Guide to Onboarding Remote Employees (+ Free Checklist)

Onboarding remote employees can be difficult at first. To really succeed, you need to restructure your process and approach it differently. We have the tips!

Team Management

We’ve almost all been in this situation—you’re new on the job, and the only thing that your manager has planned for your first day is to get you set up on your computer and walk you around the office to introduce you to your new teammates, (whose names you will almost certainly forget immediately after meeting them). Sound familiar? 

This is what we refer to as an uncoordinated and flawed employee onboarding. 

A good onboarding process is key to ensuring that your employees get off on the right foot and are set up for success. In fact, solid onboarding strategies can improve employee retention by 82%, yet only 20% of organizations do it well. This process is even more critical when onboarding remote employees who are getting their first introduction to the organization from the comforts (or confinements) of their home.Onboarding new employees can be challenging. This can be made even more complicated when the employees are remote (particularly if you're not a remote-first company) and everything is done virtually. Even so, that doesn't mean that you can't provide a stellar remote onboarding experience for your new hires! It just means that you’ll have to switch a few things up, and approach the onboarding process in a different way.

It doesn't matter if you’re in HR, hiring, or a team manager—if you're wondering how to onboard a new hire, we’ve got you covered. In this blog, we highlight some tips and best practices for onboarding remote employees, along with a checklist so you can ensure that you’re fully prepared to bring on all of those bright new remote employees.

First, What is Remote Onboarding?

Remote onboarding is the process of bringing on a new teammate and welcoming them to their role, their team, and the overall company. The entire process may take a week or longer before the new employee is fully integrated and working on their regular schedule. 

There are quite a few ingredients that go into creating an effective employee onboarding experience. It’s the ideal time to teach employees about things like company culture, rituals, and systems, to name a few while allowing them to get used to their new environment. Much like bringing home a new puppy (sorry for the reference), you can’t introduce too many things at once, or it becomes overwhelming. 

When it comes to the remote onboarding of employees, the only real difference is that they don’t have the luxury of being in the office with their new manager and teammates. Otherwise, most tasks and routines should be fairly similar. Phew!

You can choose between formal and informal methods of onboarding. Here are a few examples of these methods.

Formal Onboarding Methods

  • Workshops
  • Presentations
  • Training sessions
  • Exercises

Informal Onboarding Methods

  • Shadowing
  • Meeting stakeholder
  • Informal Q&A
  • Coaching via screen share

As mentioned before—there is never just one way of doing things when it comes to remote onboarding. It’s your job to choose the right mix of methods that best suits your team.

The Challenges of Onboarding Remote Employees

Let’s face it; there are many great things that come with remote working. However there are also some difficulties—onboarding can be one of them. Let's take a look at some of these challenges and how you can address them.

  1. Employees can feel isolated and less “a part of the team.” An excellent way to combat this is to set up meetings with some key members in their department. It doesn’t all have to be about work, either. Scheduling virtual coffees throughout the week is a great way to get more casual introductions that would otherwise happen in an office environment.
  2. Employees can get lost in the process without a manager or team member close by to assist. Make sure the new hires have meetings and materials ready for them and that you check in regularly to provide assistance and answer questions that are bound to pop up.
  3. Sometimes in remote offices, there is a tendency to create silos. People often only communicate to members of their own team and those on other teams that they need help from regularly. An easy solution to this challenge is to break these silos at the beginning by introducing new employees to a wide range of their teammates across different departments during the online onboarding process.
  4. When you're working from home, it’s possible for your first day to feel like any other. This shouldn't be the case—go out of your way to make your remote employee’s day special. You could send something like an employee swag package or desk plant, or a gift card to a food delivery service for a virtual team lunch. Think outside of the box on this one.

Remote Employee Onboarding Checklist: 7 Step Process

Step 1: Fill out all the paperwork digitally

If there are still some T’s that need to be crossed and I’s that need to be dotted, make sure to do it ahead of time virtually so that the employee doesn't have to worry about it on their first day. There are many things to consider when setting up a new, remote employee's backend. Read more in this handy blog.

Step 2: Get them setup with all the necessary tech/ equipment

Whether it be a computer, headphones, keyboards, or even an office chair, ensure that all the tech/equipment your new remote employee needs are ordered to their place ahead of time. They should be ready to get going on the first day, not sitting there waiting for their laptop to arrive. 

Step 3: Provide them with a remote employee handbook

If your company doesn’t have a handbook, consider making one! These can be incredibly helpful for new employees by giving them a robust overview of the company, mission, values, and so forth. It can be in the form of a PDF, a presentation etc. In this handbook, you can also provide tips on how to better work remotely, particularly if they’ve never done it before.

The format doesn’t matter as much as the content that’s in it.

Step 4: Invite/add them to all of the required collaboration tools

Collaboration tools such as email, group chat platforms, video conferencing software, etc., are incredibly important in a remote working environment. If possible, get your employees setup on their first day with these tools, and provide the relevant product manuals ahead of time so they can have everything up and working without a hitch. It’s also important to advise the best ways to communicate with their teammates, depending on the situation. Check out our list of collaboration tools here.

Step 5: Introduce them to the team via Slack/ chat platform

Instead of the generic “ Hi everyone, I’m pleased to welcome _________ to the team” message over Slack, try something more personal. Have the new team member make a short video to introduce themself to the team, or you can provide a questionnaire for them to fill out before their first day so you can craft a custom bio for them to share with the team. 

Step 6: Setup meeting with key stakeholders and team members.

As mentioned above, you NEED to setup these meetings. Ideally, within the first few days to a week of them joining. It’s the best way to start the integration process and allow them to learn more about the company and how it operates. 

Also, setting up these meetings is a great way for your remote employees to put a face to a name and become more familiar with the team.

Step 7: Continue to check in regularly

This is arguably the most crucial step. You need to check-in and make sure things are going smoothly! Don’t “set it and forget it”. This is particularly important for team managers and a great tactic for HR, hiring,, and even the CEO to practice. 

Every Remote Onboarding Process Should be Unique

In a study, employees who went through a thoughtfully structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to still be working with the organization after three years. As an employer or manager, the onboarding process is invaluable in helping the new members of your team get acclimated to their new environment. And when it comes to remote onboarding, there is not only one way of doing things. You need to create a custom remote online onboarding process that best suits your company. 

If your business plans on staying remote, becoming an expert in onboarding strategies for remote employees will be a valuable asset to your success. Just put yourself in their shoes—what would you want the ideal onboarding experience to feel like? Let that guide you through the process, and you can rest assured that your new employees will be set up for success. 

And what about hiring and paying remote employees? Knit has you covered. We work with thousands of other businesses that are now going through the challenge of hiring and paying employees across the globe. Learn more here!