Remote onboarding tips from Asana’s Head of People, Anna Binder
May 21st, 2020
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For teams that are still hiring, it can be hard to know how to onboard a new employee without ever interacting face-to-face. Even with video calls and clear channels of communication, parts of your onboarding program will be different in light of new remote work standards.
To help keep new hires engaged and help managers everywhere bring the same level of care and authenticity to remote onboarding as they do to regular onboarding, we asked Asana’s Head of People, Anna Binder, to share some tips. Here’s what she had to say.
Tips for managers onboarding new hires remotely
1. Connect with new teammates before they start
To ensure that new employees feel connected to their team, we encourage managers to reach out to their new hires to get acquainted before their start date. At Asana, we keep new hires engaged by communicating with them before their start date with information they might need, details about what their first day will look like, and a friendly “hello” from their team.
Make sure you’re included on all pre-onboarding communications, so you can jump in to offer additional support. People often have questions before starting a new job, particularly at a time when so much is changing around us. By providing the new hire with a direct line of communication to their manager and teammates, they can get questions answered and reduce the uncertainty that can build up before even starting.
On top of that, we encourage setting up a mentorship program between new hires and existing members of your team or an adjacent team. At Asana, we pair new hires with a mentor that isn’t their manager—nobody wants to ask their manager a bunch of questions in their first week. So we designate a teammate to be that go-to person for them. From a volunteer group of onboarding mentors, we select a mentor for each new hire so that they have a trusted guide providing motivation and emotional support. Having a mentor or workplace buddy is especially important for remote onboarding, so the new hire has someone to provide workplace context and touchpoints in their first few weeks.
2. Make the first day count
Onboarding is a pivotal moment, where you can make employees feel like it’s as special as the first day of school. However, the focus is frequently on getting people ramped up and contributing, instead of helping them settle into a new culture and creating a space for them to be their true selves.
When onboarding new employees remotely, start by ensuring that all critical resources—like team directories, shared calendars, and internal communication channels—are easily and clearly accessible, but not the core focus of the day. Then, do your best to replicate the feeling of being in the same room as other teammates. We do this by creating an online community for new hires on Slack, organizing virtual welcome lunches, and setting up one-on-one virtual coffee dates with teammates they will be working with in their role.
At the end of the day, take the time to check in with your new remote hire to recap their first day and create space for them to share how it went. Additionally, ask whether there is anything that can be improved or changed to help them feel more connected. These practices help to ensure that new hires feel seen, heard, and included right from the start.
3. Don’t assume that you can rely on the same communication norms
The communication norms you created as an in-person team may not be right when you’re distributed. Take the time to create a new “contract” about your work from home team norms, communication expectations, and check in frequency. Then, clarify these expectations for the new hire.
Part of creating an inclusive remote team is making sure everyone has easy access to what’s going on and clear visibility into how their work connects to the larger team’s goals. With Asana, team members can search and access all of this information—even if they work on different schedules. It works—according to the Anatomy of Work: Remote Teams Survey, nearly two-thirds (62%) of global workers are using collaboration software, messaging, and video conferencing tools more while working from home. Additionally, almost 25% of US workers are using collaboration tools for the first time.
Be open and transparent with new hires by asking them how they prefer to communicate, and set clear agreements about how you will work together. To cultivate trust from day one, we encourage managers to start by sharing their own vulnerability—be real about your current work from home experience and what your boundaries are. This creates a space for the new hire to feel safe to open up about their experience, ultimately fostering a strong, long-term relationship between managers and their team.
4. Introduce your new teammate to different workplace communities
Joining a remote team can be isolating, and it might be difficult for your new hire to connect with your team and the company at large. In order to make the transition as smooth and inclusive as possible, ask the new hire if there are any workplace communities they’d like to be connected to, or any Employee Resource Groups they’d like to join.
In particular, pay attention to groups that may be disproportionately affected by working remotely. Underrepresented minorities, parents, and team members in different time zones are all experiencing additional challenges to working remotely, so taking the initiative to connect them with company communities early on is the best way to create an inclusive community and empower a new hire to be their authentic selves.
Are you starting a remote job? Here’s how to lay the groundwork for remote work success
1. Get clarity on boundaries and expectations
The rhythm and pace of our work right now—and what constitutes a productive day—has changed. According to the Anatomy of Work: Remote Teams Survey, nearly 60% of global employees are working different hours now than before, and nearly 80% of parents are homeschooling their children while managing work. This can be disorienting for new hires, especially those who are balancing more responsibilities at home, like supporting distance-learning for their children.
As a new hire, be sure to ask what kind of flexibility your employer offers before you start, and how to best communicate your availability when working from home. Start by asking HR first, then discuss any additional details with your manager.
At Asana, we encourage all employees to mark their calendars with the hours that they are or aren’t available, their needs for mental health breaks, and any regularly scheduled time off. Clarity is kind, and it’s important to remember that being at home and working is not a replacement for vacation days.
2. Join different communities at your company.
If available, ask your manager about interest-driven groups at your new company. For example, there might be an Employee Resource Group hosting regular talks or internal channels focused on things you love—like bread baking, yoga, movies, or music. See if you can get connected to these groups, so you can get involved and meet new people from across the company.
When you’re new, there’s a lot of information being thrown at you. You might find it challenging to navigate learning about a new company on top of trying to find your communities while being remote. If you’re unsure about the opportunities or ways to get involved, schedule time to discuss with your manager or a teammate in your first week. It is so much harder to opt into activities and gatherings when they are not in person, so proactivity seeking them out and asking about them are key.
Finding communities you love in your new workplace is more important than ever for remote workers. If you’re struggling to connect with an entire community, try to reach out to an individual person or a team member you’ve gotten to know, and ask them for help setting up a lunch or coffee conversation.
Join the team!
We’re still hiring—and onboarding—remotely. Check out our open positions, and apply today.