How to Effectively Onboard New Employees in Remote Working Environments

It’s always tricky to introduce new employees effectively, but in a remote working situation, onboarding requires even more planning and dedication. Now this might sound like a lot of extra work right now, but investing in your onboarding process is not just essential if you want to keep your new hire, it’ll also get you great returns!

Digitate found that a negative onboarding process makes new hires 2x more likely to pursue different career paths. Conversely, Glassdoor findings demonstrate that a positive onboarding process makes new employees 82% more likely to stick around, while also increasing their productivity in more than 70% of the cases! In sum, onboarding your new hires properly increases motivation, loyalty, and happiness – not just for the new employee but for the entire team as well.

Convinced? Then let's start creating a positive onboarding experience for your new employees!

Effective onboarding: structure, strategy, and personal

Begin by structuring your onboarding process in a protocol beforehand. Make sure that this protocol is focused on relaying your company strategy and culture, and on integrating the new hire on a personal level.

Don’t rush your onboarding process in a few days or a week, but take at least a month. Moreover, if you run a bigger company, you might want to take half a year to a year to effectively onboard your new employee(s). With this dedication to personal guidance, you’ll foster new hires to return the favor by committing themselves to your organization for the long run.

Creating an onboarding protocol

Start off by internally discussing what the responsibilities of the new employee are, and how this will affect current operations. From there on, plan the entire onboarding protocol out, and let the people involved review and optimize it.

In this, consider the type of remote working tools and communication channels and that your company uses, and explain the ways and practices for each one of them. If you’d like a convenient template to start with, consider filling out this Trello board for your new employee.

Now you’re ready for day 1!

Day 1: Get everyone hyped!

Clear your schedule of meetings and dedicated tasks unrelated to the onboarding. However, if this is not possible, you can simply solve this by planning some activities or tasks that your new hire can easily do without you while you take care of your obligations.

Then, meet your new hire in a video call, explain and excite them about the day’s schedule, and don’t forget to schedule some time for small talk too. Subsequently, introduce the new hire into a group chat where everyone shares his or her name, age, living place, and a couple of personal things. Then, plan something that doesn’t occupy any mind space (e.g. a coffee/toilet break or lunch) so the new hire can process all the new people and their personal information.

After this little break, have everyone join an online video meeting so your new hire can add faces and voices to all the personal stories shared earlier. Dedicate this meeting to go over some informal questions and stimulate positive and uplifting chatter. However, do limit the time for this meeting to maximum 20-30 minutes, so it doesn’t end up becoming awkward or about business after all.

Do you want to ensure a good start and a motivated employee on day 1? Send your new hire something physical by mail before the first working day starts – a note that you’re all excited to meet him/her along with a nice goodie, snack, flowers, or whatever else you deem appropriate for the occasion.

Assign a buddy to your new hire

This might invoke associations of primary school or the military, but it’s highly effective for companies too. Especially when it comes to onboarding a remote worker, having a buddy available for specific questions, and who checks in on a weekly or bi-weekly basis is very important. If you have the capacity, it’s even better to assign 2 buddies:

  • A buddy seasoned in the company culture and brand ("culture buddy")
  • A buddy seasoned in the tasks and responsibilities related to the new hire’s function ("role buddy")

First, introduce the new hire to the culture buddy to learn about the company cultural practices and what your brand represents. Then, introduce the role buddy to teach about the role-specific tasks and responsibilities. From then on, the role buddy can help the new hire with the first tasks, and function as a checkpoint to review and provide feedback on important tasks that the new hire completes in the first weeks.

Ask for feedback on your onboarding protocol

In order to keep improving on your onboarding protocol, you’ll need to schedule a feedback meeting with your new employee. Important questions to go over are:

  • How do you prefer to learn new information?
  • What do you need to perfect your skills?
  • How can we take these 2 things into consideration for the rest of the onboarding process?
  • How have you experienced onboarding so far?
  • What part of our onboarding protocol didn’t you like / would you change?
  • For what company-specific tasks or skills do you need more training for at this point?

Don’t bombard your new hire with these questions right away, though. Give him/her a few weeks to adjust and integrate into the company. Also, not everything may be applicable to your general protocol, but at the very least it’ll be useful for tailoring the current protocol to the new hire. And if you do get similar responses over various onboarding processes, you have a good direction for adjusting your protocol.

Keep working on team connectivity

We’re not talking about your team’s Wi-Fi connection here; we’re talking about the team spirit, the feeling of belonging together and striving toward similar goals. This feeling is not generated by simply working on the same tasks, because you can perfectly focus on your part of the task as an individual. A feeling of connectivity grows through bonding on a personal level!

So, make a point of regularly scheduling bonding activities such as an online coffee break, happy hour, pub-quiz, or call-and-walk-in-the-park session. If you want to ensure extra goodwill for some of these events, send your team a small gift card now and then, so they can get themselves a nice drink or snack for the occasion.

Remember, these moments are not about business, they’re about decompressing and having a laugh together. This way, everyone can get to know each other better, which will foster connections, mutual trust, and a team spirit others. Business, as a result, will improve naturally, because team-spirited employees – with your new hire integrated properly – are far more effective than single-minded individuals ever will be!