On average, one in ten employees decide to leave a company due to a poor onboarding experience, and this number is often higher for remote jobs requiring less commitment.
Tips for Effectively Onboarding Remote Employees
Updated on July 13, 2023
Tips for Effectively Onboarding Remote Employees
Especially with the rise of remote working, a growing number of new employees are experiencing the onboarding process without ever stepping foot in an office.
Though the first few days in a new position might seem overwhelming to new hires, creating and maintaining an orderly onboarding process can ease the process for everyone involved.
Ensuring new hires feel equipped to begin work is essential to employee retention. If the first few days at a new company feel disorganized or ill-managed, you may lose new hires who prioritize organization and clear communication in the workplace.
To combat this, work to provide new hires with a smooth remote onboarding experience using careful planning and execution to ensure a pleasant and efficient transition into their new roles.
What Is Onboarding?
Before diving into the intricacies of remote onboarding, having a clear definition of the standard onboarding process will be helpful. Though sometimes confused with orientation, onboarding goes beyond the first few days of showing new hires where the breakroom is and how to clock in.
Onboarding encompasses the whole process of a new hire acclimating to the work environment, its technology, process, and people. This includes technical knowledge about how to use the relevant software, social acclimation, and reaching a level of knowledge and comfort that allows for total productivity.
Onboarding also includes learning the culture, history, and people of the organization you are joining, helping new hires gain a more complete understanding of how things work.
Because onboarding is fairly comprehensive, it can’t be accomplished in just a few days. In fact, some onboarding processes can last up to a year as new employees receive extensive training to excel in their new roles.
When we think about remote onboarding, all the same aspects of in-person onboarding apply, with a few additional things to think about.
First, remote onboarding is carried by technology, so it’s essential to ensure everything is working smoothly before a new employee’s first day. Check that everything is running property and test sound and connection to prevent any technical hiccups.
Additionally, the lack of person-to-person contact can make it more difficult for new employees to get a feel for their new work environment quickly.
Unlike an office environment, new hires can’t just poke their head into a neighbor’s office and ask for clarification. Slack and other messaging tools make it easy to chat with colleagues, but new hires may feel a need to be self-sufficient.
Still, they can’t know how to do things without being taught, so it’s important to facilitate an open environment where questions are encouraged.
What Is the Importance of Remote Onboarding?
In general, the onboarding process often indicates what life in the organization will look like. If you’ve spent lots of time and resources on recruiting and hiring top talent, you definitely don’t want to lose them over an inefficient onboarding process.
Especially for remote work, the onboarding process will set the tone for how often managers and colleagues communicate, initial experiences with new software, and other aspects of professional duties.
If employees aren’t guided through the onboarding process, they might begin working without the necessary know-how, reflecting poorly on themselves and the organization as a whole.
Tips for Effectively Onboarding Remote Employees
If the in-person onboarding process is important, the remote employee onboarding process is even more crucial.
Because all communication between managers and employees is conducted remotely, it is imperative to start out on the right foot. Creating a smooth remote onboarding process will ultimately lead to high employee engagement and job satisfaction and set new hires up with the tools they need to succeed.
1. Create a Structured Onboarding Plan
Develop a comprehensive onboarding plan that outlines the necessary steps and activities to get your remote employees up to speed. Sharing this overview with new hires can help them monitor their own progress and make improvements if necessary.
Include a timeline, a list of tasks, and information on how to access the resources they’ll need to complete their onboarding process. Besides the obvious steps of onboarding, it’s also important to think about what a new hire may be missing from an in-person experience.
For example, the CEO might pop in to introduce themselves, neighboring coworkers might ask some get-to-know-you questions, and someone could invite them to grab lunch. To make up for these experiences, schedule an all-hands meeting for new hires to become acquainted with the whole team.
You could even host a virtual coffee or lunch session with a manager or other colleague to ensure new hires feel welcome and seen in their new environment.
2. Use HR Software
When onboarding new remote employees, HR software is your best asset. There are countless options for platforms to share informational videos, facilitate paperwork, and initiate meetings with the rest of the team.
Once a hiring decision is made, a pile of paperwork usually stands between the new employee and the moment they can actually get to work.
Rather than letting your HR reps labor over tax forms and direct deposit information, use an onboarding and offboarding software to ensure everything is conducted efficiently.
Besides making life easier for your HR department, these types of software also help new employees immediately feel more involved. New hires can often fill out many of the necessary forms online and be granted access to documents like employee handbooks and more.
Onboarding and offboarding software often feature checklists, document storage, and a self-service application that allows employees to access their information at any time.
More advanced software sometimes offers specific training content for different roles, so you can tailor your new hire’s experience to provide exactly what they need to get started in their position.
3. Set Clear Expectations
Clearly communicate the company’s goals, vision, and expectations to new employees and encourage them to voice any questions they may have.
Especially during onboarding, setting clear expectations and communicating the company’s goals, vision, and culture will set the tone for the rest of the employee’s experience with the organization.
Provide them with a detailed job description and explain how their role fits into the overall team and organization. Ensuring that everyone is on the same page will prevent miscommunications that could lead to new hires feeling discouraged in their first few weeks.
Additionally, clearly defining responsibilities, objectives, and key performance indicators will help both new hires and managers use the same metrics to track performance, leading to better performance and increased job satisfaction.
4. Establish Effective Communication Channels
Ensure that remote employees have access to the necessary communication tools, such as instant messaging platforms, video conferencing software, and project management systems.
You’ll want to set these accounts up for new hires before their first day to prevent any frustration or confusion.
Share team guidelines for communication frequency, preferred channels, and response times to foster effective collaboration and help new hires mesh with their new colleagues.
It’s also beneficial to organize virtual meetings or video calls to introduce new employee to their team members, supervisors, and key stakeholders. Encourage all employees to share their roles, responsibilities, and expertise, which can help create a faster sense of belonging and connection.
5. Assign a Mentor
Onboarding can be stressful if new employees are unsure who to approach for help or clarification. Don’t leave them to figure things out for themselves by pairing the new remote employee with an experienced team member who can serve as a mentor or buddy.
Even if this person does not facilitate official training sessions, they can provide invaluable general guidance, answer questions, and offer support during the onboarding process.
Encourage regular check-ins between the mentor and the new employee by setting a schedule of morning or evening chats. You could even send new hires and their buddies food-delivery gift cards for a virtual lunch date!
6. Provide Necessary Equipment and Technology
Ensure that remote employees have the necessary hardware, software, and equipment to perform their job effectively. It’s best to have new hires all set up before their first official day to help them feel confident and undistracted during the learning process.
Depending on your organization, this may include mailing company laptops, granting access to cloud-based tools, and setting up any specialized software or applications they need.
7. Offer Comprehensive Training
Develop a training program tailored to remote employees, covering both the specific tasks and the company’s overall operations. Automate this process as much as possible by creating comprehensive training videos, reading material, and other sources to share with all new employees.
Not only does this reduce the workload of the person in charge of training, but it ensures that all new hires are met with the same training standard and can rewatch videos as situations arise in their first few weeks of employment.
We also recommend using various training methods, such as online courses, webinars, video tutorials, and documentation, to account for different learning styles. It’s important to ensure all new hires feel accommodated and supported during their training period.
Finally, create a centralized repository of resources, documentation, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that remote employees can access. This will help them understand processes, policies, and guidelines and enable them to work independently.
8. Encourage Social Interaction
Foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie among remote employees by creating virtual social spaces, such as chat channels or dedicated virtual coffee breaks.
One of the downsides of remote working is that employees can feel pressured to avoid breaks or other social activities. Though this may seem like a good thing from a productivity perspective, it usually leads to burnout and fatigue.
Combat these conditions by encouraging team members to engage in informal conversations and team-building activities to strengthen relationships on the clock. After all, happy employees will be more productive in the long run.
9. Seek Feedback
Regularly check in with remote employees to gather feedback on their onboarding experience. Use this feedback to refine your onboarding process and address any challenges or gaps in the future.
Remember, effective onboarding is an ongoing process, especially for remote employees. Continued support, regular communication, and opportunities for growth and development will help remote employees integrate successfully into the team and contribute to the organization’s success.
As we have seen, onboarding is an extensive process that is extremely important to employee retention, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.
These aspects of onboarding become even more important when it is completed remotely, as a bad system can leave remote employees feeling isolated, confused, and unhappy with their onboarding experience and introduction to the organization.
Clear and constant communication is the most important aspect of an effective remote onboarding experience.
Establishing clear training protocols and facilitating social interactions can also improve the experience, but prioritize a standard of open communication and welcome any and all questions or feedback new hires may have.
This will help them feel valued and supported during their onboarding process and can even speed up the rate of their learning and general acclimating.
Onboarding Remote Employees FAQs
HR management software offers numerous benefits but can have negative effects as well. Automating onboarding processes may make things easier for the HR department but can appear cold or impersonal to candidates. Also, no matter how good your software is, it can only measure performance through data and statistics and might miss interpersonal elements. It’s always a good idea to keep a pair of human eyes on these processes — the department is called human resources for a reason.
Remote onboarding differs from traditional onboarding in that it leverages digital tools and virtual communication to facilitate the integration of new employees into the company culture and team instead of in-person interactions and physical resources.
Remote onboarding provides several benefits, including cost savings, improved flexibility, and increased access to talent outside of the company’s geographical location. It also enables companies to adapt to changes and disruptions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Companies can evaluate the success of remote onboarding by assessing employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention rates. They can also gather feedback from new employees and managers to identify areas for improvement and refinement.