Training Remote Employees: A Few Considerations for Hiring in the Era of Zoom

Hands typing on a laptop

When I began my remote role as an IRB support analyst in October 2020, I didn’t even know where to start. I wasn’t sure how to introduce myself, who held what role, or how and when training for my new job would occur. Most of my colleagues were faceless names.

Eventually, my colleagues and I arranged a meet-and-greet over Zoom, but the scope of my training was still up in the air. Several of the previous responsibilities of my role were obsolete due to halting in-person meetings, and my colleagues weren’t sure what responsibilities to hand off to me quite yet.

It’s crucial to have a concrete scope of duties for those hired remotely, as well as a plan for training remote employees that considers when they’ll learn each part of their role. Maintaining a conversation about the employee’s workload and tracking productivity through statistics can help with figuring out when an employee is ready to take on new responsibilities.   

When employees work together in an office, it’s more obvious when someone needs an extra hand. Handing off and taking on duties is as simple as visiting someone’s cubicle or negotiating with a manager. However, when everyone is working at home, it isn’t immediately clear who needs help with what or who can take it on.

In a remote environment, it’s easy for employees to become siloed in their work, especially if their role doesn’t require a lot of collaboration. Developing rapport through working alongside each other is no longer guaranteed. Adding a new employee to the team doesn’t change an existing employee’s physical surroundings in the way that it would in an office. Building networking opportunities directly into a new hire’s training plan could alleviate this issue. For example, before you begin officially training remote employees, consider scheduling 1:1 meetings for the new employee and their colleagues so they can get to know them and learn who to go to with different questions.

Another important consideration for training remote employees is feedback processes. After I received training on any new task, my colleagues would have me complete that task a little earlier than we needed to finalize it so they could tell me what was correct or needed revisions and why. If I had questions, we would discuss them either over email or a Zoom meeting. The feedback they provided was always timely, detailed, and actionable, and I believe that’s what made it so effective. While the trainings I received were somewhat sporadic and might only touch on the essentials of a task—such as screening a package—my colleagues’ feedback helped me develop the logic and comprehension I needed to do my job well.

Hiring remote employees is far more than just giving them equipment to work from home. There needs to be structure, transparency, and communication when it comes to training remote employees. Otherwise, there’s the risk of new hires slipping through the cracks, especially if they’re entering the regulatory field for the first time or taking on a particularly complex role. Institutions looking to implement permanent hybrid or remote work must critically evaluate their typical hiring and training processes to ensure adequacy and effectiveness so that every employee can reach their fullest potential.

Jasminder Bains is an IRB Support Analyst at the University of California, Davis. She has a strong background in clinical and mental health research, having worked as a research assistant at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco. During her undergraduate career, she conducted an independent research study on the destigmatizing effects of a high school psychology course which she presented about at the American Psychological Association (APA) 2019 conference. She also held a Diversity Fellowship in which she completed multiple diversity and inclusion-focused projects at the Santa Clara University Library. In this role, she published a research paper in Santa Clara University’s academic repository, detailing the Mission California period from the Native Americans’ perspective as a response to the often-colonialist retellings of this history. She also created an online research guide about algorithmic and search engine bias and published an article on the topic in the Information Outlook journal. Her long-term plans are to continue studying psychology and public health and work in mental health research.

Guest contributors are valued members of our community willing to share their insights. The views expressed in their posts do not necessarily reflect those of PRIM&R or its employees.

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