What is remote onboarding?

Remote onboarding is the process of incorporating a new employee into an organization and familiarizing them with the company culture and policies, so they can become an effective and contributing member of the team by implementing technology of video calls and tech tools.

A good onboarding process is reminiscent of boarding a plane. At the beginning of an adventure, you’re greeted by someone who’s happy to have you. They help you find your seat and get acclimated so the flight will be comfortable and you’ll get to your destination safely.

Though remote onboarding takes place virtually, the process is inherently the same as face-to-face onboarding.

Remote onboarding programs should help new hires:

  • Understand their roles and responsibilities
  • Get acquainted with the online platform they’ll be using
  • Learn the company culture, policies, and protocols
  • Meet their teammates
  • Feel welcome

What should be included in remote onboarding?

If you are onboarding new employees remotely you need to have a clear, detailed plan to ensure that they have the same experience as if they were working in the office.

This should include:

  • Welcome video call with their manager to introduce the new employee to the team, explain their methods of communication, and assign a work buddy
  • Introduction to and training on IT systems
  • HR induction to ensure all necessary paperwork is completed and the new employee is enrolled in all benefits plans
  • Introduction to coworkers outside the direct team who the new employee will need to interact with
  • Regular check-ins from both the direct manager and HR throughout the first 90 days of employment
  • Employee surveys during and at the end of the first 90 days to give feedback on the onboarding process

For a more detailed breakdown covering the critical first 90 days for a new hire, take a look at our remote onboarding checklist and employee onboarding templates.

Why should HR leaders care about remote onboarding?

Implementing an effective remote onboarding program is the key to achieving:

  • Retention
  • Engagement (from the very beginning)
  • Loyalty

Remote onboarding is essential, especially for employees who are dispersed throughout different cities or countries. It lays the groundwork for new hires to smoothly transition into their new role. Just as an uneasy child would need a warm welcome on the first day of kindergarten, a new employee will appreciate a well-planned onboarding process. The smoother the remote onboarding process is for the new employee, the greater the chances they will become an effective, long-term contributor to the company.

What are the challenges with remote onboarding?

While there are many advantages to working remotely, the remote onboarding process does present challenges for both organizations and employees such as:

  • New hires feeling isolated and disengaged from the rest of the team
  • IT equipment not arriving on time
  • User accounts not being set up on time
  • Not knowing who to ask for technical or procedural help
  • Key staff not being available when the new employee starts
  • Needing to spend significant time filling out various forms for HR

The good news is that all these challenges can be overcome simply by having a well-defined onboarding procedure. Check out our remote onboarding tips to discover what you can do to make the process easy and enjoyable for everyone.

Best practices for a smooth remote onboarding process

It’s best to send a new employee a welcome email on their first day which includes:

  • Resources they will need
  • A step-by-step checklist explaining how to get set up on company platforms and channels
  • Information about company culture, vision, values, and mission  

You should arrange a meeting between the new employee and their line manager on the first day that will cover:

  • Day-to-day work logistics and expectations 
  • Answering any questions or concerns the new employee may have
  • Enthusing the new employee about their remote role by explaining how well the existing team works and how easy it is to interact with them

Team members can also reach out to work cooperatively with the new employee. Whether they offer tips on workflow or collaborate on an assignment, this interaction allows the new hire to smoothly transition into their position. HR can also match the new employee up with a buddy, who’s available to answer questions, provide encouragement, and mentor the new employee.

How can HR tech help with remote onboarding?

Technology isn’t only useful for getting new remote employees connected to IT systems and meeting colleagues. There is remote onboarding software available that can streamline the onboarding process and make it even smoother.

A good HR system will aid remote onboarding through:

  • Automating workflows to ensure no steps are missed, including a crucial preboarding workflow to get new employees set up for success before they start
  • Introducing new employees to the company’s unique culture and people, helping them understand where they fit in
  • Providing an online space where existing staff can welcome new employees and make them feel part of the team
  • Enabling a fully customizable onboarding process that meets the specific needs of your organization and the locations and departments within it

If a significant proportion of your new employees are onboarded remotely then investing in HR tech to assist with the process is essential. It will help you ensure that everyone gets the same experience wherever they are based, setting them up for success from day one in their new role.

How can successful remote onboarding improve company culture?

The remote onboarding process is the first step in building a relationship with a new employee. A company that invests in a new employee’s well-being through a thoughtful onboarding process is well on its way to increasing long-term employee engagement, retention, and overall job satisfaction. Onboarding and company culture go hand in hand; caring for an employee’s needs from the very beginning can have a far-reaching impact, establishing a foundation for a healthy, thriving, and attractive company culture as well as a successful organization.