How to successfully onboard a new (virtual) team member

Giovanni Dubois
By Giovanni Dubois on October 28, 2021

Engageli is fully remote; the team spans five countries, and represents eight time zones and nine US states! While working remotely has its benefits, it also has its challenges. Here are some of the things we’ve learned (and still learning) along the way.

Remote workers take longer to onboard

Having the team spread out around the world has its benefits, but it also means team members are not together daily, and it might take longer to bring new hires up to speed and integrate them into the organization. At Engageli, we create onboarding plans with specific goals. This keeps the overwhelming “new kid” feelings to a minimum, and also helps the hiring manager and new hire to accomplish specific goals in distinct periods (e.g., 14, 30, 60 days). We like to start with small tasks to get familiar with all of the different systems, technologies, processes, procedures, policies, etc.

Other helpful tips, as it’s easy to forget when you’re settled into your role:

      • Set up 1:1s with senior leaders to describe the company’s vision, and the team’s immediate, medium, and long-term goals. This helps make your new hire feel like they are part of the team 
      • Explain the purpose of recurring meetings, and what the expected inputs and outcomes are
      • Provide a clear organizational structure to help your new teammate visualize the reporting relationships and the flow of information 
      • There should be a clear definition of what “remote” work means. Is there travel involved? How often? Are the workday hours flexible or set?
      • New employees should investigate the best or easiest way to communicate with management and team members. Define the core communication channels; we use a combination of tools, including Slack, and of course, Engageli!

Most importantly, acknowledge the learning curve. Things can feel uncertain or confusing when starting a new job in general, and even more so when you are remote. New employees have entered an entirely new ecosystem, and things will take time to adjust.

Foster employee connections 

Everyone is, hopefully, working toward your business’s success, but creating a strong culture and community creates a more pleasant working environment. At Engageli, we have weekly All Hands meetings to motivate employees and express appreciation. Employees talk about their accomplishments for the week, which promotes not only support but employee recognition.  

We also have special Slack channels specifically to share “just for fun” items, and schedule virtual coffee dates for pairs of team members. This helps to develop emotional connections to the workplace. The “kudos” channel in Slack encourages coworkers to see and recognize positive attributes in one another; just because we are remote doesn’t mean we don’t want to be recognized for our accomplishments by leadership either publicly or privately. 

It’s also helpful to:

      • Set regular project-related meetings, not just all encompassing statuses
      • Promote just-for-fun or “watercooler” chats to talk about non-work related topics; have events such as virtual happy hours or share virtual coffee to discuss non-work related topics
      • Promote 1:1 meetings to build strong relationships
      • Have regular in-person team gatherings, if possible. While we haven’t formally done this yet, organically, some employees have had the good fortune to do this

Promote boundaries

At Engageli, we are parents, siblings, partners, pet owners, and friends first. Just because we work from home doesn’t mean we live at work. It’s okay to block your calendar or set an away message on Slack. It’s healthy to block off time in your day to get work done without interruption or pick your children up at school. Unless there is an emergency, it’s okay to take time to thoughtfully respond to messages. 

Because our team crosses eight time zones, we expect and encourage video call visits with children and furry family members, just not noisy neighbors! 

Break travel barriers

One of the biggest benefits of being 100% remote is the ability to take your job on the road. Just make sure to check the internet speed prior to arrival, and don’t forget to pack your power adapters and ethernet cables. Most importantly, post your travel photos on slack!

We are still learning

We don’t have all the answers, and something we are trying to solve is how to create a community with new and existing team members with fewer virtual meetings. Luckily, the Engageli platform allows for a more engaging and friendly environment for virtual interaction. We create fun activities to get to know each other and create great discussions.   

What tips do you have to build community?

Published by
Giovanni Dubois
Giovanni Dubois
October 28, 2021