The Ultimate Guide to Remote Employee Onboarding

Onboarding your new hires properly is key to making them feel comfortable in their new role and signstart on the right foot.


Yet, onboarding employees properly has never been an easy task. Thanks to the global pandemic, many companies have moved toward remote work, forcing them to face the new challenge of remote employee onboarding.


To help make your remote employees feel at home and ready to take on their job, we’ve put together this guide to remote employee onboarding. Follow these steps for a smoother remote onboarding process.

Onboarding vs. orientation

Some use onboarding and orientation interchangeably, but the latter is just part of the former.


Orientation is a one-off event designed to welcome new hires and acquaint them with the company mission and day-to-day life. It sometimes involves new hire paperwork, too.


On the other hand, onboarding is the entire process of bringing on a new hire. It starts at the offer letter and may last many months into the new hire’s tenure — depending on the company and the new hire’s role’s complexity.

Why is remote onboarding harder than in-person onboarding?

Remote work brings a host of unique challenges.


In terms of onboarding, it becomes more challenging to help new employees complete all relevant documentation. You can’t look over their shoulder and help them.


Another challenge with documentation is they might live in a different state or even country, which adds complexity to paperwork and other compliance issues.


But the challenges go beyond the technical. Integrating them into the company is harder, too.


For one, teaching them company processes and procedures over the internet isn’t easy—you’d want to opt for the best learning management systems to onboard them. And you can’t exactly show them around the office either.


It’s also tough to make them feel at home in the company culture when they don’t have the traditional office setting. Failing to make them feel involved with the company might make them feel less engaged. This could lead to less productivity — and they might even leave the organization.

The importance of a clear remote employee onboarding process

Given the above challenges, you need to build a clear process for remote employee onboarding. 


A clear onboarding process helps your new employees better understand their duties, leading to a higher level of productivity out of the gate. Of course, it also makes them feel more valued and integrates them into the company culture.


Despite the importance of your onboarding process, building one that works takes time and effort away from revenue-generating activities.


A professional employer organization can help here if you haven’t yet laid out your process. They can help you put together a robust onboarding process and assist with benefits, payroll, and more.

Nine steps to successfully onboarding remote employees

1. Send them any relevant hardware and software

Most of the time, employees bring their own equipment. However, if you use particular hardware at your company, make sure you send it to the new employee.


You may also offer a home office stipend or free hardware as benefits. Make sure they receive these as soon as possible.


As for software, make sure they have all the applications you use set up and ready to go. 


Some types of applications you’ll need include the following:

  • Video conferencing software: For meetings and casual events (like a virtual happy hour).
  • Chat messaging software: For quick communications between individuals and groups.
  • Project or task management platform: New employees can familiarize themselves with the software and current projects, then jump in much faster.
  • Workflow automation software: Saves time on tedious tasks, such as paperwork.
  • Document sharing: So employees can send you any paperwork and share documents with other employees, whether through data centers, local servers, or cloud storage.
  • Time tracking and email analytics (optional): Let your employees know if their working hours will be tracked or if you will be monitoring their email activity.

2. Send over the employee handbook and code of conduct

The employee handbook contains information about company culture and policies. It also informs your employee of their job description, benefits information, and so on.


Here are some things to include in your handbook:

  • Work hours
  • Workplace etiquette
  • Remote work policy
  • Benefits information
  • Policies regarding use of company technology
  • Tech support information
  • Legal rights


Whenever your employee has a question about how to proceed in certain situations, or if they want to check up on their benefits, they can refer to the employee handbook.

3. Help them knock out the paperwork

Paperwork is the least exciting yet most vital part of the process, due to compliance reasons. 


However, remote employees may not have access to scanners. Mailing takes too long, and there’s the risk of documents being lost. Faxing is likely out of the question, too.


Since you’ll be remote, your best option is to do things online and use electronic signature software like PandaDoc. Your employee could easily knock everything out in just a few minutes, thanks to electronic signature technology.

4. Set your expectations

Setting clear expectations and goals is all the more critical when you don’t see your employees in person every day.


They must know exactly what you expect of them each day, as you can’t exactly walk over to their desk and talk to them.


For example, tell them if you’d like them to check in at the end of each workday and let them know if you’d like periodic updates. 


Do this early on during the onboarding process. Letting them know up front what you expect from them sets the tone and ensures you’re on the same page.

5. Welcome your new employee(s)

Finally, this is where you’ll hold your remote employee orientation.


Prior to this stage, you mostly had to deal with technical matters. Now, you’ll need a structured, well-thought-through orientation to make your employees feel welcome and understand their roles within the company.


In some cases, onboarding employees in groups can work well. For one, you can minimize the time and resources spent on orienting and training each employee.


It helps the employees too. They’ll feel less overwhelmed and more inclined to introduce themselves to the rest of the team when there are other new hires in the same position.


As part of their welcome package, you can also think about offering gifts to your employees. Indeed, there are many possibilities for you to make them feel welcomed, and who does not like receiving gifts? For example, you can offer them coupons for buying clothes, cooking classes to learn how to make specific meals, or simply personalized gifts. 


Plus, group onboarding creates a sense of community among new employees. They’ll forge bonds with each other, which could lead to more productivity and a better atmosphere.

6. Train your new remote employees

After the orientation’s over, it’s time for training. Remote training is a challenge, but there are ways to adapt.


First of all, make use of screen-sharing features in your video conferencing software. Said feature lets you show employees around the various applications you use day-to-day.


Consider interactive courses like English learning programs if you have a global team. The interactive portion — which could be games or quizzes — keeps them engaged and learning.


Of course, you’ll also want to provide your new hires with as much information as possible on your products and services. Send them documents, sales materials, optimized content, videos, and anything else you have that explains product/service features and benefits.

7. Start them off with a small project

Obviously, you want your new hire to become a productive member of the company as soon as possible. 


Just don’t make your employee plunge headfirst into complex projects right after training, if possible.


Instead, you can help them ease into their remote role with a small project. This allows them to slowly apply their skills and training in a controlled, low-stakes manner. They can see how work actually happens in the company without feeling overwhelmed.

8. Schedule check-ins to give (and receive) feedback

Now that your new employee is working hard in their role, schedule consistent check-ins with them. A good structure could be to call each new employee after their first week, month, and year.


On these regular check-ins, you can ask them how they’re settling into their new role and provide them with any feedback you may have. Additionally, you should seek some input from them on the onboarding process and the position in general. You can use their feedback to improve your onboarding for future hires.

Make your remote employee feel welcome

Employee onboarding is a vital piece of your organization’s value chain. Making your new hires feel welcome and helping them understand their job duties will give them that push they need to be successful and productive in their new roles.

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