Over the last two and a half years, entire offices, companies, and industries have learned how to work from home. Though companies are shifting back toward hybrid and in-person models in 2023, remote roles still have a stronghold in many companies’ new hire plans. In fact, the number of primarily remote workers has nearly tripled since 2019. But before new employees start working fully remote, has your company developed its plan for onboarding remote employees? Could that plan use some tweaks? What’s working well, and what isn’t?
Insight Global has certainly had to adjust how it onboards remote employees since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article will give you 12 tips based on how to successfully transform your onboarding process for remote employees.
What is remote onboarding?
Remote onboarding is the process of onboarding new employees who work fully at a location that is not your base office. Some companies only work remotely, while other have hybrid models for employees, and others require work to occur in the office/work space 100% of the time.
Remote onboarding can be a challenge for some companies, especially if hiring remote employees has only become a need over the last couple of years. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated or deviate far from your routine onboarding experience!
Why it’s essential to learn how to effectively onboard remote employees
Employee onboarding should be a priority for all businesses. Onboarding is the process of getting new employees up to speed with their job duties, responsibilities, company policies, procedures, and more. This can take anywhere from several weeks to six months or more, depending on how quickly an employee learns what they need to know about their role and working at your business.
Onboarding remote employees has become a bigger need over the last couple years, and it’s possible additional challenges must be overcome when working with people in their new job who aren’t present in the office. Developing a plan specifically for remote employee onboarding can help ensure your new employee has all the necessary information to do their job well and feel part of the team.
It’s vital all employees know their purpose and where they stand when working at your company. You want them to feel welcome and important so they never get to the point where they feel they need to quiet quit or find another job because they don’t know what to do. You start this before their first official day, and it lasts long into their time with the company.
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Tips for onboarding remote employees
Onboarding is an integral part of every business. The process may look a little different for remote employees because it can be difficult to get them the same resources as in-office workers do. You want to make sure that employees have as similar access to those resources as possible, though.
When onboarding remote workers, it’s crucial to make onboarding a priority and not just an afterthought.
To accomplish this task, let’s go talk about 12 tips for onboarding remote employees.
1. Set aside time to prepare in the weeks leading up to their start date
Remote onboarding is different from onboarding in-person employees. You don’t have the benefit of walking new hires to their desks or having them meet other team members around the office. Instead, you need to ensure that your remote onboarding process covers all the essential points before day one. This process should start after the interview and they accept the job offer–so weeks before they officially start.
And that leads to…
2. Touch base every few days before they start and send them their essentials before Day 1
Stay in consistent contact when onboarding remote employees, even if they haven’t officially started yet.
This includes sending your new employee all the onboarding materials they need, such as an employee handbook, orientation videos, and the company’s mission and values, along with any other necessary documents.
They’ll also need things like a company laptop and/or phone, monitors, the proper cables, and other technology assets that allow them to do their job. Use an IT onboarding checklist to help you remember everything.
You can send them a welcome gift, too!
Once you’ve sent everything out, make sure they got them and are in proper condition. If they have any questions, you should have people ready to answer them. By doing this, you can make sure your new employee has everything they need to do their job on their official first day.
3. Clearly outline your virtual operations and processes
The next step in onboarding remote employees is to clearly outline the company’s virtual operations and processes. Send them all relevant information about how everything works online, including how you onboard remote employees and what the onboarding process will look like. Having a checklist helps both you and the employee know where you are at in the process.
You should also define what meetings softwares you use–Teams, Zoom, Skype, Webex, etc.–and how employees can access them and troubleshoot issues. (Don’t be scared to share what proper virtual meeting etiquette looks like at your company.) If your company requires a VPN for offsite employees, detail how they can log into that, too.
Include any training materials or resources they might need while working remotely. These could be videos, written documents, or access to a training portal. Make sure they have these in their inbox on or around day one, too.
4. Provide a digital employee handbook and any other useful materials to help them get acclimated
A digital employee handbook is an excellent way to onboard remote employees (and in-person employees). The handbook should have everything the employee needs to know about the company, from the company history to a general outline of PTO policies to how operations work.
Providing this information via email or on a shared company site will allow them access beyond their initial onboarding, too.
5. Be available for any questions along the way
Being available for your new hire’s questions during onboarding is essential. Respond to all emails, texts, calls, and other messages as efficiently as possible so there are no delays in onboarding due to unavailability on your part. In addition, if they need help with something like setting up their computer or logging into a system, make sure someone from IT (or another department) can help them out.
Encourage your new employee to reach out if they need help or clarification on anything related to work. You can even give them early access to messaging systems you may use, like Teams or Slack, so they can easily communicate with employees when they have questions.
6. Help new hires build connections with current team members
One of the best things about onboarding remote employees is that you can help them build connections with current team members from anywhere in the world.
Have your new employee’s supervisor and team members schedule regular check-ins the first couple of weeks to make sure they know how the business and team works. Encourage team members to have virtual lunches and/or happy hours with the new employee so they feel part of the team.
One of the most crucial aspects of remote work is making sure the team members all feel connected. This is especially true with new employees, and you can make sure these connections are formed in the onboarding process.
7. Outline clear and easy-to-follow training
All of these training documents, checklists, videos, and general onboarding expectations should be clear and easy-to-follow. Your entire training plan should be scheduled out by the day, and your new employees should know what videos they should watch or what documents they need to read at what time.
You can also outline a timeline for completing these tasks so there are no delays in their onboarding process.
8. Schedule regular meetings/check-ins
When onboarding remote workers, it’s important for the onboarding team to schedule regular check-ins. Members of this team can include:
- HR staffers
- The employee’s new supervisor
- Team leads
The onboarding process doesn’t stop after day one or week one. Regular check-ins take the onboarding process well into their first 30 or 60 days. These check-ins will help you stay on top of the employee’s onboarding process and make sure they’re getting all the support they need during this time.
You can also use these meetings as an opportunity to ask questions about how things are going or if the employee has any feedback.
9. Have an HR orientation
It’s essential to have an orientation on human-resources-specific topics so new employees can learn about the company and its policies. These trainings may include:
- Explanation of benefits
- Diversity training
- Sexual misconduct policies
- How employees get paid
- PTO/vacation policies
These trainings also give new hires opportunities to ask questions they might have on these specific topics.
10. Host virtual lunches or happy hours
As we mentioned before, hosting virtual lunches or happy hours is important. It will help new employees feel more connected with the team. But these should go beyond the first week or two. As we’ve said, onboarding is more than just a one-week process. It can last 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, or even up to six months.
The onboarding team can host these virtual lunches. Send new employees a gift card to a delivery service, get them all in a virtual room, then have the new employee(s) talk about their experiences a month into the new job. You want new employees to have connections to not only their team, but to the rest of the company, too.
11. Encourage mentorship in the onboarding process
When onboarding remote employees, it’s crucial to encourage mentorship from leaders. New employees will feel more comfortable and confident as they learn about their role within the company and how it affects the overall business.
One of the most important things you can do during the onboarding process is to have the new employee understand their purpose at the company. It will help them, especially when working remotely, to feel connected to the work they are doing.
12. Consistently provide and ask for feedback
Ask for feedback on how the onboarding process is going for remote employees. Do they feel connected to their team? Were their training expectations laid out clearly? Do they know the general duties of their role after the first 30 days? Sixty days? Any feedback you receive will inform how to improve the process. It will also help them feel more engaged in their onboarding process and make it easier for you to onboard new employees in the future.
On the flip side, you can also give feedback to the new employee on how their onboarding is going and how far along in the process they are. Hype them up when their supervisor talks about how great of an addition they’ve been, even in a short amount of time.
The process of onboarding remote employees doesn’t stop once your new employee starts on their first day. It doesn’t even stop after their first couple of weeks. Even when they’re fully settled into their role, you should continue to communicate with them and provide feedback, especially during the first few months on the job.
You want new employees to feel comfortable, accepted, and informed in their new role. General employee turnover can improve by having a strong onboarding process. This is even more true when in comes to employees who aren’t working in an office. By following these 12 tips, you can ensure a smooth onboarding process and beyond for your new remote employee.