Onboarding is an essential part of integrating a new employee into a team and a company. A well-designed adaptation process can lead to higher productivity, faster learning, and a higher retention level. However, sinceCOVID-19 has forced many employees to work from home, making it necessary to onboard new hires remotely, onboarding employees has become more challenging.
Did you know that by 2025, 36.2 million Americans will work remotely, which is 87% more than in 2021? Remote employees may find it challenging to adapt to the company's culture and gain formal and informal knowledge of how things are done, especially if those new workers aren't used to the remote environment.
The goals of remote onboarding remain unchanged: to help the new employee learn about the company's culture, work practices & tools and to understand expectations.
In this article, you’ll learn how to set up each new employee to succeed from the beginning, find recommendations on onboarding remote employees, and find a checklist for onboarding remote employees that actually works. Let's go!
What is remote employee onboarding?
An onboarding program for a new employee is an opportunity to acclimatize to a new work environment and learn about their role in the company.
Onboarding can be formal or informal; companies usually use both approaches. Formal onboarding basically includes workshops, training sessions, onboarding videos, calls, and exercises. It involves a step-by-step program for new employees that explains their roles, their goals, the company’s expectations, and workplace norms. This process is implemented to acclimatize new employees to the workplace without undue stress.
Informal onboarding refers to semi-organized activities through which new employees learn about their new job without a clear organizational plan.
“I truly believe that onboarding is an art. Each new employee brings with them a potential to achieve and succeed. To lose the energy of a new hire through poor onboarding is an opportunity lost.”
Sarah Wetzel, Director of Human Resources at engage:BDR
Onboarding usually includes:
- Senior leadership welcome
- Company culture, history, and values overview
- Diversity and inclusion efforts overview
- Clarification of policies and benefits
- Introducing employees to team members and managers
- Connecting employees to mentors and contacts
- Integration of employees into the team and culture of the company
The onboarding process is essential for remote employees because they don’t have the opportunity to organically build relationships in person or adhere to the office culture. It means that your built-in process should support them in setting up their work and feel connected to their team and the company's broad culture from afar.
"One of the most important things with remote teams is great onboarding. A handbook is an important ingredient, but it is also important to transmit the culture via coffee chats with as many people as possible."
Jason Yavorska, Founder at AsyncGo (async collaboration app)
By helping employees navigate their new role or remote work environment, you can ensure they have the information and tools they need for successful work.
Five steps to great remote onboarding
In practice, onboarding can take from a week to three months, during which the new employee goes through a series of remote meetings, training, and educational activities. They learn about the company's rituals and how it plans its strategic initiatives, sets goals, and critical results.
Step 1: Pre-onboarding
Pre-onboarding is the stage between the acceptance of new employees to a job and the date of their first day of work. Pre-onboarding is needed to prepare new employees for the first day of work, to familiarize them with their role and work processes in the company.
Starting from the first day, your new employees will need access to your systems, including email, chat, project management services, time tracking instructions, calendar, training modules, and everything they use every day. Create standard documents or pointers that will inform them about crucial aspects of the company's culture and channels of interaction.
Below is an example of an onboarding plan that we are using at Altigee.
Step 2: Technical onboarding
Being able to use work procedures comfortably is an essential guarantee of successful interaction with a new employee. Give new employees access to software tools and ask for the needs of the home office. Have the department manager conduct a conversation to show how meeting platforms, communication channels, and other systems work. Also, make sure that new employees have access and secure login information for all the software they need to use.
Step 3: Social adaptation
According to Johnny Capitano, a professor of management and director of the Newcomer Adaptation Center at the University of Westchester, "the turnover rate is highest in the first months of a new employee's stay." Again, this emphasizes the importance of human socialization.
Distributed teams can’t rely on face-to-face relationships that are usually built in the office. To ensure the socialization of new employees, we at Altigee use Zoom and Slack to foster communication and social interactions. During the first week, it's a good practice to schedule 1:1 meetings for new hires to get to know their team — managers, colleagues, and senior leadership.
Another exciting practice is creating a so-called “internal manual” where employees can share more details about their values, work preferences, hobbies, and even fun facts. This document would help teammates know each team member better. Here is a superb example of such a manual from Andreas Klinger, CTO at OnDeck.
Step 4: Explain company culture and how things get done
New employees expect specific goals and opportunities to communicate regularly with their managers and team leaders. Providing vital support to new employees during their first working weeks helps them feel more motivated and productive.
Tell them about the company's culture and its values from day one. Then, take the time to talk one-on-one about the company's standards and vision for development; ask new employees about their values and opinions about its culture.
Based on my own experience, I recommend developing a digital company guide that covers the company's values and principles, the company's tone and level of formality, communication rules for Zoom, Slack, and email, business hours, and more.
Step 5: Set clear expectations
Let your new employees know about your expectations before they start working. The new employees should have a clear idea of their success in the first 100 days and later. Make sure new employees understand their tasks, priorities, and results. Setting clear expectations allows your employee to understand their role from day one.
Virtual onboarding checklist for remote employees
What does remote onboarding look like in practice?
When hiring a remote team, make sure you offer structured work and provide all the necessary tools and accesses. We created a detailed remote onboarding checklist in Notion and it is open for everyone so you can use as an example!
Onboarding new employees best practices
Put the following recommendations in practice, and they will definitely help you simplify the implementation process and speed up the work of new remote employees from day one.
- Keep onboarding schedule clearly structured
While overloading virtual appointments can be a problem, I advise you to schedule regular but short video meetings for remote workers’ first week or two to speed up their communication with the team. Create a shared calendar in which you will create to-do lists for new employees.
- Equipment setup
Remote work means that employees may not have regular access to company resources, such as a dedicated desk, monitor or computer. Plan ahead to furnish a new employee with the proper hardware, software, and access to the job. The priority should be to create an environment that promotes productivity.
Besides a computer and monitor, be sure to think about:
- VPN needs
- Licensed software
- Noise-canceling headphones
- A mouse and a trackpad
- Access to video conferencing
To simplify the setup process, you can share instruction videos with the help of asynchronous video.
- Onboarding check-ins
To help keep new hires focused and engaged during the onboarding process, use checklists of onboarding activities. They can be as simple as setting up calendar reminders or using a project management tool of your choice.
Here is an example of how we create onboarding chek-ins lists in Notion:
- Ask for feedback
Be sure to ask new employees about the experience. Try to understand how this process helps them, what works and what needs improvement. Feedback helps you:
- Identify and resolve issues your new employees may have
- Identify gaps or barriers in the onboarding process
- Improve your onboarding process and employee experience from the beginning
We use Zoom to schedule an onboarding chekc-in call with the manager.
To sum it up
In this article, I have tried to introduce you in detail to what onboarding is, what the process involves, why it is essential to you as an employer, and what practices to use to build long-term working relationships. Please pay special attention to the onboard checklist, which you can use as an example.
Below you can find a few useful resources to help you create your perfect remote onboarding process.
Templates and other resources
- Altigee remote onboarding checklist
- Diversity at Day One: Best Onboarding Practices for Women of Color
- Onboarding new employees remotely: Webinar hosted by Robert Half UK