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Remote employee onboarding may often be overlooked or brushed off, when in fact, it is just as important, if not more.

Onboarding starts with satisfying the most basic of Maslow’s psychological needs: belonging. New hires shouldn’t arrive to an empty cube and be forced to forage through corridors searching for a computer and the bare necessities of office life. “A new hire isn’t a surprise visitor from out of town. Plan for their arrival” says Jay Samit, Independent Vice Chairman of Deloitte.

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If your employee works from a remote location, onboarding poses some added challenges – owing to the obvious fact that they are not physically in the same place as you. But being as electronically connected as we are, that tiny hurdle can easily be bypassed or avoided altogether.

Why is the remote onboarding program essential?

Just because most remote employees have their own infrastructure or working systems, you might be inclined to think that they may not need much from your side in terms of getting started or support.

That’s not entirely right. Or fair. Employees face a lot of difficulties when they’re new to the role.

Make your new employee feel included

According to digital workspace report, 70% of the remote employees feel left out of the workspace. If this is the condition of the existing employees, one can imagine how hard it would be for a new hire, working from a remote location.

Increase their productivity quickly

The remote process might need more efforts from the organization as well as from the new hire. Knowledge transfer sessions might take more time too. With a purely remote onboarding process, a new hire might take a longer duration to become fully productive.

Decrease your employee retention

In a 2017 study by Kronos – the US-based workforce management company – it was found that the lack of an effective employee onboarding program could be the main reason for early employee turnover. This is a significant observation. According to studies, 23% of new hires turn over just before their first work anniversary.

Only a structured remote onboarding program can help your new hire feel connected to the new work environment and be productive in the shortest time possible. So employee onboarding has to be part, rather than an extension of your hiring process. It not just brings a new employee up to speed on their work tasks and expectations, but also introduces them to work practices and culture.

Creating your remote employee onboarding plan

This article will give you a step-by-step guideline to design a remote onboarding program for your organization.

  1. Understand the challenges of remote work
  2. Identify the objectives of your program
  3. Creating your onboarding plan
  4. Outlining each phase of the process
  5. Document your entire remote onboarding plan


remote onboarding objective checklist

You need a remote onboarding objective checklist

Understanding challenges ahead of you

An effective employee onboarding program effectively integrates the new employee to the technical and cultural fabric of the organization. A successful program has to anticipate, identify and preemptively address and counter the challenges in both onboarding the candidate as well their subsequent integration.

So your remote onboarding plan has to do all of that, as well as address the challenges of working remote. The challenges could be systemic, owing to the remote factor, or specific to the company as well.

Systemic challenges of working remote:

The fact that the new employee is not in the same physical proximity as the rest of the team brings in its fair share of concerns and challenges. You can read more about the challenges in working remotely here.

These challenges can and should be countered by a well thought process. Here are some points of concern that can directly be addressed by proper onboarding.

  1. Do your new hires have enough guidance and support?
  2. Are you and your team approachable as well as available to help the new employee?
  3. Does he/she know what is expected of them in terms of their role and responsibilities?
  4. Have you informed them of the processes and protocols of the workplace?
  5. Are they on the same page about the communication and collaboration systems?

The lack of face-to-face interaction with the team members is the most basic but ultimate challenge in working remote as well as for remote onboarding. The atmosphere of the office itself conveys a lot of valuable lessons to the new hire. They get a chance to meet new people and make meaningful connections with their colleagues.

Communication challenges might dampen the pace of the onboarding process. With a purely remote onboarding process, a new hire might take a longer duration to become fully productive.

Challenges specific to your company:

While you are at it, you should try to figure out what are the common challenges employees face while joining your organization. You will not have to look far for the answers. Your existing employees can give you that.

Conduct surveys

As a part of developing a new employee orientation process, you can survey your existing employees, both remote and onsite. This lets you know which challenges are specific to remote as well as the general pain points the new employees face while integrating into your company flow and culture.

Identify weak points

Based on the opinion of your existing employees, identify at least four to five significant concerns. Understand the issues that at the root of these concerns and work to fix those issues long term. This is how organizations get stronger and better.

Bridge the gap

Think about how your new employee onboarding program could mitigate the issues observed through the survey. Address the issues by setting up systems and processes to overcome them, incorporate these into your onboarding process.

Identifying the objectives of your onboarding program:

Even before you start designing a remote onboarding process, you need to define your expectations and objectives of the program clearly. Your answers to address the work challenges gives you a good start to identify your onboarding objectives. You can go a step further by identifying what you want to achieve through your onboarding process.

Ask the right questions:

There are several essential questions to ask before you start.

  1. What do you want to convey about your companies’ culture and work environment?
  2. What are the core values of your organization that you want your new hires to understand and adopt?
  3. When should the remote onboarding process officially start?
  4. How long should the onboarding process last?
  5. What is the first impression you want to make on your employees?
  6. How are you planning to measure the success of your remote onboarding program?

Four crucial considerations for a remote onboarding program

According to the SHRM Foundation, there should be four distinct components or four C’s for a successful onboarding process.

Compliance: This is the most basic requirement of an onboarding process. Your employees should be given a thorough understanding of their legal rights and obligations, being a part of the organization. You should train the new employees in the policies of your company. The human resource team can most efficiently handle this part.


Compliance is a main objective of onboarding process

Compliance is a main objective of onboarding process


Clarification: A new employee should be given a clear picture of what is expected out of them. They should have clarity on the roles and responsibilities. It is crucial to set the right expectations so that your new hire can be productive in a short time.

Culture: What does your organization stand for? What are your mission and vision? How can a new hire contribute to the culture of the organization? You should give a general idea about your organization’s culture to the new hires. It will help them find a sense of belonging to your organization.

Connection: You should help your new hire to make meaningful connections within the team and organizations. You need to take time to introduce the new employee to the team and make sure that the employee is not left out. Within days of joining, the new employee should be able to make good workplace relationships and establish information networks. You also need to make sure that your new hire meets senior leadership.


Connection is an important objective of remote onboarding process

Connection is an important objective of remote onboarding process

Creating an effective remote employee onboarding program

While the objectives of both traditional and remote employee onboarding is the same, the latter needs a specialized approach. Several components need to come together to build an effective remote employee onboarding process.

While the objectives of both traditional and remote employee onboarding is the same, the latter needs a specialized approach. Several components need to come together to build an effective remote employee onboarding process.

Essential components:

Efficient communication channels

The new hire should be well informed about the communication technologies that you are going to use. There should be clear directions about how and when your communications will occur. You should equip the new hire with tools and software for effective communication.

Clear documentation and ease of access

In a traditional onboarding process, the new hire and team members exchange a lot of information through casual conversations. There should be clear documentation about the processes and practices of your organization to replace that in the remote scenario. The documentation should be well organized and easily accessible to a new hire.

A clear day-to-day plan of activities

In remote onboarding, there is a higher chance of plans derailing. For example, when a knowledge transfer session is postponed due to the unavailability of the trainer, it might not happen in the near future. Hence, there should be a stricter plan for day to day onboarding activities.

Roles and responsibilities

Onboarding is, inarguably, a task of not just the HR team, but the company as a whole. When the employee is in the office premises, a large extent of onboarding activities happen even without the new hire realizing it. With the proximity of management, finance and HR teams, the new hire can easily access information.

In a remote set up, the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in the onboarding process need to be made clear across them all as well as the new employee. They should know exactly what the onboarding activities related to the HR, finance, reporting manager, co-workers, and senior leadership are.

Four E’s – Main outcomes of the remote onboarding process

When you design a remote onboarding process, you should target to attain the five E’s, which will ensure that the new hire is rightly incorporated into your company culture. It will also make sure the remote new hire will be productive within a short time and start delivering.

Engage: One of the biggest challenges of the remote onboarding process is to engage the new employee. With no face to face interactions, the new employee might soon feel left out. You need to set up routines and sticking to the orientation calendar is very crucial. Also, you should seek active feedback from the new hire and involve him/her in the everyday activities and meetings of the team.

Educate: Your remote onboarding program should focus on educating the new hire. More often, educating the new hire is a major part of the orientation process. Knowledge transfer sessions, online courses for self-study, and learning management systems will educate the new hire.

Encourage: With a remote employee, it is vital to continuously encourage the employee to contribute and take part in the team’s activities. Giving feedback on the employee’s performance and seeking for active feedback from the employee is the primary step towards encouraging the employee.

Empower: You should give due to a new hire for his/her performance. Rewards and compliments will help to boost the morale of the new employee.

The essential phases of new employee onboarding

Onboarding, unlike orientation, doesn’t end at showing your new employee around. The process works to turn your new hire into an integral part of your company. Given how crucial it is, it is advised that you make the best of your onboarding program by setting milestones and measurable phases to take critical feedback from both employee and employer.

The following are the phases you can divide your onboarding program into:

  • Before the first day
  • The first day
  • The first week
  • First month of work
  • First three months
  • Three months to six months

Such a laid out plan is not only a sure path to the new employee’s career development, it benefits the company in two main ways:

  • Maximizes employee and thereby the organizational efficiency
  • Defines what success means to the company

Document your entire onboarding program

This is not as tedious as it sounds. Your company probably has it spread across teams and individuals depending on the ownership of onboarding tasks. Collate these task lists and documents to give coherence and clarity to your onboarding program.

Key Takeaways

  1. Planning for a remote employee poses multiple challenges when compared to the traditional onboarding.
  2. Efficient communication channels and clear onboarding plan is required to integrate a remote employee into the team efficiently.
  3. You need to design a phase-wise onboarding plan with clear milestones to make the new hire productive soon.
  4. An effective remote onboarding program encompasses compliance, clarification, connection, and culture.
  5. Engagement, education, encouragement, and empowerment of the new hire should be the key objectives of an effective remote onboarding program.
Salini Vineeth

About Salini Vineeth

Salini Vineeth is a freelance writer based in Bangalore. After over 9 years of versatile experience in the corporate world. Over a year, Salini has been working with various starts-ups - writing about recruitment, new technologies, and business trends. Salini also writes fiction and has three books to her credit.

View all posts by Salini Vineeth

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