It’s stressful starting a new job. Hires are inundated with information, processes and people. It often takes weeks to adjust and longer to function independently.
Imagine all of this in a remote landscape. There are even more (often unanticipated) challenges. Your new employee might be grappling with a wholly new work environment. With added variables, you need to provide added support.
A Gallup study discovered that 88 percent of employers provide less than adequate onboarding, and one in five new employees wouldn’t recommend an employer to a friend or family member after a poor onboarding experience.
Sound alarming? These statistics indicate that there’s room for improvement for most organizations. Investing in your onboarding process helps your company overcome talent scarcity and the increased employee turnover rate. You can build a framework that improves new employee morale, increases productivity and strengthens your entire team.
Even with the bevy of technology and other resources at your disposal, virtual onboarding could feel daunting, especially if you’ve never onboarded remote employees before. What you need is a source of truth that you can rely on.
Look no further. We’ve developed a list of best practices for an effective remote onboarding program, complete with a checklist that you and your teams can use again and again.
What is Remote Employee Onboarding?
Remote and in-person onboarding share the same goal: to educate new hires on their position, the business and key policies.
However, all of the steps that would occur on-site instead happen via video calls, pre-recorded sessions and other remote onboarding systems. Your employee is entirely dependent on the technology and guidance that you provide.
So, where should you start?
9 Best Practices for Onboarding Remote Employees
A Sapling Report states that new hires have 54 activities to complete during their onboarding process. The activities roughly include:
- Signing, uploading or acknowledging at least three documents.
- Completing 41 administrative tasks.
- Engaging in 10 outcomes centered around learning the company culture, role alignment and market knowledge.
These activities ensure that remote hires integrate fully into the organization and its processes.
Companies investing in a fantastic onboarding experience reap tangible rewards. Seventy percent of employees who had a positive onboard claim they have the “best possible job.”
Use the following strategies to create a personalized remote employee onboarding experience that turns your new hires into long-lasting team members.
1. Have them complete all necessary paperwork
Employment contract? Check. Employment forms? Check. Internal forms? Check. Send all materials, including employee benefits documents, as soon as possible.
It can be time-consuming and stressful to review and sign every form, especially if you’re anticipating printed documents. Consider using e-signature tools like HelloSign to let remote employees receive and sign legal documentation in a simple, secure and trackable database.
If you're working with freelancers then you still need to get the necessary paperwork done. Make sure the contractor agreement is signed well in advance, and all the terms and conditions have been ironed out properly before you begin.
2. Introduce new hires to the company culture
One week isn’t enough to fully integrate new employees into your company culture. In fact, only 29 percent of new hires feel fully prepared and supported in their new roles after their onboarding experience.
Without proper support, remote hires could feel disconnected from their colleagues. Regardless of where they are, your remote employees are an integral part of your company and should feel just as able as your in-house team.
Start them off on the right foot. Provide your hire with resources that introduce them to your organizational makeup and familiarize them with their colleagues, such as:
- A digital version of your employee handbook.
- Pictures, videos and infographics from important stakeholder meetings.
- Any content or literature articulating your company’s mission, vision and values.
3. Send devices in advance
New remote employees should have access to all necessary tools and hardware as soon as possible. Once sent, ask them to confirm their receipt of the materials and prompt your IT department to assist if needed. Unsure of what they’ll need? Be sure to provide baseline technologies, like a laptop, charger, mouse and keyboard.
It never hurts to expand beyond the minimum. Some companies go the extra mile and add monitors, laptop stands or foldable, standing desks.
4. Gift new remote hires with company swag
Who doesn’t love a gift? Send your remote hires company swag to make them feel welcome and excited to join the team. Assure them that they are part of your community no matter where they are.
You can include branded merchandise like a coffee mug, T-shirt, pen or stickers. Some teams also add personalized gifts, such as headphones, gift cards, or even toys for kids or pets.
Don’t forget to include a welcome letter from their team or a direct manager.
5. Show them how to use company communication tools
Your remote hires have to launch most applications themselves. Give them a run-through of your communication methods (email, Teams, Slack). Then, explain who on IT can support technical issues or provide them with troubleshooting resources.
Where applicable, offer detailed instructions on how to set up their company email address, group messaging tool, webphone application and video conference software.
6. Remind managers to set specific goals and expectations
Avoid situations where new remote employees are twiddling their thumbs while waiting for managers to appear online. Hiring managers or direct supervisors should set employees up for success by:
- Developing and sharing a task calendar for new hires after their onboarding sessions.
- Clearly defining long-term and short-term goals.
- Scheduling weekly 1:1 meetings to discuss previous tasks and upcoming projects. They can also use this time to answer any questions, track progress and resolve potential issues.
7. Arrange team meetings
A direct manager can instruct the new hire to schedule calls with their team, direct reports or other relevant colleagues. These can be simple 30-minute introductory chats or more focused reviews.
A team call also brings new hires up to speed. Pull them into a weekly meeting, schedule a virtual happy hour or plan a trip where everyone can meet in person.
If you have an all-remote distributed team, schedule quarterly or annual retreats where everyone can meet and assemble on goals.
8. Host role-specific training
Arrange interactive role-specific training to boost new employee engagement. Depending on the position, shadowing or workshops offer hands-on experiences where the employee can learn in real time.
If you have several processes or tools, then written guides might be the way to go. Documentation plug-ins like Scribe enable you to make step-by-step manuals by recording your screen to auto-produce a written how-to guide, complete with screenshots.
9. Offer Professional Development Opportunities
Your employees want to learn. Give them the resources they need to excel. A recent study shows that 67 percent of remote workers are constantly looking for professional training. Based on their position, give them access to online courses or a chance to attend industry-related events during or after their orientation, along with stipends to pay for them.
Remote Employee Onboarding Checklist
Are you ready to strengthen your onboarding program? Use this checklist to ensure you reach every step in the process.
Pre-onboarding (Before day one)
- Ensure all HR paperwork is complete.
- Create an agenda for the first week.
- Send a welcome email.
- Send remote work equipment, including:
- Laptop and charger
- Login information
- Keyboard and mouse
- Extra materials, if applicable (monitor, desk, etc.)
- Share company swag with a welcome letter from their co-workers and/or the company’s CEO.
- Assign a welcome buddy. This buddy will be a resource during their first few weeks.
Day one of work
- Add new remote employees to relevant communication platforms.
- Inform the team of their arrival.
- Have them meet the team and schedule 1:1 check-ins.
- Host a company orientation.
Week one and beyond
- Finalize HR-specific activities.
- Review job responsibilities and expectations.
- Ensure their managers schedule frequent check-ins.
- Prepare managers to set measurable goals.
- Gather remote employee onboarding feedback.
Twenty-six percent of new employees recall providing feedback on their candidate journey and the hiring process. Companies who asked their new employees to give input recorded a 79 percent increase in their new hires’ willingness to refer others.
You’re one step closer to creating an excellent remote onboarding experience. These best practices are your ultimate resource for building your program. But remember, this process is so much more than ticking off items on a list.
By properly engaging your new employees, you have the opportunity to foster a long-lasting and dynamic relationship with your company. Offer open communication, resources and flexibility. Anticipate hiccups, and understand that while there’s bound to be a learning curve, everyone is on the same team. Invest in your new employees, and you’re bound to see ample return.