Leading a remote team takes a lot of fortitude and forethought — even when you’re used to the
work. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, though, thousands of team leaders have found
themselves, willing or not, adapting to the life of a remote team leader.
While there are many pros and cons that come with managing remote teams, one of the bigger
challenges can be transitioning a new member into an existing group. If you’re suddenly facing
the prospect of onboarding new employees into an existing digital workspace, here are some
tips and tricks to keep in mind in order to make the process as smooth and uncomplicated as
As one might expect, one of the easiest ways to streamline the onboarding process is by taking
advantage of the host of digital tools available for remote workers.
At this point in the game, there is a remote tool for any and every business activity. From
communication to organization, information, productivity, and so on, if you utilize the tools
available, it can make your job a lot easier. A few of the most important remote tools to have on
hand for the onboarding process, in particular, include:
Electronic signatures may look sketchy on the surface, but they are legitimate, binding
agreements that can make it easy to cut through the onboarding red tape.
Rather than worrying about faxing or, heaven forbid, snail mailing hand-written signatures back
and forth, a remote team manager can use electronic signatures to make the paperwork end of
the deal go quickly.
Unless you want a constant string of questions from a new employee, it’s good to have digital
versions of all of your operational documents easily available in a shared online space.
Employee handbooks, brand and voice guidelines, procedural documentation, and really any
other items that thoroughly explain how your team operates should be readily available for a
Workflow platforms like Trello, Asana, and Podio are all extremely helpful in bringing everyone
together on the same digital page. File sharing options like Google Drive and Dropbox can also
make remote work infinitely smoother.
However, a new employee may struggle to understand how your particular team utilizes these
services. With that in mind, consider creating instructional videos with a screen capture program
in order to demonstrate precisely how you want your remote employees to use your system.
While communication could technically be included in the above list, it’s crucial enough to
deserve its own section. Communication is the operative element for a remote team, as without
it everyone becomes stranded in their own remote work islands.
It’s essential that you establish clear communication preferences for your team and then ensure
that new hires are well-informed and up to date on these options.
For instance, when it comes to text and image-driven communication, Slack has long been
lauded as one of the best project management tools for remote teams. It allows your employees
to control and organize their professional conversations within a single communication tool as
well as share files and other media. If you utilize Slack, make sure to explain to a new recruit
how your team specifically uses the software.
The same goes for the other primary remote work communication tool: video conferencing.
When it comes to video conferences, it’s important to establish what software is preferable for
your team to use. Tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype all have their pros and cons,
and it’s important to figure out what works best for your particular situation.
Once you do that, it’s equally important to establish how your team communicates within the
platform. When meeting, do you establish a “wooden spoon policy” such as Zoom’s “Raise
Hand” feature so that you know who is waiting to talk?
What about scheduling difficulties? If your employees live in different time zones you may need
to use a scheduling app like Doodle in order to find the best time for everyone involved.
As you flesh out these items, it’s important to consider how you’ll communicate them to a new
employee. Again, a document or instructional video can be a simple and effective way to have a
new employee walk through all of your communication procedures. If you add a basic, bulletized
document that highlights the main takeaways as well, you should be able to avoid future
While employees and employers alike across the globe are adjusting to a remote work world,
it’s the latter, in particular, that must find creative, productive solutions to interesting
conundrums like onboarding in order to keep their teams functioning smoothly online.
As you onboard new employees remotely, you must get ready to instruct them regarding how
your remote team operates. Everything from how your team communicates to how to use your
workflow platforms, file sharing options, procedural documents, and even something as simple
as sending a digital signature must be presented in an educational format.
However, if you can take all of these into consideration before you start the process, you should
be able to cobble together a remote onboarding experience that is as painless as possible.
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