Developed in 2010 by Talya N. Bauer at the SHRM Foundation, the Four Cs of Onboarding became the blueprint for strategic onboarding programmes.
Clarity, Connection, Culture, and Competence – the foundations for a robust and effective onboarding process to deliver an optimal experience for new hires.
But in 2010, onboarding, as well as work more generally, looked very different. With remote work now firmly established as an integral part of the modern business world, organisations are searching for better ways to onboard remote employees.
Although remote onboarding presents unique challenges, the Four Cs remains a useful model, providing the fundamental building blocks of success.
The Four Cs of Onboarding have been reimagined for the remote workplace, and we’re excited to introduce the Four Cs of Remote Onboarding. Whether you have an all-remote team or a hybrid workplace, this framework will help your organisation smoothly onboard and retain new hires in a virtual setting.
“Compliance refers to the mandatory actions needed for all new employees. It is the housekeeping of the onboarding process. This includes completing paperwork, the badging process, and provisioning tasks like equipping new employees with computers and phones as well as a workspace.
Organizations, even those that claim they do not have a formal onboarding program, must be compliant at this basic level to stay in business. Due to this, many employees spend their first day on the job filling out forms and miss the opportunity for connection.”
This is even more important in a remote context, where your new hires won’t have a tech team to supervise or troubleshoot in-person.
First principle: You start before they start – get the tech in place for a smooth setup on day one.
• Deliver all necessary hardware to your new hire – Laptop, Mouse, Keyboard, Monitor, etc.
• Determine their Wi-Fi capacities.
• Enable access – provide all required log-in details, computer security guidelines, as well as any additional instructions for setting up their workstation.
• Send short instructional videos – some people respond better to seeing it done rather than reading instructions, and this provides an early chance to provide another human touch to the process.
Our approach to onboarding is about moving beyond logistics to get to the things that will truly inspire your new starters. But in order to do so, you need to get the fundamentals in place first.
Be compliant to make a flying start to the remote onboarding journey!
“Clarification refers to how well new employees understand their roles and performance expectations. Of course, organizations hire new employees to do specific jobs, so clarifying what they need to be doing, how to do it, and how the organization functions in terms of rules and policies are important.
It’s essential to build ways to help new employees understand what is expected of them and make them feel equipped and supported in their decision to join your organization.”
Clarification in remote onboarding is all about communication.
It’s vital that employees understand their role and what is needed to excel. At the same time, their team needs to clearly understand what the new hire is there to do.
Without the same opportunities for face-to-face interaction as in-office employees, remote employees need clear and consistent channels of communication.
These might include regular virtual meetings, email and messaging platforms, video messages, online get-togethers, and a shared repository of resources.
To avoid feelings of isolation, uncertainty, and disconnection that are common in unsuccessful remote onboarding programmes, new hires need to be set clear expectations and goals, with regular feedback on their progress.
There are a wide range of creative ways to monitor these objectives in a virtual context, from digital checklists and automated goal setting software to larger project management systems.
Most importantly, keep checking in on your new remote hires.
This might include daily touch bases and weekly one-to-one virtual meetings, to discuss projects, priorities, progress, and training.
Remote employees can become “out of sight, out of mind”, so keep in touch to help them feel supported. Your aim is clarity, on both sides.
“Connection refers to how accepted and valued new employees feel. When new employees feel connected to their colleagues, they feel safe. Research has consistently shown that a sense of connection leads to various positive individual and organizational outcomes.
When new employees feel connected and secure, they ask questions and try new things. Additionally, they engage more fully with their co-workers, their roles, and the organization with a greater sense of appreciation. It is a factor that helps new employees feel that they made the right decision to join the organization.”
Connection in a remote context. No, not WiFi issues (though they’re important too – see point 1!).
This is all about establishing emotional connections with your people.
Moving beyond the logistics of the onboarding process, towards the idea of integration and inclusion.
Networking in a remote world requires you to be deliberate about creating opportunities for new hires to build connections and communicate with their colleagues.
Some organisations ask employees to create short (amateur!) videos shot on their mobiles to introduce themselves and share their interests and experiences. Hearing directly from employees helps make them more relatable and humanizes a process that can feel alienating if exclusively automated and online. You need to add the human touch.
Focus on building community and fostering human connections. Set up channels for new hires to ask questions and get to know each other, whether it’s on Slack or any other digital platform your organisation uses.
Virtual teambuilding activities can provide another way to foster connections. Adding some excitement and fun to proceedings can help your new remote hires relax, and interact with their team in a more social context.
This aspect is more challenging in a remote context, but there are better tools than ever to help you achieve meaningful connections during remote onboarding.
“Culture refers to how well new employees understand their new organization’s norms, values, stories, and symbols. Onboarding is one of the key ways organizational culture is formed, maintained, and changed.”
One of the biggest challenges of remote onboarding is integrating new employees into the company’s culture.
In a virtual environment, it’s harder to pick up on the unspoken norms and traditions that shape how people work and communicate. This can lead to remote employees feeling left out.
To overcome this hurdle, it is essential to be intentional and proactive in introducing new hires to the company’s culture.
Start with your brand story, company culture, and core values. Check out our 5 top tips guide on how to capture hearts and minds during onboarding by sharing your brand, culture, and values to new hires!
Take the time to explain how you do things, and create a safe and welcoming space for new colleagues to ask questions. That might be a designated Slack channel, an anonymized forum, or a culture buddy who can provide guidance and answer questions. This individual can help new hires navigate the company’s culture.
In addition, it’s important to make unspoken assumptions explicit. While many organisations rely on organic ways of communicating their shared culture and vision, in a remote work environment, documenting the company’s history, brand story, and strategy in a platform, group workshops, videos, on the website, and in documents can help new hires understand the organisation’s values and practices more quickly.
By taking these steps, you can create a culture of inclusivity and support, where new hires feel confident and equipped to contribute their best work, whether they’re working remotely or in person.
Reimagined for the remote workplace, The Four Cs provides a framework that will help your organisation smoothly onboard and retain new hires in a virtual setting.
Whether you have an all-remote team or a hybrid workplace, inspire your new colleagues from day one by considering The Four Cs of Remote Onboarding.