December 16, 2020
Updated: January 5, 2021

The 5 Best Practices for Remote Onboarding

The transition to a fully remote work life has been a journey for employees around the globe.

But think about those that found a new opportunity and started a new job completely remote. No in-person welcome on the first day. No orientation with their fellow new hires sitting beside them. No face-to-face interaction with their manager. Having to navigate new technology and software on their own. Remote onboarding is not an easy feat.

Human resources teams everywhere are still trying to figure out how to best onboard new employees when they can’t be there to answer questions and ease their nerves. Making new hires feel comfortable from the get go is crucial during the onboarding process. Studies show that around 69% of employees will stay with a company long-term if they had a good onboarding experience. 

It can be difficult for remote hires to adjust to the company culture and get a well-rounded view into the mission, values and product knowledge they’ll need to do their job well. Not having the opportunity to meet in-person already makes team bonding difficult, but there are ways to avoid new hire isolation

In this post, we’ve laid out the five best practices you can use during the remote onboarding process to make sure your hires have a smooth landing in their new roles. 

1. Communicate expectations upfront

By laying out the expectations you have for a new employee before their first day, you give them the best shot at success. When they have a clear picture of their responsibilities and what’s expected of them, they’re not left in the dark and won’t have to ask as many questions (although there will still be plenty of them). 

The best way to do this is by customizing a schedule for each new hire that has allotted time for training, reviews and check-ins. Have the new hire’s manager schedule one-on-one time with them, whether this is on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Communicate openly about company values, upcoming projects they’ll work on, team objectives as well as their individual goals. 

Your priority is to make sure that new employees understand their responsibilities and the tools/software/applications they’ll use to do their work. Offer time with the IT team so they can set up their technology and ask any questions they may have. Lastly, provide them with the full documentation of their onboarding process so they can reference it during their first few weeks.

2. Create a connection, right away

A typical new hire’s first day would consist of an office tour, introductions to their teammates and a set of in-person orientation sessions. Because all of this is obsolete for the time-being, it’s important to put emphasis on connecting new hires with their teams (virtually of course).

Consider giving each new hire a “buddy” they can talk to as they get acquainted with their new role. They can ask them any questions that they may not want to ask in front of everyone on Slack. This “buddy” can either be someone a step above the new hire, someone on their team or a volunteer that’s been through the onboarding process before. The goal is to give new employees access to someone who can advise them on how to start their role on the right foot. 

Establishing connections early on is an important part of someone’s first few weeks with a new company. Encouraging team members to set up introductory meetings with new hires will kick-start a strong relationship with everyone from the start, leaving no room for feelings of isolation.

3. Create a step-by-step remote onboarding plan

Your remote onboarding plan should be concise, well thought out and be a document you can share with everyone, regardless of job title. Streamlining it this way can help you avoid confusion and extra documentation that isn’t necessary. 

A great remote onboarding plan should cover items like: 

  • A list of things the remote hire can look at before their first day (a welcome email that gives them a more in-depth look at the company, payroll, tax and insurance documents and a list of what their first week will entail).
  • A document that introduces hires to the tools and software they’ll be using, login and security information, a list of relevant team members’ contact information and the orientation schedule.
  • A list of tasks that managers can do as they onboard new hires such as scheduling one-on-ones, sharing information about the team and broader company, getting them up to speed on existing projects or campaigns and anything else they deem necessary to make the hire feel comfortable.

On top of this step-by-step onboarding plan, have a space (like a learning library) where you can store online training tools, manuals and other relevant materials so new employees can access and reference them as needed. 

4. Identify milestones

Your remote onboarding plan should not only touch on all aspects of the onboarding process, but also identify milestones that new hires can use as guidance. Managers can also use these milestones to measure an employee’s progress and how they’re integrating into the team.

Every journey will look different for each new hire, but laying out a rough timeline for the completion of these milestones gives them the structure and motivation to stay productive during the first month of their employment. 

5. Create a space for questions

Lastly, creating a space for questions (like a Slack channel) is a great way to let new hires get all of their questions answered in one central place. Starting a new position can be stressful and confusing. Designating a space for questions, no matter how big or small, is a great way to connect an onboarding class and create camaraderie. 

This space doesn’t have to be a Slack channel. You can create a Google doc or form that hires can submit questions to. Make sure to invite them to the space on their first day, check on their questions daily and direct them to the appropriate person that can help them. You also may want to keep the questions organized somewhere so that future onboarding classes can reference them and see if their question was already answered. 

Take it slow to get it right

Your onboarding process should always be a work in progress. Now that the world is adjusting to remote work, tweaking the way new hires join the company is more prevalent than ever. Plus, if you perfect a remote onboarding plan, you have the opportunity to hire more remote workers in the future, regardless of where they live, giving you access to the best candidates. 

Just remember: onboarding remotely is much more daunting than in-person orientation, so remember to let new hires have ample time to breathe. 

If you’re looking to create your own comprehensive onboarding process, take some inspiration from our 90-day sales onboarding plan.