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How to Onboard Remote Employees

Onboard Remote Employees

According to the Future Workforce Pulse Report 2020 by Upwork:

  • By 2025, 36.2 million people will be working remotely
  • This marks an increase of 16.8 million from the pre-pandemic days

Add to this, the fact that the United States itself has 4.7 million people working remotely at least half the time.

Onboarding remote employees of this scale is not child’s play. It requires effective coordination, seamless communication, and continuous engagement. Ideally, your goal is to ensure your remote workforce feel at home from day one. And of course you don’t want their physical distance to hold them back in any way.

With this in mind, in this post, let’s take a look at how you can make the most of remote onboarding by utilizing best practices and tools to ensure your remote employees feel part of a cohesive team.


What Is Remote Employee Onboarding?

Just like onboarding regular employees, onboarding remote employees involves formally welcoming new hires who are located remotely. During this process they get to know a company, its culture, structure, missions, and job roles.

Remote employee onboarding follows the same stages of local employee onboarding, which include:

  • Sharing an offer letter
  • HR paperwork
  • Orientation
  • Training
  • Initiation into daily work

The only difference here is that unlike regular onboarding, remote onboarding takes place virtually since you can’t see the employees physically. So whether it is the welcome kits, e-signature, employee manual, or videoconferencing, everything happens over the web.

How Long Does Remote Onboarding Take?

It depends on the job role, the number of duties that a remote employee needs to perform within that role, and how fast they adapt to the new environment.

Generally, remote employee onboarding can take a few weeks or around three months. At times, it can even stretch to cover the employee’s entire first year if you include remote training as well.

Challenges of Onboarding Remote Employees & How to Overcome Them

Onboarding new employees presents its share of challenges. They include:

  • a feeling of isolation
  • lack of clear and timely communication
  • lack of trust
  • setting up a workstation remotely

But there are plenty of onboarding strategies to effectively deal with these common issues.

Let’s take a look at each problem more in depth and discuss some solutions organizations can adopt to tackle each issue more effectively.

Challenge #1: A Sense of Isolation

When your remote employees are separated by thousands of miles, instead of a mere cubicle space, it is natural for them to feel isolated and lonely at times. This social isolation can lead to This social isolation can lead to frustration, detachment and even a lack of employee engagement. This can hamper successful onboarding.

Solution: Stay in touch with your employees well before the onboarding and even after it. Identify and address their professional needs, make the job expectations clear, and engage in informal, friendly chats occasionally.

Tools for instant messaging and team collaboration can help eliminate isolation and loneliness.

Challenge #2: Lack of Clear & Timely Communication

Miscommunication due to a lack of clarity, delayed response, and aversion to social interactions are some of the communication challenges that organizations with remote employees may face. These issues are not restricted to the onboarding phase. They can affect employees even after they become full-fledged members of an organization.

Solution: Written and audiovisual communications become doubly important in a remote work situation since employees are not physically visible. Keep in mind that non-verbal cues normally experienced in-person are missing from a remote environment.

Communicate with your remote teams clearly and on time by following specific guidelines, for example, agreed time slots for meetings.

Transparency and regular feedback during onboarding can also strengthen the relationships.

Challenge #3: Lack of Trust

When remote employees can’t physically see you and there are no shared workspaces, it can erode trust over time. Lack of proper communication and coordination can further undermine trust. And building trust is a prime element during onboarding when you’re laying the ground for new hires.

Solution: First, understand each team member, their nature, their working styles, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.

Break the ice early on and make sure you get to know your remote employees as individuals so that you can show you care about their happiness in the workplace. Transparency in communication and honest feedback can also cement the relationships and help build trust.

Challenge #4: Disorganized Onboarding

When onboarding lacks order, it not only delays the processes, it can also make a bad first impression with new hires. This can result in a loss of business time and money, not to mention that it can demoralize remote employees and get them off to a bad start. 

Solution: To fix this problem, follow a clear onboarding plan that spells out what to do each day, week, and month. Focus on one activity at a time, for example, the HR paperwork, setting up work equipment, an office tour, team introductions, and communicating roles & responsibilities.

An onboarding checklist for remote employees that includes regular check-ins and feedback can help you streamline the process from start to finish.

Tips to Onboard Remote Employees Successfully

In the preceding section, we discussed some of the measures you can take to overcome the common challenges of remote onboarding and make it rewarding. Here are a few more suggestions to help ensure your onboarding is successful.

1. Kick-Start the Process Early

You should initiate the process of onboarding employees well before day one. This will accelerate the way you onboard new employees in your organization. You can share company videos with them, send them to your social media account, and assign an onboarding buddy.

This will familiarize new employees with your company and communicate the onboarding plan in advance, showing that you are well organized and excited to have them join the team.

2. Offer Personalized Onboarding

Just like you do during employee training, onboarding should be tailored to meet the specific needs of each employee. This is how you acknowledge the different skill sets each brings to your company. Enable each employee to warm up, learn, and settle into your work environment at their own pace.

Overwhelming remote employees with rapid onboarding without appreciating their learning styles, choices, and aspirations will ultimately backfire.

3. Provide Support For Continuous Learning

To keep the connection with your business strong and going, it is important to provide remote employees the right tools, resources, and support all the time. An internal knowledge base and a collaboration tool are two of the top examples.

When used correctly, these support systems will make engaging remote employees possible from day one by creating a sense of belonging and opportunities for socialization.

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4. Set Up a Session With the Sales Team

Your sales team is the go to source of knowledge for your flagship products and services, what your company does, how, and why. Be sure to arrange a session or two for incoming remote employees to speak with your sales team so. 

This way they can learn more about your company, ask any questions they might have, and gain a greater confidence in their own individual roles.

Read: How to Use eLearning for Employee Onboarding

Best Software for Remote Employee Onboarding & Training

After understanding some of the best practices for onboarding remote employees, it’s time to shift attention to another key area – software tools for remote onboarding and training.

These tools are necessary if you want to simplify, standardize, and streamline remote employee onboarding and training. Some of the helpful features you’ll find in most of these platforms are:

  • Induction templates
  • Application tracking system (ATS)
  • E-forms
  • E-signatures
  • Process automation
  • Paperless onboarding

Since these tools are web-based, you get the benefit of any time, anywhere learning.

Watch: What Is Employee Training?

FAQs About Remote Employee Onboarding

Before we wrap up, let’s find answers to some common questions that people ask about onboarding remote employees.

How Do Companies Onboard Remote Employees?

Most companies today follow a standard onboarding process for remote employees, starting with a welcome email. An offer letter, policy documents, and digital forms usually accompany such welcome emails.

After the remote employees come onboard, companies virtually guide them in setting up their workstations with the hardware and software they generally use for work.

This is followed by an introduction to team members and employees from other departments via a group video call.

Around this time, companies also brief the new hires about their new roles. A one-on-one meeting with each new member enables companies to get to know each employee better and communicate important information.

Can I Use Software to Help With Onboarding a Virtual Employee?

Certainly. There are numerous solutions designed to ensure smooth remote onboarding. Such software can help you get off to a great start with remote employee onboarding and continue to support you through the new employee training phase.

A cloud LMS is an excellent example of such a tool. It provides a centralized location to create, share, and track onboarding materials.

What Makes Remote Employee Onboarding Successful?

Since you can’t see your remote employees face to face, it is important to ensure that the onboarding for remote employees is as smooth and flawless as possible. Because working remotely in and of itself can create challenges, the onboarding process should not be lacking in any way.

When your onboarding process is well organized and ticks all the boxes, employees feel comfortable joining the ranks and never for once sense the distance separating them.

Establish a rapport with your new hires early in the process. Make them feel at ease and welcome. This will encourage them to share their thoughts freely.

Let your existing team members show they have been expecting their new colleagues. When you continue to maintain trust and goodwill, it leads to successful onboarding.

Make the Most of Your Remote Onboarding

When you keep all these key points in mind, onboarding remote employees will become less challenging and more manageable. Stay in touch with your remote employees even before onboarding, keep them engaged, build trust, and use the best onboarding tools to streamline the process.

In this mission, ProProfs LMS can assist you. Using this solution, you can create induction training courses, provide anytime, anywhere access, and view insightful reports & analytics  to make your onboarding a success. You can easily administer onboarding across teams and departments and get your new remote hires off to a great start.

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About the author

Kamy Anderson

Kamy is an eLearning & training expert. He has been published in eLearningIndustry, TrainingMag. As a corporate trainer at ProProfs, he has been instrumental in building an awesome eLearning management system that has simplified learning and training for thousands of customers across the globe. Follow Kamy @kamyanderson

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