Traditional Vs. Remote Onboarding: What’s Right For Your Company?


At WorkBright, we are passionate about remote onboarding. We’ve created a software suite that empowers our customers to create a unique and painless digital onboarding experience for their employees. While we adore remote onboarding, we realize that it might not be the best option for everyone.

We get many questions about the difference between an in-person (traditional) and remote onboarding experience. Today we wanted to break down the difference between traditional vs. remote onboarding, so you can make an informed decision for your employees. We’re here to help you pick the best plan to welcome your new employees.

Do you need help with adding new employees remotely? Check out our recommendations for Remote Onboarding Best Practices.

1. Pricing

If you are looking to compare the cost of conventional and remote onboarding, you might find that the answer is murky. For small companies, conventional onboarding is usually the least expensive option, but you might find that it changes as you grow your company.

For example, some organizations might begin to realize that it gets expensive based on the:

  • Amount of paper they are printing.
  • Money it takes to send documents back and forth if they have remote employees.
  • Space storing physical documents takes up in their offices.
  • Hours employees work to get the paperwork ready for new hires.
  • Time it takes to process dozens of pages of paper per hire.

But, virtual onboarding is not free if you use employee onboarding software to help you manage employees and get them started efficiently.

When considering pricing, it’s essential to understand the current cost of your process. Chances are, it’s more expensive than you think. You should consider all the small things in your pricing when you start considering another process. With all of that information in mind, you can make an informed decision on the type of onboarding that’s most beneficial for your company.

2. Information Security

Employees trust HR professionals with a scary amount of information. From social security numbers to passports, you have a lot of information, and you need to keep it safe.

Traditional onboarding does allow for safety. Files are usually kept locked away in filing cabinets. Those filing cabinets are typically locked away in a room, and that room is in an office that has a lock on it. The chances of someone having keys to the office, the room with the filing cabinets, and the filing cabinets are unlikely. On the other hand, it’s typically easy to pick a lock. Companies combat this by adding extra security protocols like keypads for their doors, alarm systems, and security cameras.

Onboarding software is generally pretty secure, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If you want to protect employee information, everyone who has access to the software needs to be secure. This means that your employees need to have great passwords and practice safe internet habits. You also need to trust the company hosting all of your data online. Introducing information to the internet that wasn’t there before is always somewhat of a risk, but you can mitigate that. If you want to learn more about this topic, check out our eBook on Security in HR.

Overall, the security of one system over another is hard to determine. Security is multi-faceted, and there are poor ways to handle it using either method. Whichever method you go with, you have to train your employees to take security risks seriously.

3. Ease Of Use

When it comes to traditional vs. remote onboarding program ease of use, you could look at it from two perspectives. How easy is it for HR professionals or their employees to use? If your employees find one method of onboarding easier, you might be willing to go through some initial pain to create a process that they can learn.

The best part about virtual onboarding is that it generally allows you to add a lot of extra context to the forms you are sharing, without you needing to be there in person. For example, you can use the additional space with an online system to add blurbs or video links to provide more context about the forms your employees are filling out. This extra space is useful for forms like healthcare benefit forms that tend to be long and difficult to follow for employees.

In-person onboarding can be easy to use, depending on the complexity of your paperwork. The longer your paperwork packet, the more challenging your in-person process will be. If you have many tech-averse employees, you should probably stick with the traditional route, but know that you can train anyone if you give them enough time.

4. Implementation Process

Ease of implementation is critical, especially if you are a busy HR professional. Investing in a remote system often requires that you drop what you’re doing and recreate your in-person process online.

On the surface, traditional onboarding is the winner because we don’t think about the implementation process. You may have inherited forms you know you need to get out to your employees, or you may not think of getting together that packet of forms as implementation. In reality, you are always implementing your traditional process. 

Remote onboarding, on the other hand, requires a big implementation push. You have to ensure you are using the right system, then you have to get your paperwork in that system, and then your employees need to learn how to use that system. It takes a lot of energy to push a remote solution over the finish line. But once it’s complete, you have a system that will work for years to come.

At WorkBright, we’re known for our excellent customer service and implementation process. We take your physical forms and recreate them digitally. When our customers return their forms and answer emails promptly, we can get them up and running in fourteen days or less.


5. Error Resolution

Mistakes happen, but mistakes in HR paperwork can be costly. There isn’t a good way to resolve errors when it comes to physical paperwork, especially if you request all the paperwork at once.

When you create a digital onboarding system, you can usually take paperwork in a piecemeal way, without causing a ton of HR headaches. By getting paperwork little by little, you can avoid overwhelm and accept or reject paperwork a little bit every day. Gone are the days when you get five HR packets to go over at the last minute.

Reducing errors will save you countless hours and thousands of dollars a year, whether from paper use or government fines.

6. Employee Safety

Right now, we are dealing with a global pandemic. Essential workers may need to go to the worksite, but many others can work from home. If your employees can work from home, there is no reason to go to the office, even during the onboarding process.

Traditional onboarding can be an employee safety hazard right now. If there are easier ways to fill out paperwork, we should all be seeking to implement those processes. 

7. Cultural Onboarding

We’re not going to sugarcoat it. Cultural onboarding is a challenge when you do it digitally. At WorkBright, our last four hires were onboarded virtually, and we worked hard to make sure they understood the company and what we were all about. To help our new hires get acquainted with the company we:

  • Held a company-wide Jeopardy game to introduce our new employees.
  • Implemented daily coffee chats during onboarding so that our new employees would have face time with all our old employees.
  • Worked through activities to get our new employees acclimated with our company, what we do, and our customer’s pain points.

Even with all the work we did to onboard our new employees, we still had to work out a few issues. Most of our company is based in Colorado, but many of our new employees this year were out of state and in different time zones. Hiring employees in different time zones was a learning experience, but we managed to work with our employees to make our first week schedule work.

If you’re not quite ready to move cultural onboarding online, you might want to go for a hybrid approach where employees complete paperwork digitally, but you complete cultural onboarding face-to-face.

8. Ongoing Support

When it comes to ongoing support, remote onboarding using your chosen software is a clear winner. At WorkBright, we pride ourselves on customer service and support. We strive to make HR human, whether our customers get more time with their people or our fantastic customer success representatives help our customers. You don’t have to do all of this alone! Conventional onboarding can’t provide the same support that using software will give you.

Traditional Vs. Remote Onboarding: Which Is Right For You?

There are several reasons you might choose one form of onboarding over another. Here are some things to consider:

  • How much money do you have to invest in onboarding new employees?
  • Do you have a secure way to store your new employee paperwork?
  • What kind of employees do you have on staff? What would they find easy to use?
  • How much time do you have to put together a process for new staff?
  • Are your employees error-prone? What system would help you catch the most errors?
  • Do your employees come to the office anyway? Do you need a system that can help them stay safe and socially distanced while adding them to the team?
  • What kind of support system do you need to add new employees to your team?

You might decide to go with one form of welcoming new employees when you begin your company and decide to switch later on. You are not locked into one method for life. Pick the best option now, and when you have more employees or a proper budget, you can decide to keep your current option or move to a more substantial platform. We are all trying to do the best for our people! 🤗