How to Improve Remote Employee Onboarding and Training

woman on video call

From job postings to interviews to trainings, reviews and promotions, every process in the employee lifecycle now takes place in the virtual space. That includes a few areas that might not seem like a priority — such as your new employee onboarding program.

However, overlooking the details of any given process has consequences on a business’s ability to attract and retain top talent. This is true of new employee onboarding, where new hire success can hinge on high-quality delivery of virtual programs and tools. 

Now might be a good time to revisit your onboarding program and adjust. 

We asked Aerotek experts for advice. Strategic Account Executive Chandra Wiezorek and MSP Program Manager Samantha Yingling share four steps to improving retention and employee engagement with your remote onboarding program.

Set the stage with updated materials and clear expectations

The first major adjustment you must make when transitioning from an in-person to a virtual employee onboarding program is to update your learning materials. Everything you teach and train should reflect the reality of the new hire’s tasks and procedures — if they’re remote, their workflows will be too. 

There’s no utility in training new employees on the way things used to be. 

After making sure all onboarding material directly addresses remote workflows, organizations need to add new steps in the onboarding process to ensure access and retention across multiple learning styles. This starts with a pre-onboarding phase that sets clear expectations for equipment requirements, software needs, internet access and any other preparations necessary for an effective first day. 

“If you’re concerned about the learning curve from in-person learning to remote training, the best way to address this is to set expectations and share what the process will include and require prior to first day,” says Yingling.  “a best practice is to create a resource document for new employees to outline expectations and technology requirements” adds Wiezorek.

New expectation-setting employee resources can include a remote onboarding checklist, sent in advance of initial training to make sure all new hires have the right equipment, communications infrastructure, and software. You may want to go over the checklist in an optional welcome call to outline what new hires can expect on the first day and first week on the job.

Know your communication methods and use every tool

To prepare an effective remote onboarding program, organizations must understand every facet of their virtual communication software and take advantage of multiple features to cater to a variety of learning styles. 

“The virtual environment needs to contain a diversity of thought,” says Yingling. “Ensure you’re adaptable in the teaching process and creating a welcoming culture with one-to-one check-ins, but also mix in large or breakout group activities to facilitate different learning styles.”

Teaching styles also need to evolve. Compared to in-person training, remote onboarding suffers from a relative lack of nonverbal cues as a means of providing immediate trainee-trainer feedback. 

“We encourage increased connectivity with more frequent and intentional touchpoints,” says Wiezorek. “And keeping the lines open in multiple ways at once, whether that’s through a hand raising tool, a chat feature, a group notepad or any other tactic available.” 

Consider using the chat function for questions, as well as breakout groups with direct check-ins. Increase the number, frequency, and range in type of retention checks. Also encourage, but don’t require, leaving cameras on as a way of promoting engagement and collaboration. 

Build up your remote onboarding infrastructure

Marathon in-person onboarding sessions may be a relic of the past, so some businesses need to adjust their onboarding infrastructure to better fit the “new reality” of the virtual setting.

The first change regards timing and cadence. 

“Virtual training needs to allow more time in-training for questions and making sure people understand, but on an overall program basis there also needs to be a longer runway for ingestion,” says Wiezorek Yingling adds, “We see success with companies that condense their training into modules with a more narrow focus in smaller class sizes.”

To better deliver on these tweaks, learning and development departments may require structural changes.

Now’s a good time to evaluate whether you need to adjust the supervisor-to-trainer ratio, class size or the number of trainers per session.” Smaller class sizes are working better — 15-20 instead of 30-50 — with initial work activity benefiting from an increased supervisor ratio and reduced team sizes,” says Wiezorek. 

Some necessary changes may go beyond the training team to affect other areas of the hiring cycle or organizational chart. “The speed and rate of engagement throughout hiring and onboarding is a major differentiator — fast, responsive companies incentivize candidates to have urgency and make them feel valued,” says Yingling. “And no matter what the use case is, there needs to be adequate IT infrastructure and support.” 

Prioritize the exchange of information

No matter how proactive you are in building out a killer remote onboarding program, you’ll miss a few considerations. Leave room for future adjustments and encourage feedback and participation in process improvements. 

“Open dialogue about the training process sets a very positive precedent,” says Yingling. “Keeping remote employees engaged and involved can be a challenge at any stage in the employment cycle, so it’s enormously helpful to show them their input is valued and encouraged in the work environment.”

The transition from an in-person to a remote workforce can be a complex process, with potential for many considerations to fall through the cracks.

If your business is hiring new employees, bringing on contingent help or retraining current workers to new remote tasks, high-quality virtual onboarding delivery will be well worth the investment.

To get in touch with a partner who can give specific guidance on your hiring processes, contact Aerotek today.