by Sarah K. White

5 tips for remote IT onboarding

Jul 10, 20207 mins
IT LeadershipIT SkillsStaff Management

If you're hiring during the pandemic, onboarding can be tricky. IT leaders share advice for developing a secure, seamless onboarding process for new IT hires at a distance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way we get work done, with employees across the world working remotely. And, while some companies are laying off workers or shuttering their doors, others have found themselves in a hiring pinch, scrambling to recruit and onboard enough workers to meet increased demands.

If your company is facing the need for new talent during the pandemic, you might be wondering how to onboard new workers remotely. Since you can’t fly new hires in for onboarding and training, you’ll need to get creative to ensure new workers are acclimated to their roles from day one and feel like a part of the team.

Here are five tips to make a good first impression on your new hires when onboarding online.

Automate what you can

Automation is the easiest way to alleviate mundane tasks, minimize paperwork and get new hires all the information they need seamlessly. Kirsten Wolberg, CTO of DocuSign, says her team utilizes Slackbots to cut down on some of the first day back and forth that can occur with paperwork, onboarding documents and new-hire introductions.

When a new hire logs into Slack, they’re automatically set up with the necessary Slack channels for their role. Each channel includes relevant and necessary documentation for their role or department and also gives them access to team members who can answer questions. There’s also a Slackbot that automatically introduces new hires to the company after they fill out a short questionnaire. That gives people the opportunity to get to know a new hire and introduce themselves in the chat.

If it isn’t already, make sure to get all of your onboarding documentation and content online and in the cloud as soon as possible. This makes all important documentation easily accessible so new hires can quickly find what they’re looking for. Make sure you have Slack channels, or something similar, that are clearly defined and can act as an easy resource for new hires when they need to revisit processes or reach out to someone in specific department.

Plan for roadblocks

According to Miles Ward, CTO at SADA Systems, the company has been hiring remote workers for over 15 years — but in the past, new employees would be flown out to the headquarters for onboarding and training. During their time in the office, the IT department would configure their hardware on-site. But due to COVID-19, it’s no longer feasible to fly out new hires so the process has moved entirely online. And, with unpredictable shipping times, Ward’s team has shifted to holding inventory at home with the IT personnel responsible for onboarding.

“It’s been much easier for us, and more reliable, to have inventory held at home with the IT leads that are in charge of these different groups of our team. They’re able to get everything configured and set up the way that they like it there and then package all of it as a single shipment that goes to the employee,” says Ward.

In the welcome box they also include t-shirts, stickers and other corporate-branded swag to help make new hires feel a part of the culture from day one, even if they can’t be in the office. Ward’s team also signs up new hires for a snack delivery box as a replacement for the snacks offered in the office kitchens. These small touches can help make up for the change in onboarding. While you can’t enmesh employees in the company culture physically, there are small things you can do to make the remote onboarding experience more engaging.

Tap into your current tools

If you’re taking your onboarding process online, you’ll want to tap into your current remote workforce to see what tools work best for employees who already work remotely. Choose a standardized platform for communication and try to pick something people are most familiar with — like Slack or G Suite. This can help minimize the learning curve when you bring a new employee on, especially if they won’t have the advantage of in-person training on new systems or hardware.

Avon Puri, CIO of Rubrik, says his team has found it valuable to rely on popular tools such as Salesforce, Slack and G Suite because most new hires in the tech industry are already working with these tools at other companies. You’ll face less headaches if you embrace popular cloud tools rather than a proprietary or niche software system since the learning curve will be lower. New IT hires will be able to get up and running quicker without being trained on different tools. 

Single sign-on (SSO) is another way to make life easier for onboarding your new IT workers. You can easily automate the SSO process, so employees are automatically enrolled in the right systems they need to get their work done. Using these tools that are already implemented in the workplace can help smooth the transition to remote onboarding.

Showcase your company culture

Wolberg says DocuSign transitioned to remote hiring and onboarding one to two weeks before Seattle and San Francisco issued stay-in-place orders. Knowing that a big part of the interview process is giving candidates a feel for the office culture, Wolberg and her team went through the office taking videos and photos to show new hires where they’d someday be working.

“We’ve also tried to bring as much of ourselves into the interviews as possible by talking a lot more and truly articulating what’s unique and special culturally about the organization. And trying to put into words those intangibles to help describe to an employee what it’s like to work at DocuSign,” says Wolberg.

Wolberg’s team also engages in 10-minute dance sessions over video chat, which relieves stress and gives new hires an informal platform to bond with coworkers. The company also hosts “Ask Me Anything” meetings that give everyone an opportunity to ask questions, put faces to names and learn more about the organization.

There are plenty of ways to showcase your corporate culture, for example, Ward says at SADA they have virtually celebrated Pride, hosted cooking shows and held other events that would typically happen in-office. The hope is that these will help current employees feel engaged with the company, even while remote, and can give new hires a chance to understand what SADA is all about and how they fit into the culture.

Leave a good first impression

Consider your onboarding process as your company’s first impression. You want to welcome new remote workers with a seamless experience when signing on to work for their first day. Wolberg’s team gets employees into the office culture from the moment they boot up their company-issued laptop. The loading screens include information about DocuSign and as the computer configures itself, videos about working at DocuSign play for the new employee.

Small touches like this can help employees feel engaged from the first day and build a sense of the company culture. You want to make sure new hires feel as though they made the right choice accepting your job offer. It might be difficult for your tech workers to feel enthusiastic about their new role if they’re met with a messy or stressful onboarding process. 

“I think you have to be really conscious of that because it’s important that you have [your onboarding process] streamlined and frictionless as possible for your new hire so they feel like ‘okay, I did the right thing’,” says Wolberg.