doesn’t get the benefit of water cooler conversation or onsite company activities to help them feel part of the organization.
That’s why companies must have an intentional remote onboarding process. It starts with thinking about that new employee experience. What technology do they need to get up and running? How will they get the technology and what support will you provide for them to set it up? Be sure to clearly communicate to them so they understand exactly what to expect and who to contact for help.
Next, what kind of onboarding paperwork needs to be completed? Although necessary, this process is often mind-numbing and repetitive at a time when an employee is antsy to learn and contribute. Streamlining onboarding with an online process speeds up the task and reduces errors and frustration.
Beyond the processes, onboarding is about helping an employee feel at home in the work environment and this takes time. Too many onboarding processes end after the first week when the employee is still just becoming familiar with things. The manager should plan to maintain onboarding activities for the first few months and enlist other employees to participate as peers and mentors.
Retaining remote workers
One of the best ways to retain new employees is to provide a structured onboarding experience. Several studies back this one, with one finding that companies with structured onboarding have 50% better new hire retention, and another finding that 69% of employees who have a great onboarding experience are more likely to stay with the company for another three years.
As painful as 2020 was, some of the behaviors leaders and employees automatically adopted during the crisis are also useful for retaining remote workers. Leaders were more intentional in communicating with their teams as circumstances quickly changed. Knowing the high-stress workers were under, many leaders checked in often, not just for updates on task accomplishments, but to see how employees were faring emotionally. As many companies upped their digital capabilities, employees used these advancements to collaborate and socialize with colleagues. Although by now, some may have Zoom Happy Hour fatigue, it will always be critical for leaders and employees to schedule times to gather, celebrate and commiserate.
Remote employees’ job locations may not change, but that doesn’t mean they want their careers to be stagnant. They still want development and advancement opportunities. Company leaders must manage employee performance and development opportunities for employees-- remote or not-- to move forward in their careers.
As companies look at remote work as a sustained way of doing business, they need to develop structures that standardize and streamline processes. On top of that, leaders must be intentional in their efforts to connect with employees in ways that translate across the miles.
See how SyncHR’s HCM can enhance your talent management, onboarding, and retention process.