In the time since the novel coronavirus first disrupted our lives, many organizations have made the transition to remote work. But even before that collective shift, corporate training trends were moving toward digital learning for new employee training.

Moreover, research has shown there are many benefits coming out of the move of work and learning to the digital space: Fewer commuters leads to cleaner air; employees’ use of their own space saves costs on leases and light bills; and, in many instances, employee productivity is higher while working from home.

As a result, it looks like work from home will, at least partially, stick around after the COVID-19 crisis is over. A Gartner survey found that 82% of company leaders plan to provide work-from-home opportunities after the pandemic, and 47% will allow employees to work from home full time.

It’s looking like remote collaboration is here to stay, but there are still many unanswered questions about remote work. For example, what does having your workforce out of the office mean for new employee training? Since the first few days of a new job can make or break the experience for new recruits, eLearning, technological training and remote onboarding tools are more crucial than ever.

Cultural Integration and the Social Component of Employee Onboarding

We can think of the term “onboarding” in literal terms; being on board with a company, its culture, its vision and mission means an employee is integrated into the organization. To that end, one of the first objectives of new employee training is to align them with the company’s mission. It’s hard to perform to your potential if you’re not on board with the team and organization you’re working for.

Many will say that their first impressions of a company or team have to do with social interactions with other team members. Since there’s a lot to learn in the first weeks of a new job, team members often rely on others to help them navigate their new surroundings and define job and cultural expectations. Hearing about legacy employees’ experiences with the company and getting to know and like people on the team is one of the biggest factors in creating an emotional connection and commitment to a new chapter in the employee’s career.

eLearning and other digital learning methods offer solutions for new employee training. For example, videoconferencing tools enable workers to see and hear one another and interact as if in person, and chat apps offer less formal social opportunities. There is also remote file sharing software, and rewards and recognition programs are even available online for remote and distanced teams. Ongoing remote new employee training courses built specifically for your company, with your employees’ needs in mind, can increase speed to competency and cultural integration.

A Longer Timeline for New Employee Training with a Remote Workforce

A key finding from research on the increase of remote new employee training is that new hires need more time to integrate. There are typically guidelines laid out in employee handbooks, but nuances related to those rules can be lost in translation. Being around colleagues in the office can help new hires find answers to questions as simple as how formally or informally people interact with each other, which styles fall into the category of a “business casual” dress code, and even whether teams get to know one another during lunch breaks — important behaviors that contribute to the company culture. Since these opportunities for social interaction are few and far between in a remote workplace, onboarding for remote new employees should take a little longer.

Team members’ alignment and emotional connection with the goals of the company have a direct impact on their motivation and, therefore, their productivity and performance — and the company’s success. How well an organization onboards a new employee can even impact that employee’s retention, which saves money and effort in the long run.

Onboarding as an Ongoing Journey, Not an Event

Organizations should view all new hire training as an ongoing journey. There are opportunities to improve employees’ understanding of their job expectations and culture throughout their career at the company. Revisiting principles learned during the first few days, weeks and months of employment can only strengthen commitment and improve job performance.

But the need is even greater for remote employees. eLearning and online professional development are crucial elements of their ongoing journey. Robust, engaging, custom-built remote training content for your company will reinforce your brand and your remote employees’ job satisfaction.

New hire training for remote employees comes with a specific set of challenges. But relying on proven technology for online training, company integration and content tailored specifically to your brand can build strong, committed performers, no matter where their desk is.