Your remote employee's first 90 days: 10 things leaders must do

How can you make sure you don't lose your newly hired remote employee in the first 90 days? Consider this must-have advice on onboarding, training, tools, and motivation
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The first 90 days of employment are critical: They set the tone for a new hire’s experience in the organization. “In those three months, new team members will form opinions on the best practices, leadership capabilities, and culture of a company,” says Joseph Puglise, senior director of executive search and recruiting at executive search firm JMJ Phillip. “In the mega-competitive technology sector, where talent is extremely difficult to secure and retain, it’s more important than ever to create a stellar employee experience in those first 90 days that will shape the reputation of your firm with that individual on the open market.”

Losing an employee at this point can be the most expensive to the organization and have the greatest impact on productivity.

When that 90-day initiation period takes place virtually, the possibility of disconnects and disengagement increases considerably. “Emails, calls, and video chats have a way of amplifying whatever we transmit over the Internet. Whatever you write, say, and show becomes the only thing others read, hear, and see – and the only inputs others have to discern what the expectations are,” says Gorick Ng, author of the forthcoming book The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right. “Anything you say can and will be taken literally, and – if not managed strategically ­– can quickly turn into misunderstandings, frustration, and in turn, employee churn.”

In many cases, the new employees may still have other opportunities in process or offers pending, giving them a significant amount of power and flexibility. Meanwhile, losing an employee at this point can be the most expensive to the organization and have the greatest impact on productivity, says Ian Cook, vice president of people analytics at Visier.

[ Want more first-hand advice? Read Virtual onboarding: How to welcome new hires while fully remote. ]

How to make a remote employee's first 90 days successful

These challenges are compounded by the fact that for many IT organizations, remote work is a new phenomenon. They may not have established practices that foster a positive or productive remote work environment, says Jaclyn Menendez, PhD., senior consultant with global workforce solutions provider PSI.

While more standardized tools and processes are still being evaluated and implemented, there are a number of things IT leaders can do in the first few months to increase the likelihood that their new remote employees will stay.

1. Herald the new arrival

“First, inform your team that a new team member will be joining,” says Scott Griset, engagement manager for Theorem. “This seems obvious, but it is critically important and often overlooked. If your team is not expecting to welcome a new team member, they simply won’t know to proactively engage them, and your new hire will feel isolated.”

2. Check in early and often

“During onsite onboarding and training sessions, it’s much easier to build a strong working relationship and provide meaningful experiences for new hires,” says Puglise. There are lunches and happy hours and deskside drop-ins. Barring those in-person options, frequent check-ins are imperative. “In the first week of employment, new hires should be speaking with their direct supervisor once a day at minimum,” Puglise says.

Consider “snack-sized check-ins” of five to ten minutes.

Jon Check, senior director of cyber protection solutions at Raytheon Intelligence & Space recommends “snack-sized check-ins” of five to ten minutes. “This should be a time when any onboarding question – regardless of how minor – can be addressed, to help the new employee thrive,” Check says.

3. Be intentional about introductions

New hires will need to get to know fellow team members and important constituents as well. “Don’t leave connections with team members and key stakeholders in other teams to chance,” says Cook. “Make a list of who they need to know and set up times and reasons for them to connect.” One way to make these meetings more meaningful and productive is to build them around work as opposed to setting them up as simple meet-and-greets.

[ How do your team meetings stack up? Read also:  Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. ]

4. Get them working on something ASAP

“New people often want to be busy and feel like they are contributing,” says Cook. “Giving people a project or work assignment on day one is a good way to make sure they know they are important and that their contribution matters.”

Give your latest hires one thing that will help your team immediately.

Give your latest hires one thing that will help your team immediately, advises Griset. “Let the act of performing that task naturally provide the opportunity for engaging their colleagues and gaining their trust by contributing to your mission,” Griset explains. “The quicker a new team member gains the trust of their team members, the quicker those team members will be engaging them on chat and video calls, eliminating the feeling of isolation as a new remote team member.”

5. Multiply training times

The 2020 Addison Group report found that 53 percent of hiring managers struggled with skills training during the remote onboarding process, making it the most challenging aspect of integrating new hires in the work-from-home world. IT leaders should plan on extending the amount of time it usually takes to train new employees in the office by at least 25 percent when going remote, Puglise says.

Let’s examine five additional tips: 

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.