The 3 Most Overlooked Steps in Distributed Workforce Onboarding

Onboarding has always been the focal point of a new recruit’s success—or failure. A number of studies by Deloitte, Gartner, HBR have proven the connection between onboarding and workforce retention, productivity, engagement, and motivation. HR and L&D professionals worldwide keep sharing their experiences and tips on how to onboard employees to accelerate reaching their full proficiency and to retain the best talent for years to come. But what about those new hires who don’t have any specific workplace? What about those who are thousands of miles away from the rest of the company? And what does it take to onboard distributed workforces most effectively?

Don’t downplay the importance of culture fit while recruiting

The first mistake companies make in recruiting distributed workforces is welcoming the wrong people to their field-based teams. By “wrong” we don’t mean underqualified or people with little experience, because these factors can be fixed by hands-on, personalized training. We’re talking about recruits who don’t realize or are not ready to face all the challenges that appear when they stop being “confined to a desk.” We all have different personality traits, and some people are simply not well-suited to working independently or in the field.

Consequently, while scanning through candidates, it’s important to ensure that they possess (or are willing to constantly develop) a number of soft skills, including flexibility, self-management, divergent thinking, responsibility, time management, networking and communication skills, among others, that will make them a good fit for companies with distributed workforces.

Start by providing clarity about the work style and environment. Connect potential candidates to what works best for them. Ask clear questions to understand what they expect and to better explain what you expect from them. This way, you will make sure that both you and your potential recruits make the right choices for further cooperation.

Get rid of a head office mindset to develop rock star distributed workforces

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop,” Rumi, the Persian poet and scholar, once said. This quote precisely describes the relationship between a company and its distributed workforce. Every individual working in the field becomes a team of one, embodying an entire organization in themselves. Every individual is not just one member of a field-based team, they are your company, your products and services, your vision, your customer experience—everything you’ve worked hard on. And you can’t let yourself down.

In other words, if the success of your field means the success of your company then there can’t be an “Us-versus-Them” mentality. Having a distributed workforce means having distributed mindset—one that takes into account the needs and goals of your company as well as every field member. Only this way will you be able to develop distributed workforces effectively.

In turn, effective and ongoing development starts with a streamlined, personalized onboarding experience for each new hire. The first working day is unnerving for the majority of people. The new employee must meet new colleagues, learn where their workplace is, who they need to interact with and why, and so on. However, it’s easier to adapt to new conditions and get up to speed when a new hire has the benefit of access to and coaching from an employee who has been with the organization longer.

You can imagine the anxiety of new recruits who are miles away from the company and their peers. They’re out of physical reach with no personal guidance or direction. Does it mean they’re on their first step to disconnecting and leaving the company in the short run? No! If a company knows how to provide a personalized onboarding experience it can avoid recruits’ “death by orientation.”

According to SHRM, the most effective onboarding usually takes from six months to a whole year. Another finding suggests that companies assess whether new recruits have proven themselves in their job within 90 days. However, a sweeping 90% of workforces decide whether they want to stay with a company within the first half of a year. So what should companies do during this critical time period, and beyond, to guarantee retention and productivity?

Leverage smart technology to make room for effective onboarding

We all know how important it is to set new recruits at ease on Day One and make them feel welcome, so the human side of onboarding makes a big difference. This is emphasized by analyzing the survey results from respondents who left a company within the first six months.

  • 23% of respondents said they would have stayed if they had had clear guidelines about their responsibilities
  • 21% said they would have stayed if they had had more effective training
  • 17% said they would have stayed if they had received a friendly smile or had a helpful co-worker
  • 12% said they would have stayed if they had been recognized for their unique contributions
  • 9% said they would have stayed if they had received more attention from the manager and their peers

For companies with distributed workforces, some of these needs are harder to realize due to the lack of proximity to their teams. However, having the right tools on hand can remedy the situation. For example, by leveraging Rallyware’s data-driven business activity platform, companies can develop clear, personalized onboarding experiences for every field member.

  1. Clear goals and custom roadmaps

An effective way to draw in new recruits is by providing clarity at every step of their journey right from the first day. Just imagine how easy it would be for a new recruit to figure out the ins and outs of their new responsibilities and the results expected of them if they had a personalized job activities map right in their smartphone. Being guided through activities by smart notifications based on the user’s performance data, your new recruits will feel they have support 24/7, and never get lost or feel confused about what to do next.

  1. Hands-on personalized training

Distributed workforces face unique challenges on a daily basis, and in most cases, they have to address them relying only on their skills and knowledge since they don’t sit next to their co-workers or have nearby managers to ask for help. This is why ongoing training is so crucial.

Another thing to remember is that distributed workforces have little to no time for training. So when your new recruits encounter difficulties, the goal is to provide them with a relevant answer just-in-time. The Rallyware platform turns training content into learning nuggets aimed at solving specific, emerging challenges. This way your recruits can translate newly absorbed knowledge into action, completing necessary tasks on time and retaining more of the information they just learned.

  1. Streamlined communication

Most of the time, distributed workforces spend time alone and this often leads to feelings of alienation and isolation. Such a disconnect from a company is the reason for low engagement and high turnover rates. Ultimately, communication is what fosters a company’s culture and establishes a real connection between distributed teams, managers and executives.

Rallyware’s robust social functionality enables seamless collaboration among team members and every individual within a company. From direct messaging and discussion boards to communities and content rating, your workforce now has an interactive hub where they can share their experiences, ask for help, and collaborate—no matter where they are.

  1. Performance analytics

To render high quality and timely support, managers have to understand the struggles their field faces and the performance issues that get in the way of completing certain tasks. Rallyware’s real-time reports offer sophisticated insights into each user’s performance progress and allow managers to evaluate whether their current training program contributes to achieving specific KPIs.

Also, every user can track their own progress, thanks to a wide range of personalized roadmaps to success. Team leaderboards, on the other hand, add a friendly competitive spirit, increasing engagement and encouraging the motivation to perform better.

Such a technology-driven human touch in onboarding has been driving success for many companies worldwide. A number of studies prove that clear and personalized onboarding experiences increase the retention of new hires by 50% and get them up to speed 34% faster.

Get a demo of Rallyware’s platform to see how smart-triggering the right activity for the right person at the right time has been driving business results for the leading companies with large workforces, at scale.