How to Create an Effective Onboarding-From-Anywhere Process

Onboarding remote employees is hard. Getting it right is even harder. Here’s how we do it at MURAL.

Written by Adriana Roche
Published on Jun. 29, 2022
How to Create an Effective Onboarding-From-Anywhere Process
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They say you never get a second chance at a first impression, but we’re not sure that’s totally true. While your new hires experienced a taste of your company culture during the interview process, the real first impression happens during onboarding. With the great reshuffling still in progress, going beyond that first impression to helping new hires build connection to their peers, the company culture, and the vision right away is more critical than ever.  

How you welcome your employees and get them up and running will — for better or worse — set the stage for their experience working at your company. And for hybrid, remote and work-from-anywhere (WFA) teams, onboarding is even more important (and challenging) to get right. 

4 Things for an Effective Onboarding-From-Anywhere Process

  1. A digital-first mindset
  2. A team charter
  3. A quick-start guide
  4. A way to jump in

We’re not just talking about the logistical parts of bringing a new person onboard. Yes, you’ll need to register them in your payroll system, finalize their paperwork and set up their logins. But you’ll also need to make them feel like part of the team and help them get comfortable with the group’s collaboration and communication styles, habits, and processes — including the guidelines and methods you use to make space for imagination and encourage creativity.

If you’re thinking that all of this sounds like a big to-do list, you’re not wrong. But in this case, a little planning and foresight — plus a few handy tools — can go a long way. The goal? To get your new hires up and running, connected to the rest of the team and ready to imagine new possibilities.

 

What You Need for Effective Onboarding-From-Anywhere (OFA) 

Remote, hybrid and work-from-anywhere (WFA) workplaces are becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. However, that means your latest cohort of new hires might be located across time zones, countries or continents. Some may be fully remote, while others might be available for some in-person face time. And scheduling will probably be a little nuts. 

So, how do you make onboarding-from-anywhere work? By having the following prerequisites ready to roll, you’ll be well on your way to OFA success. 

 

1. A Digital-First Mindset

Digital-first thinking is critical to effective WFA collaboration. It involves recognizing that every decision, process, resource, etc. must prioritize a digital component. Why? Because making digital the default means that every employee, no matter their location, has access to the same information.

This is not the time for half measures. As we like to say, if it isn’t digital, it didn’t happen. Building and maintaining connection with your team requires a sense of being in a shared space — regardless of where (or when) that space is. If some people are in the office while others aren’t, this can create a “here vs. there” dynamic that will inevitably lead to disconnection — unless it’s managed.

That’s why any onboarding materials, documentation and activities must exist in a digital format. Planning a new hire mixer? Make sure you include a way for remote employees to participate. Creating an official company org chart? You’ll need a digital version as well. As you flesh out the details of your OFA process, consider each item within a digital-first context.  

More Remote Onboarding Support From Built InHow to Create a Successful Remote Onboarding Plan

 

2. A Team Charter

One potential problem WFA teams face is a lack of clarity around the norms of collaboration and engagement. To get your new team members up and running ASAP, you need to clearly establish these rules and make them easy to find and review. Your new hires need (and want) to know what the guidelines are in order to effectively participate in team discussions. For example, how do decisions get communicated? Slack? A shared doc? What are the rules for disagreement? When is it ok to share a new idea? How do these ideas get captured? 

A team charter answers these questions and more. Doing this with your team (or revisiting it when your team grows) is a way to create a social contract. Because you do this with your team, they naturally have buy-in because they co-created the charter.

In addition to providing the framework for creative discussion and proposing innovative solutions, your team charter establishes the foundation for psychological safety — a key component for sustaining connection.  

 

3. A Quick Start Guide

Joining a new company is both exciting and nerve wracking. There’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time, both about the company and the specific position. To save your new hires some stress, we recommend crafting a high-level overview or quick start guide to your org. Basically, create a (digital!) rundown of everything your newbies need to know right off the bat. 

Also, why not make it fun? One activity that’s both informative and interactive is the Onboarding Road Trip. As participants make their way down the road, they’ll visit various pit stops related to your company, like your: 

  • Mission and/or vision
  • Culture and values
  • Company history
  • Org structure and leadership
  • Main product lines/areas

The template agenda includes time for Q and A, along with designated spaces for directing new hires to additional important information, such as a resource center, intranet, team charter(s), HR policy book, etc. At the end of the road, your new hires take a load off by the virtual campfire and play a card game that lets them reflect on their onboarding journey. 

Ready to plan out your own onboarding road trip? Use this template, which also includes a handy example (spoiler alert: it’s ours). Or, if amusement parks are more your thing, we have a variation for that as well. 

Built In Experts Have a Lot of Opinions About This . . .Hey Managers, Here’s How to Get Remote Onboarding Right

 

4. A Way to Jump In

Feeling connected to your team is an important result of the onboarding process. Yes, the logistical stuff is all well and good, but in the end, you really want your new hires to feel comfortable, safe and welcomed enough to participate in meetings, share ideas and take the reins on upcoming projects.

 They need a shared space where they can learn, engage, play and brainstorm both synchronously and asynchronously. At MURAL, we call these collaboration spaces and they’re a critical component in fostering an inclusive and cooperative WFA culture. 

While a sense of connection can be particularly challenging for remote, hybrid and WFA workplaces, there are plenty of ways to encourage your new hires to build connections with their colleagues, find others who share their interests and experiences, and ultimately, consider themselves an integral part of the team. Some we use at MURAL include:

We also regularly use icebreakers, check-ins and energizers in our meetings, which we’ve found really help loosen the mood and ease any nerves the newbies may have by making it easy to learn about others in a low-risk way. Other tools for culture-building include affinity groups, dedicated Slack channels and communities, and regular Zoom meetups.

Free Built In ToolkitSuccessfully Onboard Remote Employees

 

Special Consideration: Entry-Level Employees

The last two years have forced many organizations to transform from fully (or mostly) in-office to fully remote very quickly. For experienced employees, this sudden shift was certainly jarring and difficult. However, for employees just starting out in the workforce, the new normal was, well, their only normal. 

The long-term effects of beginning a career in this unusual way are the subject of a lot of debate and speculation. According to an excerpt from Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel’s book Out of Office, remote work is pretty much the worst way to kick off your career. While it can definitely be hard for new-to-the-workforce employees to ramp up in a remote or WFA environment, a bit of planning and creativity can solve most of the big hurdles. 

Entry-level employees, no matter their location, need clarity, consistency, and direction. Artifacts like team charters and team agreements are crucial for establishing ground rules when it comes to collaboration, and should address the basics around corporate communication. Digital one-on-one templates are helpful for getting entry-level employees and their managers on the same page and for encouraging regular check-ins and conversations about goals and career growth. And anything that allows new workers to join a community (affinity groups, book clubs, virtual water coolers, etc.) will go a long way toward making them feel at home.

A formal mentorship program that pairs first-time employees with veterans within the same team is also a great idea. Chances are, your more experienced employees would welcome the opportunity to share their knowledge of everything from professional norms to company-specific quirks. 

 

How We Onboard From Anywhere at MURAL

As a work-from-anywhere company that also works with a lot of WFA companies, MURAL has plenty of experience bringing remote employees onboard successfully. Here’s a little bit about how we do it at MURAL. 

 

Meet the MURAL 30/60/90-Day Plan

To get our new hires up and running quickly, we create a 30/60/90-day plan for each individual. A 30/60/90-day plan maps out a new employee's goals, as well as their strategies to meet those goals within the first 90 days. The overall program includes learning/onboarding paths, expectations and milestones. And because we’re all about visual collaboration, we lay out the plan in an engaging and interactive way that uses our product. That means our employees learn how to use MURAL while learning about MURAL. Also, laying this information out in a clear and concise manner helps entry-level employees know exactly what is expected of them. 

 

Collaborative Intelligence

In a hybrid and WFA world, collaboration — especially in a remote or hybrid team — can no longer be left to chance. Collaborative Intelligence is a new systematic approach that helps teams realize their true potential, learn how to become better at working together, and even measure teamwork over time. This new system is incredibly useful during the new-hire stage as it can be a key indicator in rewarding creativity and imagination, which helps identify how well your newly-formed team is collaborating.

In addition to murals, our onboarding materials include traditional documents and other reading materials (available in our resource center), along with in-person sessions with leadership via one-on-ones, all hands meeting, and team retreats. We try to be as flexible and accommodating as possible to best meet the various needs and preferences of all of our employees, no matter what career stage they’re in.

Before You Go Somewhere Boring, Check This Out3 Strategies for Recruiting the Best Tech Talent Post-Pandemic

 

Diving Right In

The end goal of your onboarding-from-anywhere process, regardless of the specific form(s) it takes, is to create an engaging, informative and inspiring experience that leaves your new hires ready to put their best foot forward, and their teams excited to welcome their unique contributions and perspectives.    

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