Employee onboarding — remote or in-person — starts before your new team member sets up their new business email or joins the company’s communications platform. Preboarding is the period between your new hire’s contract is signed and their first day of work.
Preboarding is an excellent chance to communicate your company’s culture to new workers and help set their expectations. Communicate that you’re available to answer questions they may have and send them an onboarding plan. They’ll feel better prepared and less anxious knowing what to expect on their first days and weeks — which, for some, may be in their first fully remote job.
2. Prepare their tech setup
Don’t leave things to the last minute. Send your new hire their work hardware well in advance to make sure they have it by their first day (e.g., laptop, monitor, keyboard, mouse, headset, etc.). It’s your company’s responsibility to care for your employees’ well-being, so ensure that they have the resources they need for a comfortable home-office setup. If your company offers an allowance for home office equipment, communicate the rules and internal processes to your employee soon.
To avoid a bumpy start, we recommend preinstalling all necessary software on your new team member’s computer. Also, verify that access to all systems is set up before they start — email, chat, learning tool, and whichever software they’ll need to get going. Sometimes these simple processes take longer than expected, making for a frustrating first day of work with unnecessary waiting.
3. Prepare and set up access to documentation and learning material
Like the tech setup, it’s important that things go smoothly with access to internal documentation and learning material.
It’s a great idea to document processes, culture, compliance, history, communication guidelines, and general how-tos in an employee handbook. Creating a handbook can be a lot of legwork at first, but it will save you time in the long run.
It’s also crucial that every department continuously documents processes and that managers are involved in creating onboarding material specific to each role. You may, for instance, share information on data privacy for all new joiners, and managers should help set up their reports to success by also providing educational content.
“When managers are disconnected from onboarding, it also can create a gap between corporate policies and the everyday work experience. Your managers may tell a very different story than employees initially heard about your company culture and expectations. This can cause confusion for new employees who easily notice misalignments and hypocrisy.
They may think: If leaders are unaware of the distance between their organization’s core values and their own behavior, how healthy is this organization anyway? Most importantly, managers must individualize the onboarding program to each employee’s role and strengths.” (Gallup)
You can introduce all learning materials and documentation via a learning path that can be customized to each role while remaining your one-stop shop for onboarding knowledge. Consider prepopulating these paths with videos and articles to make learning more dynamic.
Learning paths make onboarding way more fun and speed up a new employee‘s involvement with a company. If using a platform for learning, create reminders, follow the onboarding progress, and set up quizzes to assess if the material you provided was efficient at communicating the information your employee needs to know.
4. Introduce them to the team
Hooray, it’s a new team member’s big day! For a remote hire, a warm welcome makes all the difference. Reach out to them directly and make sure managers do the same whenever a new report joins their teams. A first day can be challenging for any person, and they’ll feel more positive knowing that they’re on your mind.
Whatever the new colleague will do, teamwork is likely to be an essential part of it. Nurture team spirit and enthusiasm by introducing the joiner to the rest of the organization (or department, depending on the size of your company) via your chat platform or, even better, during a video standup.
5. Assign an onboarding buddy
Assign someone to show the ropes to the new colleague; they can share experiences and offer practical help and advice. Ideally, the onboarding buddy would be a member of the same team or department (just not the hiring manager). Having someone to talk to who also went through this process will help your new employee establish a good rapport with colleagues and get up and running faster.
6. Schedule an intro session between the new hire and their manager
Your new hires’ satisfaction with the process and how they see your organization largely depends on how supported they feel by direct managers. This means that, although HR and People Ops will deal with or mediate onboarding aspects like tech setup, compliance, as well as documentation and learning that applies to all departments, managers must be actively involved in onboarding and ensure that their reports know what’s expected of them and how they can best work together.
Chances are, your new employee engaged with their manager only during an interview situation up to now — and that can be very different from a day at the job. Ensure their manager schedules an intro session to better present their department, the role, and for them to get to know each other better. Don’t forget to include this and any other intro sessions on the onboarding plans.
7. Schedule intro sessions with different departments
Encourage each department at your company to prepare a brief (max. 1 hour) presentation introducing their activities. These sessions could happen regularly, with the participation of several new joiners. This practice will speed your new employees’ integration at your company and facilitate collaboration between departments.
8. Organize an intro session covering the company’s vision and goals
Prepare sessions in which new hires can get to know more about the company’s story, culture, vision/overall mission, and goals. This is great for alignment.
9. Encourage employees to schedule coffee chats with new hires
Your new hires may not meet their colleagues in person, but that doesn’t mean they can’t build meaningful work relationships. Encourage your team to invite new joiners for virtual coffee (or tea, or juice, or lunch) chats.
Unlike in-person onboarding, interactions won’t happen by accident. Make room for virtual watercooler conversations to happen.
10. Assign the first projects and tasks
Managers should assign initial projects and tasks early on to help new hires get going and experience the contribution they’ll make to the organization.
11. Send out an onboarding survey
Send out onboarding surveys whenever someone new joins the company. With a performance management and employee engagement platform, you can create onboarding surveys with the help of best-practice templates and automation. This way, all new colleagues will receive an onboarding survey after a certain number of weeks at the company, which you can choose (e.g., every four weeks). You’ll be communicating that you care about your employees and can use survey insights to continuously fine-tune your company’s onboarding experience.
Gallup developed a set of questions to help you assess if your onboarding process is covering all the bases needed to prime your talent for success. These questions are:
- “What do we believe in around here?” (company culture)
- “What are my strengths?” (learning and development)
- “What is my role?” (employee management)
- “Who are my partners?” (organizational structure)
- “What does my future here look like?” (career development)
12. Kick off weekly 1:1s between new hires and their managers
Don’t wait to implement 1:1s once the new hire has been at the company for a while. It’s important that they feel supported by their manager and comfortable to address any concerns from the start.
13. Set up their first review
Like your company’s surveys, you can automate performance reviews to be automatically sent to your employees. For onboarding, considering a six-month probation period, we recommend one review after two months at the job, and another one at five months. This will give your people more resources to excel in their role, and any issue can be addressed early in the employee lifecycle. You’ll also gain performance insights that can help you refine your remote onboarding strategy (e.g., by including more learning content on a specific topic).
Follow-up best practices for remote onboarding
Check in with your new employee
Do this from time to time to find out how they’re doing. We also recommend checking in with them at the end of their first day and week at the company.
Make it clear that you’re happy to answer questions and address concerns.
Nurture a culture of continuous feedback and praise
This is an excellent team-building and engagement tool that can be entirely done remotely and from which the company and all employees will benefit.
Make employee engagement a priority beyond the initial onboarding period
Remember, onboarding is a long journey.
— Check out these additional ideas to keep your remote team aligned. 😉