April 6th, 2020 | Sterling

Tips for Onboarding Remote New Hires

There is no question that we are in an unprecedented time in our world’s history in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. The longer our world faces a situation in which we must all avoid grouping together, the more likely remote employment will become more standard for many organizations. It’s thus more crucial than ever to follow best practices when onboarding new employees that will work outside of the office.

With today’s technology, the workforce was already becoming increasingly remote—this crisis has solidified this reality almost overnight. New technologies and changing family demographics are fueling the growth in the remote workforce.

Onboarding: Planning Ahead

If you’re ramping up your staff during this time, or you plan to do so when the current crisis eases, it is important to have an onboarding program in place. Onboarding tells a cohesive, compelling employer brand story. It engages and socializes your new hires from the moment they receive their offer letter. This process lays the groundwork so that your new employees can become productive, successful team members for the long haul even if the employee works remotely. Onboarding could be considered the final stage of the hiring process. But it goes beyond the first day on the job; it continues throughout the time the new employee works for the company. The majority of this stage takes place during a new employee’s first 90 days. In fact, this is the time when the employee is the most productive. According to UrbanBound, organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity.

Tips for Onboarding Remote Employees

Thankfully, with the addition of technology into both the workforce and onboarding programs, it is becoming increasingly easy to hire employees across the globe. However, onboarding remote employees can be a challenge. Remote employees don’t have the advantage of having the in-person touch on their first day, which could make it hard to acclimate to the company culture. When possible, have the new hire come to the main office for their first week so they can meet their team and get an understanding of the culture.

When onboarding remote employees, these tactics could be helpful:

  • Refine the Onboarding Process: Review the impact and results of your remote onboarding process. Document and evaluate the way both existing and new employees reacted to the onboarding process. Consult with other remote employees to see if they had similar experiences.
  • Set Clear Expectations: Clearly communicate expectations, company values and individual goals to the new employee before they start work. Discuss projects, skill sets, and responsibilities, and create a schedule for availability to attend virtual meetings. Just like with any other onboarding program, set up expectations and goals for the new employee. Implement a 30/60/90-day plan to outline training and integration of the new hire.
  • Make New Hires Feel Welcome: Appoint a team “buddy” for the new employee. This co-worker will mentor the new employee on the company culture, team structure, and information flow. Remote employees who feel a connection with the team or the company will be more motivated to make a positive impression.
  • Easier Communication: With Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facetime, Skype, Slack, and other video and instant messaging tools, a remote employee can be connected to a team member in an instant. These tools are excellent for remote employees to virtually “meet” team members and do more than just put a face to a name.

Completing Remote Employee New Hire Forms

One of the most important parts of the onboarding process is completing new hire forms. Employers are responsible for following local, state, and federal regulations when providing paperwork to new hires. Before the employee starts work and receives their first paycheck, some forms are required to be completed by the new hire. These forms must be completed by every employee, local or remote, per state and federal laws.

One of the forms that is required by the US government is the Form I-9. The purpose of Form I-9 is to verify the employment eligibility of the new hire. Employers are required by law to follow specific procedures for completing Form I-9 and they face both civil and criminal penalties if the document is not completed properly or they knowingly employ unauthorized workers.

Recent Announcement from DHS on I-9

A very important note is that while the world is practicing social distancing due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on March 20, 2020 flexibility in its requirements related to Form I-9 compliance. According to the announcement, “Employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to Covid-19 will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence. However, employers must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely (e.g., over video link, fax or email, etc.) and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents, within three business days for purposes of completing Section 2.”

The provision only applies to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. Per DHS, if there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9. However, if newly hired employees or existing employees are subject to Covid-19 quarantine or lockdown protocols, DHS will evaluate this on a case-by-case basis.

Additionally, employers may designate an authorized representative to act on their behalf to complete Section 2. An authorized representative can be any person the employer designates to complete, and sign Form I-9 on their behalf. The employer is liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations of the employer sanctions laws committed by the person designated to act on the employer’s behalf.

During this time of crisis, or at any time, if you have questions about Form I-9 and new hire form onboarding for remote employees, we are here to help you navigate through these challenging times as you work to fulfill your mission.

Contact us and let us know how we can help you.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.