Remote onboarding best practices can be a challenge to navigate when hiring new employees you never meet in-person. Employee onboarding is just as important as the hiring process and even more so when onboarding virtually. In fact, up to 69 percent of employees are likely to stay with a particular employer if the onboarding experience is friendly and seamless.
With the growing remote work culture, HR managers face a unique challenge: conducting remote onboarding effectively. In the US, 4.7 million employees work remotely at least half the week. This means that companies need onboarding processes that support such employees.
The COVID-19 crisis even underscored the significance of building proper remote processes for work and onboarding. But providing such processes virtually can be a new concept for managers doing it for the first time.
As such, this post will cover the remote onboarding best practices you can use to virtually onboard new hires. When thoughtfully implemented, these strategies can deliver optimal results for HR teams and ensure employees settle into their new jobs.
Remote Onboarding Best Practices:
- Best Practice: Develop a Clear Onboarding Process
- Best Practice: Establish Personal Connections
- Best Practice: Introduce New Hires To the Team
- Best Practice: Make Virtual Training Easy
- Best Practice: Organize Group Gathering
- Best Practice: Build an Engaging Group Culture
- Best Practice: Provide a Virtual Mentor
- Best Practice: Check-In Regularly
- Best Practice: Onboard New Hires in Groups
- Best Practice: Provide Easy Access to Tools
Don’t miss our
Remote Onboarding Best Practices EBook at the end of this article!
A great best practices guide to download and use when planning your virtual onboarding process.
1. Develop a Clear Remote Onboarding Best Practices Plan/Process
Just like the conventional onboarding process, you need a clear plan for onboarding virtual hires. For best practices, the process needs to be repeatable and consistent to ensure efficiency every time you onboard employees.
Most importantly, you need to document it. Find out how existing and new employees react to the process. If possible, consult employees who have had similar experiences to determine what will best work for you. Alternatively, you can get feedback from your employees who have already gone through the process.
The plan should highlight:
- Things to accomplish before new hires begin working
- Items to cover during the first week
- Ongoing tasks they need to complete
The items and ongoing tasks in your onboarding process are basically milestones, which have specific timelines. This helps new hires to stay productive during the first few weeks of joining your company.
Did you know…
36% of HR professionals identify a lack of technology as the reason for their inability to organize and automate their onboarding process.
Book a 10 minute consultation with WorkBright to see if our technology can help simplify your onboarding process, we specialize in virtual onboarding!
2. Establish Personal Connections
Remote work can be a new experience for some hires. Also, remote onboarding can be a new concept to them, too. You should, therefore, make them feel comfortable by establishing personal connections.
In traditional employee onboarding processes, new hires are usually shown around the office and introduced to other employees. This allows them to create first-time connections as well as get familiar with the office environment.
It’s also possible to offer such an experience to remote hires. Here are some ideas on what you should do:
Host Video Conferences
You can host virtual meetings or video conferences to introduce new hires to the rest of the team. This allows them to get acquainted with other members and know who to approach whenever they need help.
Assign them “Welcome Buddies”
Assigning welcome buddies to new hires is a way of providing them with direct contact for any assistance they might need. Additionally, it’s simply helping them build their first connections quickly. Welcome buddies are usually existing employees who understand your processes well.
Use “Cohorts” When Onboarding Remotely
As a new employee, onboarding can be challenging to face alone. When you can onboard with a cohort, you give your employees someone else to lean on. Companies that onboard using a cohort model report feedback from their team that everyone felt more comfortable and welcome, especially with those who were onboarding remotely. When possible these companies have incorporated this method into both their standard and remote onboarding best practices for new employees.
“It was nice to go through the onboarding journey with a cohort because it provided an instant sense of team. We had each other, and we were all in the same boat––new to the company and learning. Having a cohort brought value with questions asked along the way that I may not have thought of. It was less overwhelming because you had others to talk through things with and digest all the information being given. In addition, because we were cross-departmental within the cohort, it was an early learning opportunity about different roles people were hired for.”
– Gina Dooley, Business Development Representative at WorkBright
3. Introduce New Hires to the Team
New employees need to feel at home when they join you. Most importantly, other employees need to know them, especially when joining different departments and teams. This is crucial to ensure productivity for your remote teams.
If you have an office, you can invite new hires to spend their first week at your office with your in-house team. This is crucial in facilitating training, and it also introduces them to your company culture.
Encourage them to schedule video calls to know as many employees as possible, particularly those they’ll be working with every day. A tool like Zoom lets you have breakout groups of three or four to encourage new hires to know each other. Also, Microsoft Teams allows you to add new hires to teams to promote interaction and participation.
You can also schedule virtual coffee breaks and lunches. These actions make it easy to integrate them into the company as seamless as possible.
4. Make Virtual Training Easy
With virtual training for new remote hires, you should go beyond your regular training and HR departments. Your existing employees have experience and expertise in your internal processes. As such, they are in a good position to share useful tips through videos and webinars with new hires.
For best practices in remote onboarding, be sure to incorporate live webinar training sessions to get their questions answered in real-time. Make the training as friendly as possible. One way you can do this is by breaking training into steps. It can be overwhelming for new hires to complete all the training at once.
After each step, you can assign them a series of activities to complete to assess their comprehension of the subject/task. At advanced stages of the training program, give them real work with short deadlines while providing feedback.
It’s essential to point out mistakes during training and show the correct methods, strategies, or techniques they should use. If possible, you can offer the training via a remote training software that monitors their progress and provides scores once training is completed.
5. Organize Group Gathering
If circumstances permit, invite your remote hires for a group gathering at your office. This is vital as it helps them identify the individuals they should add to their internal networks for effective remote working.
Keep in mind, disconnection and isolation are some of the key challenges that new remote hires experience. Therefore, a comprehensive and successful remote onboarding plan should include measures for addressing such issues to create a sense of belonging and integration in new hires.
Having at least one group gathering can be quite empowering and motivating. The meet-up doesn’t need to occur at your office. Of course, some employees work from distant locations, so they might not make it to the meeting. They can use video calls to join the meeting.
6. Build An Engaging Virtual Culture In Your Remote Onboarding Best Practices Plan
Group dynamics can break or make your remote team, just like in a typical office environment. As such, building a virtual culture is key to ensuring the right values, behaviors, and beliefs among your new hires.
For best practices in remote onboarding specifically, here are the steps you can take to develop the right culture:
Provide All the Essentials for Remote Work
You need to ensure new hires have everything they need to complete their work. Some typical essentials include a computer, printer, desk, office chair, office supplies, phone, reliable internet connection, and dedicated working space.
While it might not be possible to provide all these essentials, you have to ensure they have access to the necessary tools for completing their work effectively.
Create Guidelines, Policies, and Expectations
It’s vital to have policies on deadlines and time-off requests. They need to understand how to reach out to management whenever anything comes up or need help. Most importantly, you must provide a contact person for every scenario.
Your policies should also be clear about work hours. Are you flexible, or do you expect them to work fixed hours? Be sure to make this information accessible within the tools you’re using for work. For example, if you have a web content management system or company intranet, remember to set up a resource center for hosting such information.
Build a Culture Statement
If you already have an in-house culture statement, you can still use it for your remote team with just a few updates. You’ll have to eliminate phrases and terminologies related to physical spaces, such as office pets and game rooms.
If you don’t have one, you can still create the statement. List down the interests and values you expect from employees and explain how the company supports those values. Like other employee resources, you should also ensure the statement is accessible to remote teams.
7. Provide a Virtual Mentor
Cultivating a virtual connection with new hires is essential for them to integrate easily with the rest of the team. Remote employees tend to miss meaningful collaborative and social opportunities that are integral in ensuring productivity and engagement.
Providing a virtual mentor for new remote hires helps to give them a head start. While mentoring remote workers is somewhat different, it helps deliver positive and powerful effects for new employees. This helps to improve the morale and motivation of your team.
For new hires, the first few weeks of joining a new company can be a period of uncertainty and anxiety. As such, having a dedicated person to hold their hands through every stage makes them comfortable and familiar with their new work environment.
The process of mentoring new hires should embrace understanding, flexibility, and patience. Keep in mind that every employee has unique experiences and abilities.
8. Remote Onboarding Best Practices – Check-in Regularly
Employee check-ins are essential for remote workers, so it’s necessary to have a strategy that supports that. For example, you can schedule one-on-one conversations via video call to assess each new hire’s progress and performance.
As an HR manager, regular check-ins are essential to know the issues that employees are experiencing and what they’re working on. You have to help them solve problems as they occur without waiting for quarterly or annual performance reviews.
Apart from video calls, you can set up a questionnaire, which they can complete and submit to the HR department. You can then follow up with a video chat for clarification and to address specific concerns. Here are some useful tips for conducting employee check-ins:
- Always have a fixed agenda
- Plan accordingly to attain the desired results
- Make it periodical
- Focus on development and performance
Effective HR managers use check-ins to understand how new hires are progressing, what’s working for them, and what needs to be changed.
9. Onboard New Hires in Groups
It’s easier to manage new hires remotely when you onboard them in groups. If you’re using a company intranet, setting up a category or tag for new hires lets you introduce them to the right resources and training at once. This allows them to make progress as a group.
If you are hiring a large group of employees, you can onboard them in batches weekly or monthly for simple management. Be sure to create a welcome statement or document that guides and orients them. This saves you time in scheduling video conferences for every batch.
As a best practice, group onboarding allows new hires to know each other quickly. Additionally, it’s less agitating than one-on-one encounters, which some employees might not be comfortable with. If you can’t onboard in groups, you can schedule a conference or group session and invite all employees who joined you in the past three months.
Use the group sessions to introduce them to other employees as well as provide your work structure and methods of communication.
10. Provide Easy Access to Tools
It can be frustrating and demotivating for new hires to struggle to access the necessary tools for work and communication. For example, if you’re using productivity tools, such as Slack, Trello, and Google Drive, you need to ensure they have the correct login details or user accounts.
The goal of using remote tools is to ensure seamless communication and collaboration. They need to keep your employees connected, no matter their geographical locations. When onboarding new hires, you can’t afford missed opportunities, miscommunication, and stalled progress due to issues with work tools.
Easy access to the right tools will ensure new hires stay on track with their training and tasks. This helps to ensure productivity is not lost, and it also maximizes output and increases results. Most importantly, remote tools allow for proper management of new hires by the in-house teams.
Remote Onboarding Best Practices FAQ
Here are the common questions that HR managers usually ask:
What Is a Good Onboarding Process?
As expected, new hires usually have much to take in during their first days. Lack of familiarity with your systems and processes can make them anxious. A good onboarding process makes new employees feel welcome and brings them up to speed on company procedures, policy, and culture.
The process should help them quickly adjust to the performance and social aspects of the job to become productive members of your organization. It’s advisable to avoid a “sink or swim” approach for new hires. Instead, create a guided process that takes into account every aspect of the job and company.
What Are Remote Onboarding Activities?
There are several remote onboarding activities that managers should complete to make the process as simple as possible for new hires. These include:
- Sending them work materials and IT manuals
- Mailing them company swag
- Helping them complete HR onboarding paperwork
- Providing them access to company tools
- Setting up virtual meetings with new hires and other key employees
- Arranging training
You should aim to complete most of these activities within the first two weeks of the onboarding process.
How Long Should Remote Onboarding Take?
Remote onboarding can last from a few weeks to 6 months, depending on the nature of the job and experience of the new hire. For Remote onboarding best practices, most companies usually aim to complete the initial training within two weeks, bringing an end to the process.
Some researchers recommend extending the onboarding process to at least a year. They argue that this can improve employee retention and make new hires feel more comfortable and valued. The duration of onboarding depends on the complexity of the role, and that should guide you on setting the right period for your company and new hires.
What Do New Hires Want from Onboarding?
During the onboarding process, new hires prefer interactive onboarding groups and informative intro meetings. They also want comprehensive training on the work they’re going to do. New hires also wish to have as many basic tasks as they can handle to understand the processes involved in real work.
How Do You Make Onboarding Fun for New Hires?
You can make their first day fun and memorable through different creative activities. For example, your in-house team can wear t-shirts with the message “Welcome” during the first video conference. Give them time to go through your materials and get familiar with your processes. You can also mail them your company swag.
Final Thoughts About Remote Onboarding Best Practices
Creating a great onboarding experience isn’t an easy process, particularly when you have new hires for different job roles. Regardless, you need to focus on providing a seamless process for your employees. Companies with an effective remote onboarding best practices plan are likely to increase revenue growth and profit margin by 2.5 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.
In place for a physical work environment, you can use fun team meetings and video calls to welcome new hires. Be sure to list out the steps new hires need to take to complete the process to ensure they don’t get confused along the way. Also, strive to create informal moments to ensure employees don’t feel isolated.
Most importantly, you need to provide them with the channels for asking questions or finding the information they need. If they’re located in a different time zone, they need to know the best possible time to reach out to you for assistance.
Bear in mind that a virtual onboarding plan isn’t a one-time thing. You need to regularly review and update the process while taking your employees’ feedback into account.
BONUS: Check out our Remote Onboarding Best Practices Ebook!
Onboarding Virtually Requires The Right Tools
Remote onboarding is becoming more relevant as companies grapple with various health and safety concerns, the need to recruit more diverse/global employees, and improving employee experience as a whole. As a result, many companies are turning to technology to help maintain remote onboarding best practices and navigate the transition from the traditional employee onboarding process to a more efficient and cost effective solution of onboarding virtually.
Searching for a remote onboarding system that fits your needs best can be an overwhelming and daunting process with all of the options available. It can seem like a Goliath task to make onboarding more efficient for your employees, especially if you already have a process that gets the job done. Understanding the “Best Practice” requirements that should be met when planning to onboard employees virtually is a good first step in helping to narrow down your choices.
We have created this eBook to guide you through the process of selecting the right platform for your digital onboarding needs with insightful advice from experts in the industry regarding virtual onboarding best practices and requirements to maintain compliance.
Read The eBook Here
Click “View Fullscreen” to view in your browser or use the arrows in the right corner to download a copy to your computer and view as a PDF:
What’s Inside: Virtual Onboarding Best Practices Checklist
- Think mobile first when picking a virtual onboarding software solution.
- Pick a platform that can accommodate all your hires (including full-time, part-time, and boomerang employees.)
- Keep onboarding simple for your employees with things like smart forms and optical character recognition (OCR.)
- Ensure that employee data is safeguarded.
More tips covered in this eBook…
Remote Employee Onboarding System For HR Professionals
As an HR professional, you’re probably trying to understand how you can create an efficient onboarding process. You need a system that all of your employees can access and use. If you’re like most HR professionals, you already have a million things on your plate, and you don’t want to add setting up a remote onboarding solution to that list.
This eBook discusses what to look for in a remote onboarding system and considerations of how your employees will use that system. Remote onboarding needs to be made with mobile in mind to be successful.
Many employees, especially millennials and Gen Z, are comfortable using phones for things like uploading documents and filling out forms. According to CNBC, millennials and Gen Z make up 38% of the workforce currently. These numbers will only get larger as more members of Gen Z enter the workforce. Is your employee onboarding platform ready to handle these types of users?
It isn’t easy to move from traditional onboarding to virtual onboarding. If you know you’ll struggle with this, look for an onboarding solution with excellent customer service and easy implementation. Time and technical knowledge shouldn’t be a barrier to get you and your business where you need to go.
At WorkBright, we get several questions about how remote onboarding works, especially with Form I-9. The I-9 has historically been a barrier for many companies wanting to go remote. How do you verify I9 remote and get Section 2 of the I-9 signed on time? There are many useful resources for this. Covered in the book for example, you could use a remote authorized representative to sign Section 2 for you. As long as you pair a remote authorized representative with an excellent audit trail, your business should be able to withstand any audit thrown your way.
Remote Onboarding Software That Helps You Manage Audits And Security Regulations
Speaking of audits, you need to consider how your remote onboarding software will hold up to audits and security regulations. This topic is discussed in detail in our eBook.
Form I-9 audits can be costly to businesses of all sizes. Depending on the size of your business and the callousness of your violations, you could be paying up to $16,000 per I-9 violation. These are scary stats, but it doesn’t have to be that way. A key remote onboarding best practice is to invest in a platform that can help you collect I-9s promptly and get them filed away digitally. I-9 auditors are very comfortable using digital tools to audit companies, and you’ll probably prefer digital tools over keeping loads of filing cabinets in a physical space.
If you switch to virtual onboarding, you should also have access to security features to keep your employee’s data locked down. Employees entrust HR professionals with an immense amount of personal information. When you onboard new employees, you are likely asking for things like:
- Social Security numbers
- Banking account numbers
- Driver’s licenses/State IDs
- …and much more!
Employees trust employers with this information because they expect that this information will be safe. But, this isn’t always the case.
Using email solutions to onboard new employees should be avoided because hackers often use email to gather data from companies. Email accounts are often weak links for companies because they are typically easy for hackers to access. There are too many unknowns when exchanging personal information through email. You might delete a file, but will that file be deleted on your employee’s end? Did you delete the file entirely, or just move it to the trash can?
Using an onboarding software designed for remote implementation ensures that things are encrypted and protected from unauthorized access. Many software companies also keep extensive data logs so you can determine if someone accessed something they weren’t supposed to.
For more security information, check out our eBook “Security In HR.”
A Remote Onboarding Process That Empowers Your Employees
Overall, remote onboarding creates a better experience for your employees. What was your onboarding process like? Chances are, you were stuck filling out paperwork in a fluorescent-lit room, going through dozens of pages of information, without much of a break. Was your first day of work filled with joy and learning or behind a desk filling out paperwork?
Your employees should feel empowered by the onboarding process. Instead of filling out paperwork on Day 1, filling out paperwork should be considered a pre-work activity. If you do this, you’ll probably want to give your employees some extra money to compensate them for their time filling out paperwork. Estimate the time it takes to fill out all your paperwork, and provide a reasonable amount to compensate them on their first paycheck.
When it comes to making the onboarding process empowering for employees, here are some ideas:
- Keep the onboarding tasks simple by creating a process they can tackle at their own pace.
- Use things like auto form fills, smart forms with field validation, and optical character recognition (OCR) to make filling out forms easier.
- Create an error-resolution workflow to ensure you can communicate with employees and get the right data on file if your employees make a mistake.
- Set employee reminders to ensure that employees know when work is due (and that you get it back on time.)
Virtual Employee Onboarding Best Practices: Use Web-Based Software To Improve Your Workflow
Onboarding new employees isn’t easy. There are so many factors to consider, and new hire paperwork is just a small portion of the process. The paperwork is essential, though, because it ensures you have all the necessary information on file for new employees.
Taking the time to select the best remote onboarding software will help you and your employees for years to come.