A great onboarding experience for new hires is crucial in increasing their likelihood of sticking with the company and also setting them up for success as they start in their role. In a traditional on-site work environment, you’re able to greet new members with a handshake and welcome packet, introduce them to their new team, get them acquainted with the company culture, and simply walk up to their desk anytime to check on how they’re integrating. But it’s not always as simple as that; the workforce has evolved and now, according to Flexjobs, more people are working remotely with a 91% increase in remote workers over the last 10 years. Onboarding these remote employees is very different from the traditional onboarding process and poses various challenges of its own.

What is Remote Onboarding?

According to Hrzone, onboarding is “the process by which new hires are emotionally, physically and professionally integrated into the established culture and operations of their new employer.” Remote onboarding has the same goal but with the obvious difficulty of being far away, possibly even in a different time zone, and generally disconnected due to the lack of personal connection and easy communication. 

Successful remote onboarding is even more crucial as these remote employees can easily become disengaged with the company as they’re so far away and lack the same personal and emotional connections they’d usually experience when on-site. While the absence of face to face communication makes it difficult for new employees to acclimate to their own role as well as the company’s social and professional environment, this difficulty can be overcome with a little planning, organization, and communication. There are an infinite number of ways that a company can tackle remote onboarding, we’ll only be discussing some of the many important goals that a company should consider when planning their remote onboarding process. Range, a software company that helps your organization feel more like a team, has a great video discussing more about creating a great onboarding experience as well.

Ironing Out Logistics

It can be easy for remote employees to feel under informed, lost, and disconnected due to the lack of face to face communication. Making sure to be clear about important logistical information can help them feel more secure and confident that they are on the correct path. Eliminating all confusion around logistics will make the transition into the company much easier and make the employee more comfortable and confident. However an organization decides to deliver this information is up to them, but a good idea is to create a virtual welcome guide or manual to help them get settled.

Some items to cover include information on getting their paperwork filled out, access to their company email, a list of company resources, access to any company wide communication hubs, and any other logistics important to your company. 

Getting these small details handled may not seem like a major task but it’s essential in allowing the new hiree to feel informed and prepared for their next steps. Especially getting emails and any communication hubs settled is important as those will be the most frequent form of communication virtually. Again, all logistics will be different for every organization but what is crucial is that all of the logistics and details are clear for a remote employee right off the bat.

Making Home a Better Working Environment

One of the most obvious differences in working remote vs working on-site is the workplace location. An employee’s environment is extremely crucial in their productivity and future success. Where they would traditionally have all the tools and equipment that they need to succeed, they now are home with possibly a 10 year old laptop and a chair that isn’t practical to sit in for 8 hours a day. Working in an unfit workspace may be manageable for a short period of time, but in the long run it can have negative effects on the employees productivity, and even their health. Not every organization will provide equipment to their employees but if it is done, making sure that there is a well functioned inventory management system is important as well.

The first step is to understand what your employees will need in their workspace for the position, what they are required to have themselves, and what needs they may have. Doing this through a form or survey is an efficient way to do this. This will also allow you to collect any shipping information or verification.

Some equipment that a remote employee may need are a company phone, computer, router, any office supplies, and a desk and chair. This is all situational depending on what the organization is able to provide and what the employee needs but those are just some common things that companies may provide.

Before shipping out all these items, make sure you understand where you’re shipping to and from, how you will ship it, how you will record and keep track of it, and if you have a team who can fulfill and manage all these tasks. 

Instilling Team Culture

Now that your new employees are all set up and have the necessary equipment to succeed, it’s time to get them integrated into the culture of the company. Company culture and camaraderie is a natural aspect of traditional on-site work that drives and motivates employees. With remote work, it’s easy for members to feel disconnected from their team, and the general work environment and culture, making them feel disengaged which negatively affects their happiness in their role and even productivity. During a company’s onboarding process, it’s crucial that there are steps in place to help these new employees to get connected and make them feel like they are a part of the team.

Creating a welcome/introductory video is a great way for new employees to get to know your company in a more engaging and personal way. You can even have the new employee create a video of their own introducing themselves to share with the rest of the team. It’s a fun and interactive way to get integrated and settled into the company.

Another way to make new remote employees feel welcomed and appreciated is by sending them gift boxes, snack baskets, or company swag such as company apparel and office supplies that are customized with your company’s logo. Receiving fun and easy gifts is a way to make onboarding employees feel like they are really part of the team and is super simple.

In a traditional on-site workplace environment, new onboarding employees are able to get to know the team and talk to them more casually about life and things that aren’t necessarily work related. Remote onboarding employees may feel that whenever they communicate with other team members, it has to be work related so it’s crucial to let these remote employees know of the opportunities they have to bond with other team members to boost company culture and morale. Activities might include virtual happy hours, exercise classes, or luncheons which allow members to feelegaged in the company culture and will lead them to being more successful.

Getting to Know Other Employees 

Remote employees don’t have the same opportunities to introduce themselves to other employees and team members as they would in a more traditional onboarding experience. This is why creating an onboarding process that allows remote employees to meet many other people is important. It makes them feel connected to others, and allows them to feel more comfortable when reaching out to them in the future as well. Normally, an employee can simply walk up to their coworkers desk and say hello but that opportunity is not available so being sure to encourage employee comradery will help build connections that are important in the long run. 

One possible way to ensure that new remotely onboarding employees have someone that is there for them to communicate with is by having a mentor or buddy. This allows the new hire to feel comfortable talking to this person and asking them questions, or going to them with anything they might need. It’s easy to feel isolated and alone while so far away from the company so having a person who you know is there to help you can be very comforting.

Having frequent video calls at the beginning or end of the day can also be very beneficial. Whether it is with managers, the whole team, or just with a mentor or buddy, these video calls can help keep new employees updated, informed, and prevents them from feeling disengaged, which already may be a natural feeling being far away from other coworkers. For an onboarding employee, these first few days can be very confusing and overwhelming so allowing a time and place where they can discuss anything they need help with is useful and can relieve any of their stress. Remember to make yourselves available to these new remote employees, a little more than usual for this onboarding process. The start at a new company can be stressful enough and with the added obstacle of being remote, integrating can be even more difficult without the help of attentive managers and mentors. Using video conferencing and internal messaging softwares as a method of communication is a simple and efficient method that allows new hires to be more comfortable in conversations that create personal bonds with others.

Setting Goals and Expectations

The final step of a remote onboarding process is to clearly set goals and expectations for the new employee, and also specifications about who they report to and what deadlines they have. Every employee is different in their skills and mindset so it may be necessary to set up a video meeting and discuss what would work best for them in various situations. 

Find goals and tasks that excite them and be sure that they have a list of goals and key performance indicators. Creating a clear set of goals can help keep remote onboarding employees from feeling overwhelmed or lost and rather engaged and productive, while working towards a defined objective. Helping employees understand what they expect out of a particular role and creating that clear set of goals will help them hit the ground running as they get started. This may not be very different from on-site employees but what is most important is how this information is communicated to these remote workers.

In the case of an organization utilizing both remote and in person employees, it is common that the remote employees can feel left out and uninvolved. Make sure that this isn’t the case by keeping remote employees working on important tasks and projects. This ensures that these remote employees don’t feel uninvolved and useless so they can produce more meaningful work that they are more passionate about. 

Along with other tasks, a good goal to take advantage of is remote learning and training. As these employees are working virtually, you can also take advantage of remote platforms and use different types of training exercises to cater to each individual’s learning styles. Although working remotely has its obstacles, it also provides advantages.

After this onboarding process is complete, these new remorse hires should have a solid understanding of what their goals are, and what the company’s goals are as well. Moving forward, they will have clear expectations for themselves and know how to handle and communicate any problems they may face. 

After Remote Onboarding is Complete, Now What?

What does it mean for an employee to be fully onboarded? That is different for every company and each will handle and celebrate it differently. Some organizations may throw a virtual party, send gifts and swag, or choose not to do anything, but regardless, what is important is that even once the employee is fully onboarded, they are not neglected just because they can be left to their own devices now. Executing a smooth remote onboarding process is just the beginning of a long journey for an employee and it requires effort to continue to keep these remote employees engaged, participating, and happy in their roles. Not only integrating them well into the organization, but also keeping them involved and satisfied will lead to a happier and more productive working environment, no matter if they are remote or not.