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How can you integrate remote workers?

7 min. May 9, 2022
How can you integrate remote workers?

As a business, you must recognize the importance of new employee integration because an employee’s proper understanding of their functions and their first impression about the new work environment are tied to their adjustment. These days, integrating a recruit seems like a bigger challenge than before because of the democratization of remote work. Here are four ways that you can facilitate the onboarding process.

The challenges of recruiting and remote work
Over the past two years, many workers have had to face the major issue of starting a new job without setting foot in the office. Successfully transitioning to a new team is difficult enough under normal circumstances; doing so remotely only complicates things.

Surveys show that most workers are in favour of continuing to work remotely. In fact, according to a 2021 CROP survey of 450 remote workers, two thirds of the respondents wanted to continue teleworking full-time. Entrepreneurs must understand that although welcoming new employees is more challenging than it used to be, the goals surrounding integration remain unchanged.

The evidence is clear, remote work will undoubtedly be a point of attraction for job seekers, and of retention for employers. It is in a businesses’ best interest to adjust their onboarding procedure and to deploy any necessary tools for new employees.

For Alain Bouchard, Director, Consulting Services at CGI, one of the main obstacles of telework is how difficult it can be to present a recruit to all employees: “Today, most companies use video conferencing software and it is difficult to introduce a newcomer to hundreds of people in a virtual meeting. But knowing your colleagues and understanding each person’s role is important.”

As you can see, there are many things to consider regarding the integration of new employees and their retention. Furthermore, the current labour shortage is yet another issue that raises the importance of doing this activity well. With that in mind, here are four things to consider.

A sense of belonging
For an employee, the feeling of belonging within a group is very important because it acts as a driving force. Therefore, it is essential to explain to your new employee how their work aligns with the company’s values and how their role will contribute to the it’s mission. Being able to clearly define how they will actively contribute to the company’s success is a very powerful motivational tool to have at your disposal.

Under normal circumstances, an employee would travel to the office, meet with colleagues and managers, and get a first-hand feel for the company’s values and mission. Today, you must provide tools to help your employees understand them.

Of course, written documentation remains relevant, but it is recommended to use more user-friendly and interactive means. For example, we recommend creating informative videos about your company values, or providing the opportunity to meet with an individual who embodies them, such as a manager.

Do not be afraid to “sell” your brand because values, mission and vision are a company’s raison d’être. These fundamental elements allow your employees, from the start, to feel useful and committed toward the achievement of a common goal.

More and more businesses are incorporating mentoring into their onboarding strategy to welcome and guide new employees by designating a person who is usually more senior or who has been down the same road. This personalized support system offers several advantages; it provides answers to questions, a sense of welcoming and of direction in their new environment.

For mentoring to be successful, a few principles must be respected. First, exchanges must remain confidential to foster open communication about needs and concerns. Also, since it is important to feel comfortable asking questions, it is best not to choose a person with a reporting relationship as a mentor.

The opportunity for an employee to be accompanied by someone upon their arrival creates a reassuring framework by allowing them to immediately develop a bond with a colleague, explains Bouchard. According to him, mentoring builds cohesiveness.

“In a company, you create a bit of a family atmosphere. People want to work with people, and that’s often what they remember.”

—Alain Bouchard, Director, Consulting Services at CGI.

Mentoring has proven its worth over the years and employers have benefited in many ways. It enriches relationships, which are all the more important in today’s world, and strengthens the corporate culture through the sharing of common values and goals.

Mastering the tools at your disposal
Distance can make it more difficult to learn the tools used to work, and this can lead to anxiety. To overcome this challenge, it is best to prepare and make sure that everything is functional before your employee arrives. Keep in mind that some time should be allotted to receive the required materials if you need to place an order.

You can also send a “start-up kit” to your employee so that they can familiarize themselves with things a few days before their first day on the job. Moreover, this documentation is essential if any setup is required prior to first use. This might include various accesses, temporary passwords and an email address; all things that your new employee will need.

After their arrival, you can invite them to participate in training sessions or to watch video demonstrations that will introduce them to all the communication channels and tools used. It is advisable to make this stage more user-friendly by avoiding lengthy documents. One possibility is to combine solitary learning and group training.

Bouchard prepares a schedule to provide a framework for new employees. “In their first week, I directly add many meetings and workshops to their agenda. This leaves nothing to chance and creates a comfortable environment.”

At the end of the day, you can reserve a few minutes with your employee to evaluate how well they understand the topics that were discussed. This meeting also creates an ideal opportunity for your employee to ask questions and get the answers they need, and is a step that can be repeated for as many days as needed.

Creating ties
Creating situations in which individuals are led to build relationships is necessary when professional activities take place mainly at a distance. Remote work can sometimes lead employees to work on their own, unfortunately decreasing interactions with other individuals and making communication all the more important.

Therefore, it may be a good idea to plan formal and informal meetings. You can also schedule group meetings, ideally weekly, to maintain team cohesion and promote the mental health of your workers.

Bouchard proposes integrating new employees into various discussion groups that already exist, so that they can get a sense of the overall atmosphere and tone of the discussions.

“I created a private group on LinkedIn that I add new employees to before their first day. We get to know each other and ask questions.”

—Alain Bouchard, Director, Consulting Services at CGI.

Workers can experience declining mental health due to a lack of interpersonal interaction, which is fundamental to one’s wellbeing. By creating spaces dedicated to communication, you establish a social perimeter in which cohesiveness within the group can grow and cement itself.

The answer

How can you integrate your remote workers? As an employer, it is important to update your tools to meet the changing needs of the job market. An integration process adapted to remote work will allow you to virtually recreate what would naturally happen in the office.

Take time to introduce your new employees to your company’s mission and values, as these fundamental elements will nourish their sense of belonging and motivation. It will also give them a clear understanding of the importance of their role. Mentoring can be beneficial for both parties. It eases your new employees’ integration and allows them to efficiently get up to speed, while creating great opportunities to build relationships more rapidly.

The importance of social interaction should not be underestimated because it directly impacts the state of mind and wellbeing of your employees. To that effect, do not hesitate to schedule time for informal discussions.

A well thought-out and structured integration plan increases employee retention by providing concrete solutions to uncertainties about a new job. When you prepare the groundwork prior to a new employee’s arrival, especially in a teleworking environment, you show consideration for the challenges they will face.