Key Takeaways
  • Companies are changing the way they onboard new employees due to the population working remotely.
  • Onboarding new hires remotely can be just as effective as in-person onboarding with the right approach.
  • There are three common types of remote onboarding programs: self-paced, group, and one-on-one.
  • Some best practices for remote onboarding include creating a structured plan, making sure all resources are available, gradually providing information to new hires, encouraging collaborative learning, and ending on a positive note.

With a larger population working remotely, there has been a change in how companies onboard new employees. 

Online onboarding would be easier and much quicker. Well, you need to deal with the logistics of getting someone into an office. 

But it’s not all plain sailing.

Getting new employees up to speed can be difficult when they’re away from the office and meeting their team in person. And a poor onboarding process will fail to create a sense of community among your remote workers. This can lead to a high turnover rate, something no company wants. 

How do you help new hires with the transition of joining a virtual team and feeling like they have support and camaraderie all from their home offices?

In-office onboarding vs. remote onboarding: What’s the difference?

With in-office onboarding, you can show the new hire around the office, introduce them to their team, and have lunch with them on their first day. They’ll get first-hand experience with the working environment, company values or culture, and the people they’ll be working with.

With remote onboarding, you lose the face-to-face element. For example, you can’t show them around the office or introduce them to their co-workers in person. 

You’ll need to be more deliberate in your planning and find creative ways to engage your remote workers and help them feel like part of the team from day one. 

Use video conferencing for virtual tours and lunches, or do some fun icebreakers online.

When done right, remote onboarding can be as effective as in-person onboarding. However, it takes more planning and effort to make sure the process runs smoothly.

3 Common types of remote onboarding programs

You can implement a few different types of remote onboarding programs to help new hires with the transition. 

Self-paced onboarding 

This is where you give the new hire all the materials they need to get started and then let them complete the tasks at their own pace. 

Group program

This is where you put the new hire in a group with other new hires and have them complete the tasks together. 

One-on-one program

This is where you work with the unique hire one-on-one to help them achieve the tasks. 

Remote onboarding best practices

Now that we’ve gone over the types of remote onboarding programs let’s talk about some best practices you can use to ensure your program is successful. 

Create a structured plan

A great onboarding process starts with a plan. But, first, you need to consider what your new employees want to know and understand and set some expectations for them. 

When you have a remote team, keeping everyone on the same page can be challenging. That’s why you must create a structure for your onboarding process and stick to it as much as possible.

Make sure you have all the resources your new employees need

When onboarding someone remotely, you can’t just hand them a 100-page “welcome to the team” PDF or endless Powerpoint slides of company rules and hope they read through it all. 

You need to ensure they have all the resources they need to succeed in their new role. This might include an employee manual, access to a knowledge base, or a list of contacts they can reach out to for help.

Consider what your new employees need to know and ensure you have all the resources they need to get started.

Onboard new hires gradually

When you’re onboarding someone remotely, it can be tempting to give them all the information at once and expect them to be able to digest it and start working right away. 

But there are better approaches than this. First, you want to onboard new hires gradually, allowing them time to adjust to their new role and responsibilities. 

An excellent way to do this is to start with the basics and then give them more information as they need it. For example, you might begin with an overview of the company and its role. Then, you can give them more specific information about their team, projects, and goals.

Make sure your new hires feel like part of the team

One of the biggest challenges regarding remote onboarding is creating a sense of belonging for the new hire. When they’re not in the office, it can be easy for them to feel isolated– having no one to talk to and feeling like they’re not part of the team. 

That’s why it’s essential to make an effort to help your new employees feel like part of the team and that they have a support system in place from day one. Make sure you also inform the team that a new member is joining so everyone can be welcoming. 

Initiate professional development and personal growth from the start

One of the best things you can do for your new employees is to invest in their professional development and personal growth from the start. This shows that you’re invested in their success and want them to grow with the company. 

There are a few ways you can do this, such as providing access to training resources (i.e., training videos, company cultures, and values, etc.), offering mentorship programs, or giving them opportunities to work on projects that are outside their normal scope. 

Encourage collaborative learning

When you’re onboarding someone remotely, it can be easy for them to feel like they’re on their own. That’s why it’s essential to encourage collaborative learning and allow new employees to learn from their peers. 

One great way to do this is to set up a remote buddy system, where each new hire is paired up with an experienced employee. This way, they can ask questions and get help when needed.

End with a positive note

The last thing you want to do is end your remote onboarding process on a negative note. Instead, you want to leave your new employees feeling excited about their new role and confident they have the tools and resources they need to succeed. 

You can have a final check-in with them, either in person or over video chat, and see how they’re doing. This is also an excellent time to answer any questions and give them some words of encouragement. 

Bottom line

Onboarding new hires remotely don’t have to be complex and impersonal– as long as you have the right approach. The key here is to ensure your new employees feel welcome, supported, and prepared for their new role, even when they’re far away from colleagues. At the end of the day, an effective remote onboarding process will make new hires feel happy and confident about their decision to join your company.