8 steps for successful remote onboarding for new hires (+ FAQs)

by Liam Martin
remote onboarding

Employee onboarding has clear objectives: help employees build relationships, understand work expectations, and accustom them to the company culture.

However, achieving these goals can be challenging during remote onboarding since you can’t have in-person interactions with your employees.

But the process is here to stay! 

With the surge in remote work during the pandemic, businesses are noting how strategic remote onboarding can increase employee engagement and retention. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the eight crucial steps to successful remote onboarding, its three key benefits, and three frequently asked questions. 

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Let’s get started. 

8 crucial steps to successful remote onboarding 

Virtual onboarding may come with challenges such as loss of social connection and internal communication breakdown. 

But the process doesn’t have to be taxing for your new hires

Here are eight important best practices you can follow to provide them with a successful remote onboarding experience:

1. Implement a pre-boarding program

Pre-boarding refers to everything that occurs between a new hire signing a contract to reporting to the new job on day one. 

A strategic pre-boarding program usually lasts for two weeks and is critical to the success of the larger remote onboarding process. 

The program typically involves:

  • Assisting employees with administration, paperwork, tax forms, and more.
  • Helping employees with work samples, study material, guides, and assignments. 
  • Providing guidelines on what the first day, first week, and the first month of their new job will look like.  

With a pre-boarding program, your company can establish clear communication with a new hire before they’re expected to start delivering consistent work. This takes off the pressure of performance and allows employees to adapt to a new work environment steadily. 

It’s also a good idea to put your new employee in touch with their manager as quickly as possible. If this isn’t a scalable option, consider introducing the new team member to a colleague who can be an informal mentor. 

2. Establish early employee relations

New remote employees lack spontaneous opportunities for small talk and relationship building with their colleagues. 

To combat the lack of these water cooler interactions within your remote workforce, you can implement two communication strategies. 

These strategies include:

  • Helping the new hire build one-on-one relationships. 
  • And helping them build a broad work network.  

You can help remote employees build strong one-on-one relationships through informal virtual meetings, including happy hours, team-building activities, and icebreakers. This can enable remote employees to establish foundational relationships based on trust. 

To help new hires build a broader network, consider involving them in larger group discussions. You can also set up a “shadow week” that involves attending stakeholder meetings and group discussions. This can help remote hires gain insights into how your organization works. 

3. Set up necessary technology 

New remote employees require access to all your work systems. This includes emails, slack channels, mobile apps, project management apps, and anything else they’ll need on the first day of work. 

While this may seem like a no-brainer, remote access issues can be nerve-wracking for any employee on their first day. 

It’s best to send new employees electronic assets like laptops or phones well before their start date. Ensuring these devices are fully set up for remote work with the right company configurations can make your new hires more comfortable. 

Consider offering each new employee a training session with your IT team. 

The IT training for a virtual onboarding process could include:

  • Walkthroughs of using video conferencing platforms like Zoom.
  • Tutorials on using communication channels like Slack
  • Guides for other necessary company systems, including remote computer software, employee tracking systems, etc. 

4. Define your company culture

A company’s work culture refers to its values, goals, and work practices. Companies rely on organic ways to communicate this culture to new hires in an in person work environment. 

With remote working and remote onboarding, it may be hard for employees to observe and mirror a company’s work culture. This is why it’s best to be straightforward about unspoken assumptions within the organization. 

These norms can include your company’s tone, level of formality, messaging norms, remote work etiquette, virtual team meetings etiquette, social media conduct, and more. 

It’s also helpful to document and share information on work culture through videos, employee testimonials, or the “about us” section on your website or LinkedIn page. 

Another great idea to help new hires understand your company culture is to designate a culture onboarding buddy. 

What’s that?

An HR manager (Human Resources manager) can ask a colleague to be a culture onboarding buddy to a new hire. Culture buddies can help answer questions about the company’s do’s and don’ts. 

Measures like these can help new employees quickly establish a connection with your company and help them feel like they’re a part of the team. 

5. Set clear work expectations

Having a clear idea of workflows and responsibilities can be of great help to a new hire. 

Clear expectations can empower new employees to prioritize the most important projects and accomplish early wins. This can create strong momentum for their future success in your company. 

This is why you must ensure a new remote employee has a clear picture of work expectations and success for the first couple of months. 

Apart from individual work expectations, a new remote employee must also be in tune with your company’s long-term vision. Over many years, an employee’s role in your organization can evolve and become more prominent. 

This is why your HR team must help new remote employees understand how their work responsibilities fit into the larger success of your company. A hiring manager can achieve this by sharing key communications and presentations from the leadership team during the onboarding process. 

6. Use checklists to engage new hires

Since remote hires may not interact with your HR team face-to-face, they may get distracted from their onboarding plan. 

One way to help remote new employees stay focused and engaged is to use checklist templates for your onboarding plan. 

For example, let’s say you’ve assigned an employee handbook and other reading materials to your new hires. You can ask them to check off what they have read using a remote onboarding checklist

A checklist can indicate visible progress and help new hires ensure they don’t miss out on any task. 

But engaging new hires doesn’t end with checklists.
It’s also crucial to send new employees reminders to finish their onboarding tasks. 

7. Seek regular and detailed feedback 

Onboarding remote employees is not just about the steady progress of your new hires but also the progress of your onboarding process itself.

It’s important to check in with your new remote workers about their onboarding experience. Seeking employee feedback can help you understand how the onboarding process is helping them, what’s working, and what isn’t.

Consider asking your employees a mix of open and specific questions. This can encourage them to give you detailed and constructive feedback. 

In addition to identifying the shortcomings of your onboarding program, seeking feedback can let your new hires know that you’re paying attention. This can, in turn, positively affect employee engagement and motivation. 

8. Use onboarding metrics to measure success

The final step towards a successful remote onboarding program is measuring the success of your program using specific productivity metrics. 

These onboarding metrics help employees understand what’s expected even with remote working. Additionally, they can help you monitor the performance of your remote onboarding process and track employee satisfaction.

Consider using super specific, measurable, and time-bound metrics to gain actionable insights from your employee onboarding data. 

For example, let’s say you’re onboarding remote employees for a customer service profile. You can set specific metrics like ‘performing a product demo’ or ‘achieving an overall score of four out of five’ after their first month. 

You can also ask your new employees to rate their satisfaction with your remote onboarding program. 

With that, let’s look at the three most important benefits of having a successful remote onboarding guide in place. 

3 key benefits of a comprehensive onboarding program

Here’s a closer look at the three key benefits of a successful onboarding program:

1. Increased employee productivity

After remote hiring, you’d ideally want your new team to be up and running as quickly as possible. One of the most efficient ways of doing that is by ensuring your new hires go through an effective onboarding program.  

With the right onboarding program, your new hires can tackle their responsibilities sooner than doing them independently with minimal guidance.

In fact, according to a 2018 report by Urban Bound, Companies who commit to an extended onboarding experience accelerate new hire proficiency by 34%.

Additionally, a Northpass study from 2019 found that businesses using organized employee onboarding see a 60% increase in revenue year over year. 

2. Better employee retention

Talent scarcity and a high employee turnover rate are some of the biggest challenges businesses face today. That’s why it’s important to engage your new remote team from day one. 

Aside from ramping up productivity, having an effective remote onboarding program can help establish a connection with your new hires and show them that your company cares. 

To that end, a 2021 Gallup research found that 70% of employees with great onboarding experiences said they have “the best possible job.”

3. Increased learning flexibility

Remote onboarding programs are customizable and offer great learning flexibility to new employees. 


In a remote environment, your company’s onboarding program can be as high-touch or low-touch as a new hire wishes. 

For instance, new remote employees who prefer visual learning can gain training through a series of video calls and video walkthroughs of each element of their onboarding training. 

And for those who prefer self-learning methods, you can customize your employee onboarding process to provide self-guided learning resources and documents.

In the next section, we’ll answer three frequently asked questions (FAQs) about virtual onboarding.

3 important FAQs on remote onboarding

Here are three important and commonly asked questions about remote onboarding:

1. How is remote onboarding different from orientation?

It’s common to think that orientation and onboarding are the same process. However, the two are very different processes. 

Orientation is typically a one-time event. A company hosts an orientation program to welcome a group of new hires to an organization. In a remote work environment, an orientation program can be a virtual webinar that introduces employees to a company’s vision, goals, culture, and history. 

Sometimes, orientations can include a section that guides new hires by filling in mandatory worker papers and reviewing a company’s code of conduct and safety policies.

Employee onboarding, on the other hand, isn’t just a one-time event. It refers to a series of processes over an extended period and is usually tailored to a new employee’s specific role. 

An onboarding program usually includes an orientation event, but it isn’t limited to it. 

For example, a new hire on your marketing team can be a part of orientation with other new hires joining your organization. But the onboarding program for the new marketing team member can last for several months and is tailored to their marketer job role.

2. How long should remote onboarding last?

The length of a new employee’s remote onboarding program can vary from a couple of weeks to over three months. 

The length of a remote onboarding program usually depends on:

  • The complexity of the new hire’s role.
  • The new employee’s learning requirements.
  • And the company’s maturity, among other factors. 

3. What should you avoid during remote onboarding?

Here are three things you should avoid to give your new employees a smooth remote onboarding experience: 

  • Information overload: It can be counterproductive to provide too much information to a new hire at once, as this can overwhelm them.
  • Frequent communication: It’s important to avoid unnecessary communication with a new hire. Maintaining minimal communication touchpoints and keeping your messages focused can ease the process for new hires. 
  • Software fatigue: Introducing new hires to all the communication tools, remote desktop software, and collaboration software your company uses at once can intimidate them and hinder their overall well-being. Alternatively, introducing your new employees to the critical tools first won’t overwhelm them. 

Final thoughts

Onboarding is a key driver of employee success and productivity. 

Gaining momentum and getting off to a good start can ensure your new employee has greater chances of success within your organization. 

Remote employee onboarding can clearly be more challenging than doing it in person. But you can refer to our eight best practices to create a successful remote onboarding experience with ease.

For more resourceful tips on remote employee management and productivity, check out the Time Doctor blog!

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