The Ultimate Guide to Onboarding Remote Employees

Emerging remote and hybrid work models pose new challenges across communication, collaboration, and accountability. It’s important to find creative ways to welcome new faces to your remote team.

Here’s your step-by-step guide to best practices for onboarding remote teams.

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The 3 Reasons Onboarding Is Crucial for Success

According to Amy Hirsh Robinson, principal of The Interchange Group in Los Angeles, the onboarding process can set the tone for the rest of the employee’s time with your organization:

“Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged. It offers an imprinting window when you can make an impression that stays with new employees for the duration of their careers.”

By creating an effective onboarding process, you have a chance to set new employees on a positive track from the very beginning.

There are three essential purposes onboarding fulfills:

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1. Forging social connections – Onboarding acts as the initiation ceremony that celebrates a new employee’s arrival and welcomes them as one of their own. It also begins the process of integrating them within the greater whole of the organization.

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2. Making positive initial impressions – Onboarding sets the bar for the company’s organizational structure, attention to detail, and care for their team members. A well-executed onboarding process demonstrates that the promises made in the interview stages will be fulfilled and that the candidate’s value as an employee will not go underappreciated. A strategic and thoughtful onboarding process cultivates a new employee’s personal investment in success at their new workplace.

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3. Preparing them for success – The onboarding experience empowers an employee from the outset, providing them with the tools, resources, and guidance they need to thrive within their role. If they’re left without direction, there’s a much higher chance that a new employee will be ineffective in their role.

Why a Faster Onboarding Process Isn’t Always Better

In most cases, onboarding takes one of two shapes—a one-day welcome, or a multi-day, “boot camp” style onboarding.

The one-day welcome might appeal to companies that need to get employees on the job quickly. However, a less thorough onboarding process can have negative effects for both companies and employees.

These may include:

Poor productivity
Person sitting at computer procrastinating
Lower employee morale and confidence
Unconfident worker at desk with computer
Higher employee turnover
Employees leaving office

On the other hand, companies that opt for a longer, “boot-camp” style onboarding have much better results, with employees being 29 times more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs.

Onboarding New Employees Remotely

Aside from setting employees up for productivity and satisfaction, remote onboarding offers a key moment where companies can help new employees to engage with the rest of the workforce and make up for the lack of face-to-face interactions that happen in person.

Forward-thinking companies recognize the need to go above and beyond to make up for that lack of proximity. As Beau Davidson, VP of employee experience at NVIDIA recommends, you must humanize the process:

“The most important thing is making sure that human connection happens. It’s a lot easier when we’re all sitting together in the same room. [That includes] making sure managers are equipped with knowing how to set up their employees, engage with them, and ensure that no one is left behind.”

Anatomy of an Effective Onboarding Experience

So, what does an exceptional remote onboarding experience look and feel like?

By necessity, each company must tailor its program to match the industry, workforce, and goals. That said, here are some universal features that every business should incorporate.

#1 Preparing Your Team

Preparing your team to welcome new hires can help to build team morale and create harmony between new and existing team members. Existing employees can also help new hires create connections and assimilate to your workplace culture.

Businesses should ready the team for this initial handoff and then encourage the employees to engage proactively by:

Manager preparing team
Informing individuals who will be a part of the new employee’s day-to-day life what their training responsibilities are.
Introducing the new hire with a company-wide email, stating some highlights about the person’s resume and even calling out a few fun personal facts—these can become conversation starters on their first day.
Sharing the new employee’s schedule with the relevant team members so they can add some face-time to their schedule.
Encouraging team members to take coffee breaks or lunches (digital or otherwise) with the new teammate.

Felicia Joy, adjunct assistant professor of strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, spoke to Fortune Magazine about how fellow colleagues can help to welcome new employees and foster connections:

“If we know about other coworkers who share common interests, then we’re able to introduce them to other people who have common interests, and who they may form a stronger bond with more quickly because of those commonalities.”

Connecting new hires to existing employees

#2 Orientating the New Hire

The first touchpoint an employee has with a business should be focused on welcoming them and then familiarizing them with their new role. This is your opportunity to introduce them to their immediate team as well as the company’s goals, culture, and mission.

You can do this with:

Informative materials – Crafting an information knowledge based about the company and the new hire’s role expectations can help new employees settle in and find answers they may not have thought to ask.
Designate a support team – Make sure the new hire has someone to turn to as they navigate through their onboarding process. Keep in mind, it can be better to designate a team member who will act as their “onboarding buddy.” This allows the new hire to put their guard down and interact more casually with a peer instead of their boss.
A warm, personal welcome – Small gestures like a welcoming gift or company-paid lunch can go a long way toward making them feel appreciated.

#3 Team Bonding

Ideally, new employees should be given an opportunity to meet, observe, interact, and settle into their team. This time should be unstructured and focused more on relationship building than on the work itself.

Done right, it can help combat feelings of remote isolation while also instilling the confidence remote workers need to hit the ground running.

Virtual team bonding event

What’s the best way to go about this? Leigh Yanocha, Head of People Strategy at Knopman Marks, offers some advice:

“HR leaders need to get creative to help their teams maintain and build connections while working remotely, especially if you have new hires. Design opportunities to step out of the day-to-day grind of work to discover a more personal side of colleagues. Stay plugged into the interests of your team, as well as current events and pop culture trends to get ideas.”

Consider scheduling a virtual happy hour, game night, or lunch break where everyone can participate in a shared activity and be relaxed and present.

Onboarding a remote employee

#4 Onboarding

After an employee has completed the cultural aspect of the remote onboarding process, the next task is to clarify their roles and responsibilities so that they know exactly what’s expected of them and have the opportunity to ask any questions they might have.

There should be no guesswork here. Be clear and explicit during the virtual onboarding, especially about the major company do’s and don’ts. Clearly defining the job’s scope and parameters is paramount. This entails:

Reviewing job title, pay range, work hours, benefits, etc.
Running the new remote employee through the daily responsibilities
Setting them up with physical equipment as well as digital tools like email, messaging, and video conferencing
Discussing work guidelines regarding communication, workflow, and etiquette

Over the first few weeks, be sure to schedule face time with senior company executives from a range of departments. Familiarizing the employee with the various parts of the business lays the early groundwork for an employee to envision a long-term career within the company.

#5 Training

While there is some bleed over from onboarding to actual training, this portion is devoted to bringing the new team member up to speed while providing the resources they need to excel in the role.

For this, employees must learn two things: how to be successful and how success is measured. Meighan Newhouse, CEO of Inspirant Group, advises that you:

Virtual team bonding event

“Find model employees to mentor and speak with the new team members to show them what success looks like at your company. Set short-term goals for your new hires to meet; review them, and offer real, applicable feedback on what they did and did not do well in meeting those goals.”

Set clear goals and to-do items in the immediate, near, and far future. Many companies will set these for 14, 30, 60, and 90 days.

Marissa Heckman, the Director of Employee Development and Training at Power Digital Marketing mentioned in an interview conducted by our team:

“The key to a successful onboarding is having 30, 60, 90 day goals established with new hires. Having these concrete goals helps them slow down and alleviate stress so they take things in bite sized portions”

How to Make Your Remote Onboarding Experience Stand Out

Since first impressions are everything, what are some steps you can take to create an unforgettable and successful remote onboarding experience for new hires?

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Step 1: Set Structured One-on-One Meetings

Check-ins create a structured period in the day where team members can communicate and motivate. They can also ensure new remote employees have a place to ask questions and receive feedback, even if they can’t walk over to your office in person.

Even though employees have digital tools at their disposal, remote hires might feel more reluctant to reach out, especially if it feels like they’re constantly pestering their supervisor with questions. Setting regular daily virtual check-ins with their team members and managers can help alleviate confusion and clarify any questions or issues as new employees settle into their role.

Angela Cusack, founder and CEO of Igniting Success, recommends that managers continue check-ins at least once a week for the first three months. She also notes how beneficial it can be for employees and their managers alike:

“This becomes a sacred space for the leader and employee to continue the process of getting to know one another. This time invites the employee to share what they have experienced and observed and ask questions about implicit cultural norms. The impact of this dedicated time is the cultivation of safety, trust and belonging.”

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Step 2: Send a Care Package

As a business, you should strive to ensure that new hires feel valued and appreciated from the get-go. A thoughtful care package is the perfect way to do that.

What should it include?

That’s entirely up to you, but some potential ideas include:

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Company merchandise
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A coffee mug
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Work computer
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Work equipment
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Gift certificates for food delivery services
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If you want to sweeten the package, flowers and a hand-written card are also a thoughtful touch.

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Step 3: Use a Technology Platform that Enhances the Experience

In a remote setting, technology can be an equalizer. A platform like Teamflow can seemingly make the miles separating a virtual team disappear, curating an environment in which collaboration and communication are easy to achieve.

For that, you need a system that can support:

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Team standups
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Webinar-type sessions
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Executive presentations
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Unstructured bonding time

Although you can’t entirely replace face-to-face interaction, virtual office software bridges the gap, allowing new employees to enjoy the perks of a remote office while still experiencing many of the benefits of an in-person setting.

Marissa Heckman, the Director of Employee Development and Training at Power Digital Marketing revealed:

“The  biggest challenge in remote onboarding vs in-person is creating that natural bonding that comes from an office environment. There is so much more TLC needed when it comes to the remote work environment.”

How To Prepare Effective Onboarding Materials

The resources and materials you provide new employees can both welcome and prepare them for the road ahead. That doesn’t mean you should overwhelm them with an endless tide of papers and documentation.

Instead, consider the following ideas:

Web browser with onboarding materials
Ask two to three executives in the company to prepare a 15-minute presentation about themselves, their team, and their role in the company. Then, space these out over the week.
Have team leaders provide the new employee with a 14, 30, 60, and 90-day goal sheet that outlines expectations and offers the new hire an opportunity to set their own goals within the company.
As time passes and you successfully onboard a stream of new employees, you’ll start to see gaps in the materials or questions that commonly pop up. As such, putting together an FAQ and cheat sheet could streamline your onboarding process.
Have the onboarding buddy schedule daily check-ins with the new hire to review and discuss daily responsibilities, gauge satisfaction, and answer any questions as the new hire gets more settled into their role.

As you set up new employees with the materials they need to succeed, don’t forget that the people at your company can serve as important resources, too.

Johnna Capitano, management professor and director of Westchester University’s Center for Newcomer Onboarding, recommends that you “proactively schedule one-on-one meetings for their newcomers with their key stakeholders and encourage peers to reach out to new employees.”

In doing so, Capitano suggests that you can simultaneously help new hires “build the solid social connections that lead to a sense of belonging.”

Additional Resources to Explore

A seamless remote onboarding experience makes the new employee feel welcomed, valued, and adequately prepared to face the challenges of the job. On the other hand, failure to build an effective onboarding process may lead to inefficient workflows and poor employee engagement or accountability.

Employee working and exploring resources

To prevent that, you must make onboarding a company priority, not an afterthought.

For that, Teamflow is the all-in-one virtual office you can use to mitigate—if not entirely eliminate—many of the challenges of onboarding and managing remote employees. It’s the hub your team can use to collaborate, meet, brainstorm, and hang out.

Teamflow remote work value proposition

Embracing Remote Work with TeamFlow

The transition to a remote work setting hasn’t been frictionless. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this hybrid approach. But the good news is there are actions you can take and technologies you employ to better navigate these uncharted business waters.

TeamFlow’s virtual office space software is a dedicated tool you can incorporate to combat isolation, foster creativity, and facilitate communication. It’s a fun and dynamic platform that makes it possible to connect your teams—no matter the distance between them.  

Are you ready to see the magic TeamFlow brings to the remote world? Request a demo today.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job Openings and Labor Turnover - February 2022.
BusinessNewsDaily. What Does Poor Onboarding Really Do to Your Team?
Bamboo Hr. How to Measure Onboarding Effectiveness with 5 Simple Metrics.
Society for Human Resource Management. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Good Onboarding.
Fortune. In a remote world, HR departments are rushing to make onboarding feel more human.

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