Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, remote work has become an ever-more popular way of working.
And as the next generation of remote workers joins the workforce, how they’re onboarded has become a focal point of discussion.
How will they internalize the company’s values remotely?
Will they feel like part of the team when working from home?
Fortunately, a well-planned virtual onboarding program can address these questions and more.
In this article, we’ll highlight ten remote onboarding best practices and their benefits to ensure the smoothest experience for new hires.
This article contains:
(Click on the links below to jump to a specific section)
- 10 Remote Onboarding Best Practices
- Create a Detailed Remote Onboarding Plan
- Begin the Onboarding Process Early
- Set Clear Expectations
- Try Group Onboarding
- Help Create a Personal Connection
- Consider a Group Gathering
- Effective Virtual Training
- Communicate Your Company Culture
- Train Managers for Remote Onboarding
- Check-in on New Hires Frequently
- Why Remote Employee Onboarding is Vital
Let’s get started.
10 remote onboarding best practices
It’s no secret that a great onboarding process forms a healthy foundation to build relationships with new employees.
According to a study, as many as 9 in 10 new employees consider quitting in the first month. This may be a reflection of how well they acclimated to their position at their new company.
The virtual onboarding process only poses more challenges for your new remote workers, making the first month that much more important.
For instance, during that critical first month, it can be difficult to gauge how well remote employees are adjusting because you don’t have them in your vicinity.
But there are steps you can take to cover all your bases.
Here are ten best practices to help you create a successful remote onboarding experience for all your new employees:
1. Create a detailed remote onboarding plan
A well-thought-out plan can make all the difference in how successful your remote onboarding process is. The plan should cover everything needed to ease the new remote hire into the company in their first weeks.
Some of the things that an onboarding plan should address includes:
- Things to do before day one at work.
- All onboarding material to be covered in the first weeks.
- Tasks the new hire needs to complete.
- Milestones along with a timeline to measure their progress.
- Tasks for managers like orientation, introducing the new employee to the remote team, explaining project background, etc.
You can also share an employee handbook with the new remote worker and their managers, detailing every step of the process.
A clearly defined onboarding plan makes it easier to have standardized virtual onboarding practices for every new team member at your company. You can consistently invest the right amount of time and energy towards helping new remote employees feel welcome.
2. Begin the onboarding process early
It is vital to start the onboarding process before your new hire’s first day at their new job.
First days can be pretty stressful and overwhelming, and this is a good way to help curb those feelings.
A hiring manager can ease employees into the position by sending across any company swag and addressing all IT needs a few days in advance, including software and security logins.
This is a key element of remote work positions as employees usually need to register and access a host of different communication, productivity, and other workplace tools.
For instance, Time Doctor is a powerful productivity management tool that can track time and initiate new hires into the idea of optimizing their productivity at work.
When you start the onboarding process before their first day, new employees can effectively familiarize themselves with the tool and other project management or communication software.
Having all this configured beforehand can help lighten the load when new employees are likely to have plenty of job-specific information to digest.
3. Set clear expectations
You should use the onboarding process to drive home what you expect from your new worker in their position.
Clarity is key here, and it’s your responsibility to ensure they know:
- Their responsibilities.
- What their workflow looks like.
- How often they should report their progress.
On the other hand, you should keep all micromanagement to a minimum.
Given their relative lack of know-how and expertise, micromanaging a new remote hire might be an easy temptation. But it can feel confining and dampen their creativity.
New hires will be learning multiple things on the go during the onboarding process, and it’s good practice to give them some leeway early on.
Additionally, how you supervise them during the onboarding phase will set the tone for their future work. Independent working is fundamental for remote workers, so fostering such skills is important.
Micromanaging can also just eat up a lot of your manager’s time and energy. Instead, it’s better to clearly communicate what you expect from your new employee and then assign them to a relatively straightforward task where any potential mistake can be easily corrected.
4. Try group onboarding
Group onboarding helps make managing all your new hires far less of a hassle and can save a lot of time for your managers.
Additionally, it can also make the onboarding experience better for your new hires.
Having peers at a similar standing who are also on the same path as them is a great way to help alleviate those first-day jitters.
A remote environment can often feel isolating, and group employee onboarding is a fantastic way to address this issue. Let’s take a closer look at this idea in our next point below.
5. Help create a personal connection
In a traditional office setting, a new hire’s first day would generally include a tour, teammate introductions, perhaps an orientation session, etc. This obviously isn’t possible with remote work and can significantly hinder how a new hire makes a personal connection at work.
Curbing some of the isolation is worth doing when onboarding remote employees.
And as mentioned in the previous point, group employee onboarding can definitely help with this.
You can also consider an onboarding buddy system where a new hire is paired with an existing employee. This gives them access to someone who can always answer questions and make sure they fit well into their new remote teams.
6. Consider a group gathering
If your current circumstances will allow it, organizing an in-person gathering of all your new remote workers can address the isolation issue and help create a sense of belonging for them.
It’s an excellent way for new hires to connect people and personalities to all the names they’ve only virtually interacted with.
An initial in-person gathering can also strengthen the quality of all the inevitable virtual meetings and communication going forward.
However, this isn’t always practical since remote employees usually work from various locations. If that’s the case at your organization, you can easily conduct a virtual gathering via a Zoom video conference.
7. Effective virtual training
The quality of your virtual training efforts is an important factor in how well your new team member acclimates to their new role.
Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when creating your virtual training program:
- Break down role-specific employee training into simple steps.
- Encourage existing employees to share feedback on internal processes.
- Ensure live webinars and video conferencing sessions are concise and engaging.
- Address your new hires by their names.
- Ask for feedback from your new hires.
- Maintain a two-way channel for communication.
Your objective with employee training sessions is to prepare your new employee with all the tools and information they need to do as great a job as possible. In addition to that, it’s also a great opportunity to get to know them better and welcome them to the organization.
8. Communicate your company culture
A well-ingrained company culture with a remote-friendly work environment is often integral to ensure the onboarding process succeeds.
All employees should feel like they’re part of the team and clearly understand how they fit into the larger picture.
Creating a sense of belonging at work for your employees should always be a priority. A great way to do this is by making unspoken cultural rules more explicit with remote work.
This includes things like:
- Virtual meeting etiquette.
- Dress code.
- Level of formality.
- Messaging norms.
- Remote working hours.
A virtual employee is more vulnerable to feeling dissociated from the rest of the team. So, you must spend more time and energy communicating company culture with them than you would in a traditional office environment.
9. Train managers for remote onboarding
Hiring managers must be adequately trained and attuned to the nuances of remote onboarding.
Here are a few key examples of what they can do:
- Take advantage of all the functions of team communication and project management tools.
- Assign more manageable tasks to new hires.
- Be prepared to offer ongoing feedback and virtual support.
It’s essential that companies don’t just fall back on traditional onboarding practices. Instead, they should adapt and prepare their managers to meet current requirements.
10. Check-in on new hires frequently
You should pay extra attention to checking in on new hires on a regular basis.
This is important to ensure that your onboarding process is working right and that employees are progressing as expected.
Follow-ups for employees can be as simple as an email or a message on your communication tool, like Slack. Aside from direct supervisors, it’s also a good idea for human resources managers to schedule periodic one-on-one video calls.
A valuable benefit to regular check-ins is that it sets the right stage for receiving constant feedback on the onboarding process. Besides addressing any potential issues as they arise, you are also likely to get a much clearer idea of where you can improve.
However, communication shouldn’t just flow in one direction. You must establish a space for new employees to ask questions and address their concerns.
Ideally, this should be a central space (a Slack channel or Microsoft Teams) where all new hires can see responses to questions and respond to each other’s doubts. It’s also a great way to enable connections between all the new hires.
Now that we understand the best practices for remote employee onboarding, let’s explore why it’s so important for an organization.
Why remote employee onboarding is vital
Organizations that have adapted their employee onboarding practices for remote work report substantial improvements in three key areas. Let’s explore some of these:
1. Increase employee retention
The employee onboarding phase is a critical component of any company-wide strategy to encourage employees to stay for the long haul.
Effective onboarding aims to convince employees that sustained efforts over the long term can help them reap career jumps and financial rewards at your company. It prepares employees to fully commit to performing well and exceeding expectations.
It’s a great opportunity to really drive home how valued your new employees are and can help retain your best workers.
In the long run, higher employee retention rates mean that you can retain top talent, attract newer people, and cut hiring costs across the board.
2. Boost employee engagement
A high degree of employee engagement is a powerful driver of company performance and growth. Engaged employees are passionate about their role within the organization and know that their contributions are valued.
A solid onboarding program can foster employee engagement early on and consolidate it for the long haul. When new hires are made aware of the importance of their role in the team, they’re far more likely to develop an engaged and committed attitude towards their work.
This also has the desirable effect of decreasing the time it takes for them to become proficient at carrying out their new tasks.
3. Reinforce company culture
Employees are most open to absorbing new ideas and information during the onboarding process.
This makes it the ideal time to share all ideas related to company culture and company values so that it really entrenches itself in your new hire’s work habits.
Strengthening company culture ideas early on can help ensure new employees comply with your organization’s work processes and take greater responsibility for their actions. This is a greater issue with remote work since supervision is limited.
An emphasis on company culture is also a fantastic way to bolster your new employees’ sense of belonging and camaraderie in their work environment.
An effective onboarding program is considerably more important now with the increasing popularity of remote work.
We’ve highlighted some of the most indispensable elements to successfully onboard remote employees. Keep these in mind when creating your onboarding process, and you can set the stage for healthy, long-term professional relationships with all your new hires.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.