From initial hiring decisions all the way to onboarding, here’s all
you need to know about sourcing phenomenal remote candidates

Part 5: Remote Onboarding

What Is Onboarding?

Aside from making your new hire feel comfortable and providing proper training, onboarding also includes actively socializing them into your organization. In the process, new hires soak in the psychology, personality, and culture of your business through aligning with the company goals, job expectations, and insider knowledge provided.

"On-boarding really starts with the first interview! Our aim is to ensure both parties have had a chance to get to know one another well, and that each hire has the best possible chance of being a long-term fit."

-Chloe, Dribbble
Director of Operations, Dribbble

Why is Onboarding Important?

Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82%, and productivity by over 70%. It makes sense then that effective onboarding will also increase your bottom line. Gallup found that only 12% of employees strongly agree their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees. That means 88% don’t think the companies they work for are doing a great job of onboarding!

So, if onboarding is so awesome, where are companies falling short? Here are some common areas:

  • Failing to standardize their onboarding process
  • Efforts are being spent only on processes and paperwork, missing out on the socialization aspect
  • Poor planning and as a result, the onboarding process is informal, inconsistent or reactive
  • New hires aren’t given enough time to adjust
  • Expectations aren’t clear, or they’re expecting too much, too soon

What Does a Successful Onboarding for a Remote Team Look Like?

Without having face-to-face interaction, what are the most potent ways to share information and resources, facilitate introductions, and set up proper check-ins during their first few weeks?

Remember those considerations we posed in Part 2 of this guide? Here is where some of those decisions made will come in handy.

Onboarding Prep

Have the right technology in place:

Prepare the onboarding ‘Welcome’ package:

Consider setting up a wiki that outlines your onboarding process, supplementary reading materials like a company culture guide, company history, etc. If you have any company swag, mail those out ahead of time so they receive it on their first day. Include a “411” doc:

  • Intro to tools and software
  • Sign in, password, security information
  • Training schedule and topics
  • Work expectations
  • List of employees and contact information

Prepare a “welcome to the team” email

Include paperwork to fill out (e.g., tax, payroll and insurance forms) and communicate what to expect during their first week.

Set Up Face-to-Face Time

Whether you’re flying your new team member in or setting up a video call, make sure there’s time to connect face-to-face.

Share company history and values

You may have covered this during the interviews already, but providing an in-depth context of your company history, culture, goals, structure, and values will communicate expectations and boundaries for how to exist within the organization. Share your milestones and the reasons why it’s exciting to work for your company!

Communicate Expectations

Communication methods and styles:
What information should be communicated through email vs Slack vs project management and/or collaboration tools?

"We’re continually experimenting with how much is too much information and how can we get people up to speed without overwhelming them. We’ve used email drip campaigns, Paper documents, and even “homework” assignments and are still iterating on tone and delivery systems. We’ll perhaps experiment more with Slack workflows or additional tools!"

–Nicole Miller
Team Engagement Manager, Buffer

Working hours and timezones:
Be transparent about expected working hours and communicate your expectations around how to best work across various time zones.

Whether you do daily stand-ups or weekly status update meetings, let your new hire know best practices for communication in your organization so they can prepare best for meetings.

High-level business goals and projections:
What is your company currently focused on and where is your company heading? Connect the high-level overarching goals with their work so they have the information required to perform to the best of their abilities.

Projects, workflow and priorities:
What current projects are in place and how do they tie in with their job? What tasks and projects do you want them to start with? Are there deadlines they should be aware of? How will their progress be evaluated?

Introduce Your New Employee to the Team

If meeting in person isn’t an option, make your new hire feel welcomed by setting up a ‘welcome to the team’ video chat. Welcoming your new hire goes beyond their first day and week. Set up a ‘welcoming committee’ or pair them with a mentor for them to lean on.

Create meaningful ways for your team to truly connect in a social atmosphere. Traditionally, this has been done by taking them out for lunch or cocktail hour. Why not host that in a Zoom room?

"We assign role buddies and culture buddies. This is a really energizing experience and helps solidify bonds and relationships within the team, but it can be tricky to manage as a distributed team. Luckily, we try to schedule either an in-person onsite or company retreat at least every six months, so we don’t go too long without a little facetime."

–Nicole Miller
Team Engagement Manager, Buffer

Create Training Milestones

The first few weeks at a new job is similar to the first couple of weeks back to school after frolicking in the sun all summer. Your brain is on overload from downloading all sorts of new information and it’s exhausting. Breaking down the training into small steps will help your new team member feel less overwhelmed. Asking new hires to do too much, too soon is a common mistake. Instead, assign them with a series of smaller tasks and ask them to check-in with you once they’ve completed them. This allows you to assess their understanding before throwing something “bigger” at them. For example, if you just hired a social media manager, the first series of tasks might look like: brainstorming content topics, doing an audit on the current channels, etc. As the training advances, begin providing them with “real” work with short deadlines so you can give detailed feedback.

"Due to the lack of physical cues and connectivity in a remote environment, the learning curve in a remote environment has the potential to be longer and more burdensome on the role of the employee. Employers need to be constantly and proactively over-communicating from day one when it comes to introducing a new candidate to people, processes, and resources."

–The Workplaceless team

How Long Should the Onboarding Process Be?

In traditional non-remote environments, most organizations stop their onboarding process just after week one. 37% of companies extend their onboarding programs beyond the first month. However, research suggests companies are extending their onboarding length to one year in order to increase employee retention.

"The onboarding process begins right after the offer is accepted, and lasts 90 days after the start day. We work behind the scenes with their manager and “buddies” to craft 30-60-90 day goals and milestones to clearly map out what success looks like for this new hire. We’ll also get super granular and create a helpful to-do list for some of the initial first days so there are immediate tasks to get to know our company values, history and norms."

–Nicole Miller
Team Engagement Manager, Buffer

Try playing around with various timelines to find your sweet spot. One thing’s for sure, rushing people through paperwork and training so they can begin doing their work sooner may not be the best path towards employee happiness, productivity and contribution.

During the first few weeks, check in with your new hire on a daily basis.

Schedule Q&A sessions on their first day, end of the first and second week so they feel assured they have designated time and space to ask questions without interrupting your flow.

Download our Onboarding Checklist Template

← Part 4