How to Design a Remote Employee Onboarding Process

A company that invests time in a quality onboarding process is 25 percent more likely to retain its workforce while seeing an 11 percent increase in performance, according to Christine Marino, the Chief Revenue Officer of Click Boarding.

If you operate a remote business, the question is not whether you have an onboarding process—the challenge is finding an efficient method for bringing a new remote employee onto the team. Without interacting face-to-face, what are the most effective methods of sharing information, facilitating introductions, and monitoring their first few weeks?

When it comes to both traditional and remote onboarding, the philosophies are much the same—to make employees feel welcomed by the team, prepared for their first day, and confident in learning the basics of their new role. The only difference is that, instead of an office environment with human proximity, remote onboarding uses a virtual interface to bridge the distance gap.

Use the strategies below to create a remote onboarding program that integrates and connects employees based on the same strategies of traditional onboarding.

Facilitate a New Hire Q&A

  • Traditional: “It’s a good idea to clarify the position of a new hire, as well as [positions of] the other team members whose work is closely related…and how projects will run. Employees who know what to expect from their company’s culture and work environment make better decisions that are more aligned with accepted practices of the company.” — BambooHR
  • Remote: Formalize expectations with a video Q&A on day one.

A video call connects the two of you and makes it easier to facilitate a simple Q&A between yourself and the new employee. They can ask any initial questions they have, and you can discuss the core values of your organization and how they relate to this position, underscoring the requirements of their role.

Introduce Your Tools and Communication Styles

  • Traditional: “If you’re a high-tech organization that…uses social media and talks about innovation…that’s great. But if on a new hire’s first day, you hand them 15 different forms to fill out, your employment brand message has just died. So technology can be an effective way to socialize a new hire into your company’s organizational culture.” — Cielo Talent
  • Remote: Consolidate initial paperwork and weave company communication tools into the onboarding and paperwork process.

Start by formalizing the paperwork through a digital format. You can get signatures via DocuSign, or a similar platform, even for legal work papers like W9s or 1099s. The key is sharing all paperwork via your company communication tool, whether that’s Slack or Gchat. This gives the new hire a chance to use the platform and get used to this form of communication, which is critical on a remote team.

Connect them to all the digital channels where they’ll need to communicate with employees, giving them time to skim through old conversations, project timelines, whatever is important for their position.

Get Introductions Right—and Be Thorough

  • Traditional: “Any new hire will be focused on getting their first day on-the-job right—but existing employees should have the same attitude toward welcoming a new hire. So make sure that your new hire meets the key people they’ll be working with.” — The Office Club
  • Remote: Schedule at least one video call for each day of their first week.

Connecting employees is even more important to a remote team than a traditional one, where regular communication is necessary for completing projects. New employees will also need to ask questions regularly, and introductions help them become familiar with everyone while getting comfortable talking with their co-workers.

Schedule these calls throughout the week, starting with the people they’ll be working with most. You can even group people together for each call. The key is to avoid overwhelming them; one call a day is likely enough.

Create Their Personal Success Plan

  • Traditional: “Identify each individual’s authentic strengths. These encompass people’s skill-sets, but also their demeanor [and] attitude. By identifying key aspects of how individual employees operate, you can personalize the onboarding process and build a long-term plan concerning how and where to fit [a new hire] into the overall company.” — When I Work
  • Remote: Customize a long-term onboarding process.

The final part of this onboarding process is critical to keeping them engaged and excited about the position: creating a custom onboarding plan to help guide their first few months. This will take into account how this employee learns, performs, and wants to be managed.

This onboarding plan will:

  • Set expectations
  • Facilitate goal setting
  • Introduce initial projects
  • Cement who to report to
  • Specify deadlines
  • Formalize review periods and process

To customize this plan, hold a behavioral interview with each new hire to determine their various skills and mindset: “It’s easy for candidates to recite their job history and learned skills in an interview. But how did they react in various situations? What kind of specifics can they offer regarding their achievements? How do they tailor their work styles to manage change? You need to ask questions that get down to the finer details of candidates’ behavior,” explain HR experts at Insperity.  The information learned here will help you build this personalized plan.

Use Traditional to Inform Remote

Like in a traditional workspace, remote employees need to meet their co-workers, interact face-to-face, and get a sense of how they fit into the organization and what is expected of them. Use these tips to equip new hires for long-term success with your organization—whether they’re in the next state over or across the world.

About the author: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a professional blogger and freelance writer. She now owns her own business and has been featured on Forbes. 

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