Human Resources

The 5 Most Effective Remote Onboarding Steps to Follow

Onboarding employees can be exciting. It’s a chance for you and your existing staff to meet the new employees and vice versa. More than that, it can be a chance to forge personal connections that will facilitate integrating your new employees into the existing team. 

However, if your company is decentralized, remote onboarding of employees can be challenging. It’s harder to have that initial, instant personal connection.

[FREE DOWNLOAD: Onboarding Checklist: Tasks & Steps to Complete]

There are five remote onboarding steps you can take to make the whole process more effective:

  • Step #1: Encourage open communication
  • Step #2: Remote workstations must be ready
  • Step #3: Tailor the remote onboarding to new employees
  • Step #4: Assign onboarding ambassadors
  • Step #5: Use an online learning platform for onboarding

Step #1: Encourage open communication 

Many people are nervous on their first day at a new job and eager to make a good impression. Communication is key. 

As the employer, it’s your job to check in with new employees, especially during the remote onboarding process, to see where they are and make sure they aren’t overwhelmed.

Communicate your expectations to new employees and explain the goals and objectives of the onboarding process. Make sure you or a manager frequently check in with new employees to see how things are going. 

You want to encourage open communication from the beginning. It will facilitate teamwork later.  

Communicating company culture during remote onboarding

The process of remotely onboarding employees should include an effort to communicate company culture. Include the following items in your cultural introduction:

  • The office code of conduct 
  • Company norms, values, underlying assumptions, and expectations for interpersonal actions and treatment of others
  • A description of the company’s history and short- and long-term goals, important milestones, and the mission statement

Sometimes a barrier to successfully remotely onboarding employees is their trouble understanding or adjusting to company culture. 

Step #2: Remote workstations must be ready

Having hardware and software ready for your new employees is one remote onboarding step everything else depends upon. Equipment is necessary for employees to do their jobs, and they are eager to begin on their first day. Technical issues are common so be ready to convert your media files and switch from video to audio if necessary. Ensure the hardware arrives before your new employees start within their welcome packet. If it arrives a few days before, your employees can prepare their workstation, so they are ready to go on day one.

Ensure the hardware arrives before your new employees start within their welcome packet. If it arrives a few days before, your employees can prepare their workstation, so they are ready to go on day one. 

Also, make sure to send all necessary hardware, including headsets, mice, and keyboards (anything they will need). Moreover, if your remote employees need a printer or you supply a second monitor, make sure it all arrives a day or two before they need it. 

Ideally, your tech team should have already installed all of the needed software tools (including VPN access) on new computers for employees. It’s important to remember that new employees can’t just stop by the IT Department for help working remotely. 

It’s important to include standard operating procedures and make sure new employees know who to contact if they have technical trouble. 

Step #3: Tailor the remote onboarding to new employees

Another remote onboarding step that’s important is to tailor the onboarding to the individual employees. Each new person will have a specific role to play and will learn in their own way. One size doesn’t fit all; the process should be flexible. 

When you begin remotely onboarding employees, set out clear goals and objectives so they know what’s expected. If your new employees don’t know what’s expected of them, it can be confusing and frustrating. 

Also, make sure to appreciate new employees when they achieve remote onboarding benchmarks. Recognition and appreciation always go a long way with all of your employees. 

Everyone learns differently. You want your new employees to be engaged but not overwhelmed. Some will acclimate faster, and you don’t want them to get bored with a slow pace. 

Checking in with new employees frequently to assess how the remote onboarding is going is critical. Make adjustments to their onboarding plan as needed. 

Informal Get-Togethers

In the office, new hires are met with smiles and handshakes. When working remotely, their first contact is a glowing screen. Schedule virtual coffee breaks or lunches to help new employees get to know their teammates. 

However, avoid putting your new employee on the spot. Making the lunch all about them and putting them in the spotlight makes some people uncomfortable, especially when they are still nervous about being new. Be inclusive and friendly but don’t push too hard.

Step #4: Assign onboarding ambassadors 

A critical but often overlooked remote onboarding step is assigning onboarding “ambassadors” to new employees. Think of it as the buddy system for remotely onboarding employees. 

For the first at least two to four weeks, the ambassadors should be in touch with their assigned new employees daily and after that every third day or once a week.

The job of your onboarding ambassadors is to:

  • Help the new employee become more comfortable in the new role 
  • Facilitate onboarding
  • Answer questions 
  • Offer support 
  • Impart the company culture and values 
  • Serve as a guide

Having an ambassador can encourage open dialogue and break down social barriers, which builds a happy workforce. 

Setting up ambassadors for success  

There are things to consider when assigning ambassadors to new employees. First, you want to give new team members someone they’ll be comfortable with. For example, assigning a bubbly extrovert to someone who is shyer may not be the best choice. 

Make sure you let the ambassadors know what’s expected of them, what they should do, and give them the tools and know-how to go about it. Then, periodically check in with the ambassadors and the new team members to see how things are going.

Also, when assigning ambassadors to new team members undergoing remote onboarding, ensure their schedules overlap. If there’s little overlap, or they are in time zones that are hours apart, it can stifle open dialogue and slow down trust-building and team integration. 

Remember, being an ambassador is an additional duty on top of the veteran team member's other responsibilities. Don’t assign all new people to the same person. You’ll overwhelm the ambassador, or the interactions between the ambassador and the new team won’t be as robust.

Consider having several ambassadors. Have your ambassadors work with new employees at different stages of remote onboarding so new employees can get to know other teammates. 

Step #5: Use an online learning platform for onboarding

The process of onboarding employees remotely should be collaborative. One person, even the best ambassador, can’t impart everything new employees need to learn. That’s why using an online learning platform is a great tool to onboard employees remotely and then generate employee development plans.  

With a learning platform, anyone from any department can contribute to the onboarding learning modules. Moreover, you can get feedback from your new employees to more accurately gauge whether they are learning and understanding during remote onboarding. 

You can break down everything a new employee needs to learn into manageable modules with a learning platform.  

Plus, a learning platform enables incorporating clear objectives and benchmarks for each module, facilitating the process so you can remotely onboard employees systematically. A learning platform isn’t meant to replace any of the other steps but rather to enhance them.

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Importance of remote onboarding employees

Through onboarding, even remote onboarding, new employees learn how they fit into the company. When part or all of your team is working remotely, remote onboarding steps become especially critical.

Research has shown that employees who are engaged are more likely to stay with their company. Gallup found that engaged employees lead to:

  • Better safety records
  • Lower absentee rates 
  • Less turnover
  • Higher profits
  • Better quality products and service
  • Better customer evaluations

A perfect time to jump-start your new employees’ engagement with the company is when you remotely onboard employees.  

Remote Onboarding vs. Orientation 

Remote onboarding is not the same thing as orientation. Onboarding allows new hires to become acclimated, which takes time (months or even a year.) During onboarding, employees are given knowledge, training, and resources to succeed in their new position. 

Orientation is when your new employees fill out paperwork, set a start date, and get an assigned space. Orientation is over in a few hours or a couple of days at most. 

Successful remote onboarding 

Though it can take a little more effort to onboard employees remotely, there are ways to facilitate it. Making new employees feel comfortable and engaged with their new teammates and your company is the ultimate goal of remote onboarding. 

If you set your new employees up for success and engagement from the beginning, they will be happier, more productive, and more likely to stay with your company long-term. 

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