By Ethan Drower
Transitioning to a remote culture and growing a fully virtual team can either be an asset for a company, or it can bring forth a significant set of problems over time. While the shift to interviewing, hiring, and training your latest employees remotely nets you overwhelmingly positive advantages, it’s important to strive to constantly improve just how effective your new remote employees will be.
We at CiteMed have been hiring and onboarding remote employees long before the era of COVID-19 ‘forced’ remote work. I have come across these key ways to make the process more frictionless, enjoyable, and, ultimately, effective for our new hires:
Have a Single Person Responsible
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how overwhelming a first day can be for a new employee regardless of their location. There are names to learn, processes to figure out, and, of course, the desire to be as useful as possible to their new team.
When a remote employee starts, it’s easy to just blast out a group email to all their relevant departments and have people get in touch to schedule intro calls and training. However, we have found that this can be incredibly overwhelming for a new person (no one likes to have their Slack messages blown up on the first day by people they are stressed about responding to).
To handle this, we recommend assigning a single “gatekeeper to onboarding” that is responsible for all internal company outreach. The new hire now only has to worry about communication with a single person, and they can relax knowing that the pace of onboarding is regulated through one friendly face.
Centralize Your Knowledge Base
Most companies that are new to remote working have absolutely horrendous documentation — scattered documents across the company’s ‘share drive’, piecemeal processes sent over email, and the list goes on and on.
By simply choosing a more effective tool for organizing instructional wiki pages in a central location, you make the life of a new remote hire 10 times easier. They can search for documents as they need them, browse things at their leisure, and, ultimately, get their head around how your team operates much faster.
The tool you use for this comes down to personal preference. We love Notion, and have recently moved everything related to documentation under its umbrella. However, don’t spend too much time fretting over the tool you use, as the only things that matter are that it can be centralized and your team consistently updates the pages they are responsible for.
Personalized Intro Videos
No employee likes to feel like a cog in the machine. Even if your company is large, personalized touches like a welcoming Loom video from directors/team members will go a long way in making a remote worker feel like they are a part of a team.
Recording and sending videos also reduces the “intro” friction on your existing team members, as many are likely already too busy to try and coordinate a non-essential call during their workdays. Videos keep the burden on your current staff low, while still making the new staff feel welcome and valued.
Micro-Tasks to Complete Over Screen Share
No matter how good your instructions and documentation get within your company, some things will get lost in translation for a new hire. This is where live work sessions become worth their weight in gold. When you are ready to give the new hire a well defined “micro-task”, jump on a screen share call with them and let them struggle through the process with you there to support as needed.
This not only reduces time spent waiting for basic questions to be answered, but also it lets you see where the holes in your documentation are. If two or three new hires get stuck on the same task at the same point, you might want to consider revising how you have explained it to them.
For a new hire, we generally try to prepare a list of 2-3 tasks that can be completed within 15 minutes each. Ideally these are tasks that get them into the various systems/software they’ll be using.
One Thing At a Time
As an online business owner or manager, it’s far too easy to dump all the tasks you have pending onto a new hire. That’s why you hired them, after all! But we have found that this can overwhelm a new employee to the point where they make too little progress on all tasks instead of great progress on one or two tasks.
Starting from zero with a new hire, the goal should be to build momentum and their confidence as you go. Sending single tasks to focus on in sequential order is a great way to get that new employee feeling confident and useful.
Set a Welcoming “Open Door” Policy
One of the most common challenges we face with new remote employees is that they often feel shy about calling other team members and asking for help. We all know how bothersome pesky interruptions can be during the workday, and in a new place it’s easy to hesitate before “bugging” someone you just met virtually an hour ago.
The way we combat this is to set a clear expectation from the start that it’s okay to call/message for the little things. In fact, we encourage it and want our new staff to be as engaged as possible. If you can communicate to a new hire that your culture is welcoming to collaboration, then calls shift in perception from annoyances to valuable collaborations.
Accommodate Multiple Learning Styles (Text, Video, Live Call)
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all people learn the same way online. As a remote business owner or manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure that new hires have the resources they need to be effective at their job.
This often means instructing the person responsible for onboarding to identify what works best for your new hire. Some people want to read everything and be left to their own devices. Others prefer to talk out their issues over a live call. And plenty fall somewhere in between these two.
Put some thought into identifying learning styles and make sure your onboarding process is flexible enough to accommodate different styles. Your new employees will get up to speed faster, and with less stress.
To Wrap It All Up
Efficient, fully remote teams are a thing to behold. Don’t underestimate the value of onboarding and getting new staff from zero to high-performing team members as quickly and painlessly as possible. With a little attention to the details of training that I’ve listed in this article, your remote team should be humming along in no time.
Ethan Drower is the Co-Founder and Operating Partner of CiteMed, which is revolutionizing the European Union Medical Device Regulation (EU MDR) process. Literature Search and Review is the cornerstone of medical device companies’ Clinical Evaluation Report, and CiteMed has made this process more streamlined and optimized than ever. The CiteMed team was formed to deliver a high volume of beautifully written and formatted Literature Reviews on timelines that will enable companies to meet their EU MDR goals. CiteMed’s top goal is to help companies get their medical products to market as quickly as possible, all while maintaining state-of-the-art compliance with the European Commission regulations. A renowned business expert, Ethan educates others on the fundamentals of launching a successful software product, tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, and more. www.citemedical.com