Best Practices

How to Onboard a Remote Team

Remote team onboarding can be challenging. Reduced opportunities for in-person collaboration training can slow down the process — if it isn’t optimised. Here’s how to onboard remote accounting teams.

Whether your team members work from the office or home, they must receive a fantastic onboarding experience. So, have you got the right systems in place, or are you just hoping for the best? 

We’re living in an increasingly digital world, with everything from shopping to communication taking place online. This is not a bad thing; at Pixie, we champion using digital workflows to increase productivity and consistency.

However, some accounting firms struggle to adapt their ways of working to fit remote workers. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, technological advancements continue to evolve, allowing accounting firms to take their operations online. This digital shift can offer business benefits in terms of productivity, reduced operating costs, and workplace satisfaction.

But you won’t gain these benefits if you fail to onboard your remote staff effectively. Believe me when I say I speak from experience. Staff loyalty, optimised workflow, healthy work culture, and customer satisfaction are impossible to establish without a proper onboarding process. In fact, in one study, 79% of respondents stated that 'onboarding speeds up the time required to integrate into the company culture.’

In this article, you’ll learn how to overcome the challenges of remote team onboarding to provide the best virtual onboarding experience possible.

The challenges of remote working

Often, the workplace practices that offer the best benefits present the most challenges. But you can’t produce diamonds without pressure. So, while remote working provides improved flexibility, productivity, and profitability, we must be realistic about its challenges — sticking your head in the sand does not prevent the tide from coming in. 

To tailor your onboarding strategy to best suit remote workers, you must first understand their challenges. Here are some examples:

  • There are fewer opportunities for face-to-face communication when working remotely, which can inhibit creativity and prevent collaboration
  • Collaboration is more challenging without a direct line of contact 
  • Lines between home time and work time become blurred, leading to overworking and burnout
  • Accountability is harder to establish with a remote team, especially if your firm doesn’t have a culture of transparency
  • Lower levels of communication, collaboration and accountability make it harder to spot struggling team members

How to onboard a remote team

So, how do we bridge the gap between the benefits and the challenges? By tailoring our onboarding strategies to remote teams, of course. Let’s look at seven helpful strategies.

Start ahead of time

If you want your remote teams to start on the right foot, the onboarding process should begin well before their first day. The first days (and even the first weeks) are well-known for being the time dedicated to administrative and tech set-up, and this process can become especially drawn out when setting up a remote team.

However, when working in an office environment, recruits can explore the office and chat with colleagues while they wait for their computers to get set up; remote workers don’t enjoy these luxuries.

To make the remote onboarding process as smooth as possible, get your new team members up on your tools, such as email accounts, communication tools and practice management software, as early as possible. On their first day, they should already have had their login details shared with them, reducing the amount of downtime they experience.

You can also compile a list of helpful files and links for them to review on their first day, pre-fill their calendar with inductions with you and existing team members across the firm, and arrange a ‘get-to-know-you’ call with their new team!

Assign a mentor or buddy

Being the new one at a company can feel isolating at the best of times, and this is especially true for remote teams. If you’re hiring more than one team member at the same time, it’s worth onboarding them simultaneously to ease them into your firm’s culture.

You can also assign each new team member a mentor or buddy who can guide them in their first few weeks at the firm. Replace guesswork with teamwork and personally integrate your newest new team members into your accounting firm with virtual collaboration.

Create a digital handbook

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when onboarding remote workers is not offering their recruits adequate support. One study showed that only 29% of new hires feel prepared and supported to succeed.

A simple way to make sure your new remote teams feel supported is to create a digital handbook. This should cover everything your team members need to know about your firm, including details about your culture, an organisational chart, specific information about their roles and responsibilities, a breakdown of where they can find key files, login details, and your standard operating procedures.

While written documents should never replace human collaboration, this can help bridge the communication gap that remote working introduces. It’s much harder to tap your manager to ask a quick question when you don’t sit in the same room, so a well-organised handbook can help new team members feel supported.

Set goals

Did you know that addressing development during onboarding can increase satisfaction by around 3.5 times? Yes, communicating your expectations for your recruits and what they can expect their growth to look like can improve motivation and job satisfaction.

Motivation is vital in any workplace, and a recent study revealed that as few as 15% of workers feel engaged with their work. Leaving remote team members to self-motivate only worsens this issue, but setting clear goals during their onboarding period can go a long way to remedy this.

Their first goals will be related to their onboarding, which can be tracked with onboarding checklists and regular meetings to monitor progress, increasing accountability and encouraging communication.

Have regular check-ins

Regular check-ins are a must for onboarding remote teams. As mentioned, remote workers can feel incredibly isolated if their firm doesn’t take the time to encourage collaboration and communication throughout the day.

Keep new team members engaged by encouraging managers to set up regular check-ins with their direct reports. Integrating into a new accounting firm is a complicated process requiring ongoing support, so check-ins help streamline this process and ensure remote workers aren’t left in the dark.

Use online training platforms

The onboarding process can take anywhere from one week to several months, depending on how complex each team member’s role is. Simplify this process (and make it more fun) by making the most of online training platforms. Training tools can help accelerate your onboarding process, set your team up for success and make a fantastic alternative to in-person training.

There are numerous tools available to help at a range of prices, including Trainual, Mercia and Auzmor. Training should always be engaging, relevant to your team members’ roles, and trackable, allowing you to keep an eye on their progress. These platforms revolutionise remote onboarding, offering fun ways to welcome new team members virtually.

Discover 10 tools that support the effective training of new team members.

Invite feedback and continually optimise the process

When working remotely, building a positive team member-firm relationship can be challenging. However, asking for feedback is one way to make sure your newest recruits feel supported, heard and valued; asking for feedback from recruits can improve your relationship by up to 91%.

Soliciting feedback offers the additional benefit of continually optimising your onboarding processes, helping you provide an even better experience for future team members. Ask team members during their onboarding what they think is working, what they’ve struggled with, and what they would like to see improved, providing you with valuable insights that would be hard to gather without constructive feedback.  Sometimes, a fresh pair of eyes is just what you need to optimise your processes. 

Are you ready to revolutionise your remote team onboarding strategy?

Remote team onboarding can be time-consuming, but investing in a good strategy will result in a smoother workflow and improved retention, building a more highly motivated workforce and saving your accounting firm time and money in the long run.

Clearly defined standard operating procedures (SOPs) and workflows are a great way to make sure remote team members get up to speed quickly and deliver consistent results from their first day, even if they’ve never set foot in the office. Pixie helps new team members get to grips with their responsibilities and your firm’s ways of working by turning workflows into easy-to-follow processes made up of checklists, links, images and training videos. Now, that’s how to onboard a remote team.


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