Remote Onboarding: Effective Techniques for Welcoming New Hires

Hiring Remote

Let’s welcome your remote employees with virtual open arms! Use these remote onboarding tips to boost belonging for new hires now:

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Could your virtual onboarding process use a glow-up?

The latest remote onboarding techniques incorporate new tech upgrades and proven remote team-building strategies to show new hires that you’re thrilled to have them and invested in their success.

Creating this sense of value and belonging right from the start helps new employees feel welcomed and pays dividends for your organization. 

According to research: 

  • The best onboarding processes improve new hire productivity by more than 70%.[*]
  • New hires may be 18 times more committed to their employer after a good onboarding process; 51% even admit they’d go “above and beyond” for them.[*][*]
  • 78% of companies that invest more in onboarding report higher revenue, better organizational KPIs, and higher employee engagement than those investing the least.[*
  • Organizations with a strong employee onboarding program improve employee retention by 82%.[*]

So let’s kick off our ultimate guide to remote onboarding with the basics before we jump into our roundup of tips, tools, and best practices.

Hiring remotely in 2024? Check out our complete guide to hiring remotely in 2024 here.

How Does Remote Onboarding Actually Work?

Remote employee onboarding is the process of orienting, training, and integrating new hires into your company’s culture, online workflows, and teams — all in a virtual office setting.

Employee onboarding begins the minute your candidate signs their offer letter and ends when they can effectively perform their remote job without training wheels. Depending on your company and their role, onboarding can last a few days, weeks, or even months.

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During this time, your team will aim to:

  • Align new hires with your mission, company culture, and remote work policies
  • Introduce them to their virtual workplace/the digital tools your team uses
  • Train and transition them into their roles
  • Foster camaraderie and team-building
  • Set expectations for the next 30, 60, 90 days, or longer

The sooner your new hires feel comfortable in their role, the more engaged, productive team members they’ll become. They’ll also feel more confident about accepting employment with your organization (i.e., they won’t keep entertaining potential job offers). Also, there are tools like Remote, that can help you with onboarding, and much more, during your hiring process.

Now that we understand the mission, let’s dive into the first stage of how to onboard new hires remotely.

Step 1: Crafting an Onboarding Checklist For Remote Employees

Before welcoming your new hires with virtual open arms, you must craft a well-structured roadmap to navigate them through the onboarding journey. Include these tasks on your checklist:

📝  Create a Standardized Onboarding Process

A standardized onboarding process shows new hires that your team is professional, organized, and trustworthy. This game plan should include:

  • Dates and meeting times. Include a schedule breakdown for new hires that includes meetings, training times, breaks, etc. Keep time zones in mind for international new hire onboarding.

  • Links/logins for your online onboarding tools. Email your new hire all the login info they’ll need for your virtual office onboarding, such as video conferencing apps for meetings, project managers for training, etc. 

Receiving this intel upfront alleviates first-day jitters. It also helps new hires know what to expect during work-from-home onboarding if they’ve never done one before.

🖥️  Step Up Your Onboarding Tech Stack

Many organizations have been using Learning Management Systems (LMS) that provide structured training modules when onboarding new employees remotely. These allow new hires to learn at their own pace and track their progress.

But to step up your virtual onboarding game, we suggest:

  • Personalized training paths. AI-powered algorithms tailor onboarding content and customize training based on each new hire’s skills, knowledge gaps, learning preferences, and progress. Targeted training modules ensure a highly personalized and engaging experience, helping them quickly become productive team members.

  • Multimedia onboarding. Ditch the boring manuals and create engaging videos, webinars, and interactive modules to keep new hires interested and excited about their role.

  • Gamifying the onboarding process. Introduce gamification elements by adding fun quizzes, challenges, points scoring, leaderboards, and trophies to make learning fun and interactive.

  • Training in the metaverse. Virtual reality (VR)-enabled software for remote onboarding creates a truly immersive, realistic experience for new hires to learn how to navigate new tools and interact with coworkers. They’ll feel more at ease and ready to participate in virtual meetings, projects, and remote team-building activities. 

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Just like remote hiring in specific industries requires different techniques, so do your remote training strategies. They may require a bit of setup on the front end. But their reach, impact, and power to captivate attention are unrivaled. 

Read More: How Technology Will Change the Future of Work

💐  Deliver a Welcome Package

Send a welcome package to your new hires to reinforce your excitement. Consider stuffing your goodie boxes with:

  • A personalized, handwritten welcome card

  • A signed welcome letter from the CEO

  • Branded company swag (tumblers, hats, t-shirts, mugs, reusable totes, etc.)

  • Tech gifts (company laptop, large monitors, VR headsets, etc.)

  • Samples of your products or free access to your service

  • Small plant for their desk

Your new employees will be pleasantly surprised by this gift and feel valued, welcomed, and appreciated. Way to make a fantastic first impression!

💻  Set Up a 24/7 Onboarding Portal (To Make Pre-boarding a Breeze!)

One of the best tips for remote onboarding is actually pre-boarding. This allows new hires to complete all the administrative prerequisites online before their first day.

Some digital onboarding platforms offer customized onboarding workflows, document management, and e-signatures, making paperwork seamless and reducing administrative headaches.

But you can also set up an onboarding portal to serve as a centralized hub for:

  • New hire paperwork and employee benefits information

  • Your company knowledge base and FAQs

  • Dedicated channels on Slack, Microsoft Teams, Discord, etc., for new hires to ask questions, share their experiences, and connect with coworkers

  • Company documents, training materials, and other resources for remote onboarding

Your new hires score 24/7 access to this hub to read/complete tasks on their own time. And instead of the first onboarding day revolving around boring paperwork, you’ll make more time for connecting. 

Investing more in communication and engagement may actually improve the onboarding experience by at least 80%.[*]

Step 2: Follow These Best Practices for Remote Onboarding

When the big day finally arrives (yay!), try to use as many of these effective remote onboarding techniques as possible:

🥳  Host a Virtual Welcome Party

If you’re striving for digital workplace integration, scheduling a remote employee welcome party is a hands-down must. 

Take the lead on a quick, company-wide virtual call to introduce your new hire, highlight their awesomeness, and make them feel like they’re part of something bigger and special.

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Then, sprinkle virtual coffee breaks and team-building activities throughout onboarding to break up training blocks and foster virtual bonding. Schedule one-on-one video calls with their team members, team leaders, and department managers. Here they can all:

These casual “get-to-know-you” chats are the closest thing to in-person interactions. They help build rapport, trust, and belonging for new hires.

🌟  Discuss Your Company Culture, Mission, & Goals

Building a strong culture with a remote team influences your employee’s behavior, work ethic, decision-making, and more. So it’s imperative to get new hires invested and aligned ASAP.

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Spend some time covering your:

Follow up with how your new hire will add value to your organization and help achieve its ultimate mission.

🎯  Set Achievable, Realistic Goals & Expectations

Setting SMART goals and outlining expectations are some of the top remote work best practices for managing teams. Turns out, they’re also one of the most effective onboarding techniques.

New hires must know what’s expected of them in their role. Then they’ll understand how to best contribute their talent. That’s why your team must outline specifics upfront like:

  • How their work will impact the organization
  • Daily tasks, work duties, and responsibilities
  • What defines success in the role
  • How performance will be measured
  • To whom they report to (or supervise)
  • What’s expected of them in the next 30, 60, and 90 days

Iterate exactly why you hired them for the role, whether it’s their experience, skills, portfolio, perspective, etc., to encourage, support, and motivate them to succeed.

🫶  Partner New Hires with a Virtual Buddy

Assigning every new hire a virtual buddy gives them a friend in your organization on their very first day. That may be why almost 50% of organizations implement a Buddy System or Virtual Mentorship Program for new employees.[*]

This experienced or senior team member will guide them through the intricacies of your remote work environment, offer insights, answer questions, and provide moral support. Buddies can also introduce new hires to cross-department employees and check in occasionally to see how they’re acclimating.

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Stats show that nearly 90% of companies believe assigning a buddy increased their new hire’s efficiency and productivity.[*] And close to 60% of employees say having a buddy or mentor at work was essential when they started.[*]

Step 3: Forging Stronger Connections

Congratulations on covering the basics! Your new hire should have a better understanding of how to perform at your company. Now it’s time to show that you’re invested in their success too.

🌱  Discuss Their Career Growth

Learning how to best support career growth for remote employees starts during onboarding. Here’s where you should ask new hires questions about their career goals, where they want to make progress, and how they plan to excel.

Discussing career development during onboarding more than triples job satisfaction.[*] Plus, new hires with a professional development plan are 3.5 times more likely to call their onboarding process “exceptional.”[*]

So help your new employees envision their future with your organization by:

  • Discussing growth opportunities within the company

  • Sharing professional development resources (online course subscriptions, book stipends, tuition reimbursement, etc.)

  • Spotlighting opportunities for on-the-job training, upskilling and reskilling, cross-department collaborative projects, etc. 

This conversation will promote your culture of learning and development and encourage new hires to set goals and expand their skill set, which are all perks for your workforce.

Read More: How HR Can Help Employees Grow While Working From Home

🧘  Highlight Your Employee Support

A healthy, happy team member is a productive one. So make sure your new hire knows about the resources your organization offers to:

  • Optimize self-care and a healthy work-life balance. Emphasize that taking time off from work is important and overworking is discouraged. Share your wellness initiatives like daily step challenges, virtual group workouts, gym membership, etc.

  • Support mental health in the workplace. Discuss your resources for meditation app subscriptions, weekly group yoga sessions, stress management tips, and more.

  • Encourage inclusivity. If your company has Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), show your new hires how to join them. ERGs offer community, support, and inclusivity, especially for underrepresented groups.

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These resources can help your new remote hires combat the potential loneliness and isolation many telecommuters experience and motivate them to make friends and be more social.

✅  Schedule Regular Check-Ins & Ask for Feedback

As your new hires transition into their roles, schedule regular one-on-one check-ins to gauge their progress and promptly address any concerns or challenges. 

Don’t forget to acknowledge and celebrate their achievements and milestones. Public recognition definitely boosts morale and motivation.

Finally, create a safe space for honest, open feedback so they can provide input on their onboarding experience and suggest improvements. Iterating on these demonstrates that your company values their opinions and strives to improve.

💪  Add These Tips To Your Checklist for Remote Onboarding

By creating a comprehensive game plan, fostering connections, and leveraging the right technology, your remote onboarding experience can eagerly welcome, instill loyalty, and boost new hire productivity.

Just keep in mind that successful onboarding isn’t just about imparting information; it's about creating a sense of belonging and making your new team members feel like they're part of something special.

Implement these techniques, and you’ll set the stage for a thriving remote work culture where every team member feels valued and supported.

PS: These onboarding techniques work well for a crowd! If you’re going to onboard one employee, why not save your team time and invite more new hires to the party? 

Post your remote jobs on We Work Remotely to snag top talent in time for your next onboarding session.

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