How We Onboard New Hires Remotely at Asana
When companies suddenly shifted to remote work in early 2020, teams that were still hiring grappled with how to onboard new hires from different locations. This has been—and will continue to be—true for leaders of globally distributed, remote, or hybrid teams. The crucial difference is that leaders now have the time—and space—to be more intentional about how they approach remote onboarding and create meaningful experiences going forward.
Being intentional about good remote onboarding is critical. According to Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index, 79% of knowledge workers who started a new job during the pandemic experienced burnout, which was 10% higher than people who didn’t start a new job. But while onboarding new hires well is a huge opportunity, it is also one without much precedent to learn from. How do you effectively onboard new team members, no matter where they work or how the team is structured, if not many people have done it before?
At Asana, here’s how we think about creating meaningful connections between new team members and current team members, no matter where or how they work.
1. Connect even before day one
After a new hire signs an offer letter, don’t wait until their first day to start making a connection. At Asana, we keep new hires engaged by communicating with them before their start date with information they might need, details about what their first day will look like, and a casual “hello” from their team.
This can be a fine balance—you don’t want them to feel stressed or like they have to start working before their first day—but a few friendly emails with important information can go a long way. People often have questions before starting a new job, particularly at a time when so much is changing around us. By providing the new hire with a direct line of communication to their manager and teammates, they can get questions answered and reduce the uncertainty that can build up before even starting.
2. Make a good first impression
When your new hire does start, create a mentorship relationship between them and an existing member of your team (or an adjacent team). Having a mentor or workplace buddy who isn’t your manager is especially important for remote onboarding so the new hire has someone to provide workplace context and touchpoints in their first few weeks.
Beyond a mentor, it is important to give a new hire access to critical resources—like team directories, shared calendars, and internal communication channels—which are easily and clearly accessible, but not the core focus of the first day. Then, do your best to replicate the feeling of being in the same room as other teammates. We do this by creating an online community for new hires on Slack and organizing virtual welcome lunches, bringing a lot of energy and excitement to the group.
At the end of the day, take the time to check in with your new remote hire to recap their first day and create space for them to share how it went. Additionally, ask whether there is anything that can be improved or changed to help them feel more connected. These practices help to ensure that new hires feel seen, heard, and included right from the start.
3. Rewrite communication norms
The communication norms you created as an in-person team may not be right when you’re distributed, remote, or hybrid. Take the time to create a new “contract” about your work from home team norms, communication expectations, and check-in frequency. Then, clarify these expectations for the new hire.
Part of creating an inclusive remote team is making sure everyone has easy access to what’s going on and clear visibility into how their work connects to the larger team’s goals. On the content team at Asana, we track all of our work in, well, Asana.
From day one, every new content team member goes through the same onboarding project, which ensures everyone starts with the same information. All large initiatives have their own project in Asana, but we also aggregate those projects into a team-wide portfolio. This way, everyone from team members to senior leaders can see what’s happening across the entire team. By organizing work in this way, new hires who are onboarded remotely also have access, visibility, and context to team projects that they may not have had otherwise.
To ensure everyone is getting the most out of their tools, our friends at Guru use Guru to share best practices and conventions on how to use Asana so everyone’s on the same page.
Use Guru to give some guidelines around Asana best practices
4. Find community beyond your team
Joining a fully remote team can be isolating. Even if your team member is in an office, it can still be difficult for them to connect with your team and the company at large when they’re new to a distributed company. In order to make the transition as smooth and inclusive as possible, ask the new hire if there are any workplace communities they’d like to be connected to, or any Employee Resource Groups they’d like to join. Better yet, if you create an onboarding project, you can include a comprehensive list there. At Asana, we have several ERGs, such as Team Rainbow, Blacsana, and Asana Women.
Create strong team connections
By being intentional about how you onboard remote team members and manage your distributed team, you can create a strong, high-impact team no matter where they work. Every organization and team that is distributed is figuring out their own ways of operating. Create a network of peers who are going through the same transition. Just because you’re leading a team doesn’t mean you have to go through this transition alone. With your colleagues, share what’s been working with you and ask if they have any new tips.