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Tips For Onboarding Remote Employees

Tips For Onboarding Remote Employees

Have a new remote employee joining soon? Onboarding remote employees can be a big challenge. But we've got your back! Review our curated tips on successfully onboarding new remote hires.

An employee’s experience in the first few weeks on a new team, either in the same company or in a new company, has a long-lasting impact on their progress in the role. It dictates how quickly the new hire feels comfortable and gets a sense of belonging in the team. Moreover, it also impacts their productivity and learning curve to reach their full potential. A well thought out onboarding plan ensures that the new hire is setup for success right from day 1. This improves employee engagement and retention. In fact, a research by Glassdoor suggests that a strong onboarding experience improves employee retention by 82%.  

With the world going remote, onboarding new hires has become challenging as managers now have limited avenues to engage with their employees. However, Remote work has also increased the importance of having a well-structured onboarding plan and every employer/manager should invest in making this experience seamless and pleasant for the new hire.

In this article we share nine tips that you, as a manager, can implement to achieve the best on-boarding experience for your new hire.

Let’s jump in!

1. Plan for day zero

Before the employee joins, ensure that all administrative tasks have been completed. This includes delivery of the equipment that the employee needs to function, their accounts set up in the system and providing access to all the critical websites, tools, collaborative documents, workspace etc. First day in a new team is overwhelming, but with the administrative tasks out of the way, they can now focus on engaging with the team.  


2. Welcome note on day one

On the joining day, your very first task should be to connect with your new-hire and send a welcome note to them. This is usually an e-mail which highlights the following key points –

a.     A link to their onboarding documents

b.     High level tasks for the day

c.     Important team resources that will help them gain context

d.     Organization chart

e.     A list of key stakeholders that they should be contacting on their first two days

3. Team introduction

This is the easiest way to induce a sense of belonging to the new-hire and paves the path for them to setup connects with individuals later in the week. Introducing them to the team can be done in multiple ways –

a.     Sending out a note to the entire team with a short bio/introduction of the new hire and overview of the initiatives they would be driving. A few teams also like to personalize this by including details like hobbies, interests outside of work or anything that they would like to share. This opens a channel for casual conversation with the entire team

b.     Shout out in the team meeting and asking them to share a few words about themselves (give them a heads-up if you plan to do this)

c.     Set up a dedicated casual meet & greet for the team

4. Assign onboarding buddy

Onboarding buddy is another team member who will dedicate time over the next couple of weeks to connect regularly with the new hire. They will help the new hire settle in and navigate in their new environment. This team member will be the go-to person for any questions regarding the team structure, team culture, context gain on tasks and team vision or goals. In fact, a study confirms that 87% of the organizations that assign a buddy during onboarding claim that it improved the learning curve for the new hire. Typically, the onboarding buddy sets daily meetings. These meetings are very open-ended and is a forum for the new hire to ask any questions that comes to their mind.

5. Share exhaustive onboarding document

This should be done on the first day and typically through your onboarding email. The onboarding document that you prepare should have the following key elements –

a.     Overview of team goal and vision

b.     Overview of the workstreams that they will be leading and how it ties back to the team vision

c.     List key stakeholders they should connect with and what those folks drive

d.     Links to important documents that they should review and use to build context

e.     Details on their first project

f.      Checkpoints in the form of 1-week, 2-weeks, 4-weeks and 8-weeks milestones

6. Keep yourself available through the day

A new hire will have many questions on their first day (look back at your first day!). To prepare for the day, keep your workload light and block time on your calendar to address their questions, hop on a quick call or be virtually available. The new hire shouldn’t have to wait for an hour to get a response from you in the first week. Making them feel comfortable and included should be your priority.

7. Setup frequent check-ins

The idea behind setting up frequent check-ins is to create a forum for your new hire to connect with you and give them the comfort of a dedicated time in which their questions and concerns will be addressed. While some setup daily check-ins, we suggest setting up check-ins on alternate days. This gives them sometime to go through the task and other reading material at their own pace and ponder over their questions for a bit before asking you. This promotes independence and a helps them flex their “thinking through” muscle instead of running to you with every question. After a couple of weeks, you can convert these into weekly, recurring 1:1s.

8. Set expectations and milestones

I have been an onboarding buddy to many new hires and the most common comment that I hear is “I hope I am not slacking. I am not sure if I am doing enough”.  Why put anyone through this? Joining a new team is nerve-wrecking and last thing they should be worrying about is not knowing how they are performing. This can be prevented by creating a 1-week, 2-weeks, 4- weeks, and 8-weeks milestone plan for them. This has dual benefits – Firstly, the new hire can use this to self-evaluate their performance. Secondly, you as a manger, would be aligned on the expectations at the end of eight weeks. These can also be viewed as small wins that can help the new hire feel comfortable and at home in the new team.

An HBR guide on remote on-boarding highlights the importance of setting early wins:

“This will help build trust and show them that you are paying attention. Through this process, you can openly discuss gaps in their skill set and work to close them.”

9. Establish rules of engagement

We talked about establishing rules of engagement as a medium to keep remote teams productive. This holds true at an individual level as well. Everyone has a different working style which is usually governed by their surroundings at home, their commitments outside of work, their productivity levels during the day etc. Hence, it always a good idea to establish rules of engagement with your new hire, early on, to build a trusting relationship. You don’t want to unknowingly cause discomfort to them that can be easily prevented. One employee in my team did not like to get e-mails after 5PM as they felt the need to respond immediately (even though I called out that it was not the expectation). Once they talked about it, the team deliberately reduced the emails sent to the person after 5PM and waited for the next day to send it out.