Onboarding remote employees
The first few months of working remotely are critical — especially for new hires. Here’s how to effectively onboard new teammates remotely, set them up for success, and increase their likelihood of staying.
The phases of successful online onboarding
Structure is the key to an effective virtual onboarding program. Cramming in too much too soon can overwhelm your new hire. At the same time, you don’t want them to feel forgotten. Map out a process that strikes the right balance.
Before the first day
The onboarding process shouldn’t begin on an employee’s first day. Use the weeks leading up to the start date to handle administrative tasks and basic setup, so the new hire hits the ground running.
Send over necessary paperwork for your new hire to sign electronically.
Connect new hires with HR and send the required documents digitally, along with clear instructions about how to complete them.
Order any equipment the new hire will need and send it to them.
Doing this well in advance prevents delays on the first day and also gives the new hire plenty of time to get familiar with any new technologies or procedures.
Make sure the new hire can access your company’s systems.
A new hire’s first day isn’t the time to find out that your company’s systems aren’t accessible outside the office. Work with IT or consider a long-term switch to cloud-based tools.
A virtual first day may lack the usual team lunch, but there are other ways to make your new hire feel welcome. Use this time to help new hires build connections.
Introduce your new hire to their entire team on a video call.
While one-on-one introductory calls are great, fitting the whole team into the first day could be exhausting. Instead, hold a video all-hands introducing the new hire.
Schedule recurring video one on ones with their manager.
Make sure the new hire spends time with their manager on the first day to go over the weekly agenda and ask questions. Afterward, set up regular video calls to dive deeper into the onboarding process.
Schedule recurring video one on ones with their manager.
Job training should be spread out over your new hire’s first month, but core systems and tools should be taught as soon as possible. Send the new hire any training videos supplemented with written material for future reference.
By your new hire’s second day, they should feel more settled in and ready to start the real work. This is a good opportunity to align on expectations and set the groundwork for a strong working relationship.
Review the new hire’s responsibilities and discuss management style.
Provide a deeper overview of daily job requirements, plus discuss personal management style. The new hire should walk away with an understanding of their responsibilities and how to best work with their manager.
Cover your company’s internal processes and workflow.
Before your new hire can dive into their first project with clarity and confidence, they need to understand your company workflow. How is work assigned? Who reviews it? Give the new hire a detailed outline of your internal processes.
Set learning goals for the new hire’s first week, first month, and beyond.
New hires want to know what’s expected of them. Establish learning objectives for the first seven, 30, and 60 days on the job, so the new hire has something to work for and assess their progress against.
Throughout your new hire’s first week, provide a mix of written, recorded, and one-on-one video training to get them ready for their first assignment. Be sure to reinforce your company’s mission and core values.
Share orientation materials about your products, services, and industry.
Create an online training document that covers product details or services, industry research, an overview of competitors, and links to any other relevant materials your new hire should explore.
Dedicate a training session to the company’s mission and values.
Make sure your new hire understands the company’s bigger picture and how their work aligns with it.
Give the new hire their first work assignment to keep the momentum going.
Assigning a project during the first week helps managers and new hires align on work processes, deliverables, and pace. Ease the new hire into their role by providing a milestone that’s attainable, but still challenging — and make sure they know where to go for help.
Review the new hire’s first assignment and give constructive feedback.
A manager should schedule a meeting to review the first assignment. This allows both sides to share their screens and highlight what was done well and what could be improved.
Confirm that learning objectives are met and set formal six-month goals.
Establish performance goals for their six-month review and be clear about what’s expected.
Create opportunities to meet more people and strengthen team bonds.
Set up virtual happy hours or introductions to other departments, especially if the new hire will remain remote.
Month two and beyond
It can be harder to gauge if a remote new hire is settled and engaged — or if they need a little extra help. Keep the virtual onboarding process going well past their first month.
Touch base regularly to gauge how your new hire is feeling.
This can provide opportunities to discover what your new hire enjoys most, so you can better direct their work and avoid them burning out.
Give the new hire a chance to work on cross-functional projects.
When possible, create opportunities for your new hire to work with other teams and departments. This broadens their skill set and also helps connect them to a larger network.
Gather feedback about the onboarding process.
Ask the new hire for feedback about the onboarding experience to help you continuously improve your process over time. Send out a survey or hop on a video call to discuss the onboarding program’s strengths and weaknesses.
Three tips for better online onboarding
As you build your online onboarding process, you’ll soon learn what works for your company and what doesn’t. Check out some of these best practices to steer you in the right direction.
Clearly document your process
A successful onboarding process is scalable and repeatable — and that’s only possible if it’s written down. Create a living document that outlines your company’s process, and then share it with the team, making adjustments as you start receiving feedback.
When in doubt, over-communicate.
You may be unsure of how often to check in with new hires who are working remotely. Touch base throughout the week, using a healthy mix of video calls, instant messages, and emails, to make sure the new hire feels seen — without risking video fatigue.
Don't neglect your company culture.
Even if your new hire plans to remain remote, they need to feel connected to your company culture. Include cultural touchpoints throughout the onboarding process, like adding them to a fun chat channel or assigning an onboarding buddy.
Want to learn more about building your onboarding strategy? Check out the guide to the first 45 days of onboarding.