How to onboard remote employees

9th April 2021 | 4 min read

We’re all familiar with onboarding, which is the set of processes put in place for new employees starting at a company, but over the past year the modern workplace has had to adapt. This has meant that remote onboarding has become much more commonplace.

And even with everyone beginning to look at a return to the office, remote onboarding in some form is still likely to play a part going forwards as businesses embrace new ways of working more. 

Conventional onboarding processes, which are important for making new employees feel welcome and to help them get off to a good start, usually include a tour of the building, meeting and getting to know the team, introductions to finance procedures and different tools, completing new starter packs and a series of training modules or workshops. It could also involve physically shadowing a fellow team member to learn the ropes. Depending on the company, the onboarding process can take anywhere from a week to a few months to complete.

However, remote onboarding, which prior to the pandemic was mainly used by distributed or virtual companies with no physical office or firms with employees based all around the world, is conducted virtually and relies on video calls and virtual meetings. 

Why is remote onboarding important?

With the majority of us currently working from home, lots of people have had to start new jobs remotely, without being able to meet their new colleagues or take a look around their new office. Joining a new company is a big step in itself, so a good process is therefore vital for onboarding remote employees, since they can’t meet people, learn company processes or experience company culture in person. 

Onboarding sets up an employee for their time at the company and often has a real impact on their opinion of the business – after all, first impressions are important! In fact, some researchers have suggested that onboarding is one of the most influential factors of an employee’s experience at a company. So here are some tips to help with the remote onboarding process.

Tips and Guidance for Remote Onboarding

Although remote onboarding can be tricky, here are some easy steps you can take to welcome new employees and make them feel at home:

Set up tech in advance

There’s nothing worse than joining a new company remotely and not having the right equipment. Make sure any new joiners receive a laptop, monitor and any other equipment they’ll need well in advance to their first day, as well as logins to the VPN, any company software or tools and instructions for setting up their workstation. 

Structure

Structure is the most important part of your remote onboarding process. With no face-to-face contact, lots of employees who join remotely feel lost. Create a calendar for your new starter with a clear agenda for each day, including introduction meetings and any training modules they need to complete. 

Informal meetings

Making personal connections can be difficult when starting any new company, let alone over Teams or Zoom, so encourage team members to arrange a virtual coffee with the new joiner. You could also arrange a team lunch, drinks or pub quiz during their first week – this will go a long way towards making new starters feel like part of the company. 

Team training

If your onboarding process includes training modules, ask the whole team to pitch in and help onboard new joiners by recording instructional videos or walkthroughs to help them with certain tools, or arrange one-on-one chats with them to demonstrate how to do more difficult tasks. Ensure that an online portal or folder is set up in advance so your new starter can access everything remotely. 

The first project

Give your new starter purpose by creating a clear plan for their first few weeks and months. Start off with projects that require them to collaborate with other members of the team, get to know company tools and processes and develop an understanding of the role’s requirements.

Ask for feedback

Check in with your new joiner regularly and ask how they’re getting on. Starting a new job remotely can feel like being buried under an avalanche of information, so support them as much as possible throughout their first few weeks. Ask them what’s working and what isn’t – this will all help to improve future onboarding.