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7 min read

A Comprehensive Guide to Onboarding Remote Employees

Onboarding Remote Employees

Article Roundup

  • Remote work is changing nearly every industry. It can allow companies to grow new capabilities quickly and efficiently.

  • Onboarding remote employees has it’s own unique set of challenges. New systems have to be created to replace in-person communication, and company data must be secure.

  • Training is important for remote employees. This can be done through a combination of standardized, pre-made material and live walkthroughs and discussions.

  • Communication is just as important for remote employees as those in the office. They need to be part of the team and know who to go to when they need help or have a question.

Remote working started to become a viable option for many companies in the mid-2000s, made possible by increasing internet connectivity and cloud-based enterprise software. The covid-19 pandemic pushed the trend into high gear, with many offices forced to develop remote working systems in a very short amount of time. This not only encouraged the software innovations needed to support remote work environments, but it also made many employers and employees realize that remote work could be a real, viable alternative to traditional office environments.

There are many reasons for employers to hire and onboard remote workers, which we will discuss below. Whatever your reasons, though, you’re going to need a solid remote onboarding process to make those new hires feel at home, work together with the rest of the team, and do their jobs effectively and efficiently for the long term. This comprehensive guide to onboarding remote employees will list the challenges and best practices that you need to be aware of when building your remote team.

Why go remote?

There are many reasons for hiring remote workers, and these are as varied as the employers that hire them.

1. Larger talent pool (especially if you go global)

It could be that the talent a company is looking for simply does not exist in their area. Hiring remote employees allows companies to tap into a global talent pool. This is often much more attractive than relocating company offices to a new (possibly more costly) area where the talent they need can be found, or hiring and relocating untested new employees.

2. Cost savings 

Today there are highly trained, qualified professionals in nearly every industry, based around the world. A good deal of them speak fluent English and have experience working for fast-paced, competitive, international companies. The high cost of living in many large US cities makes professional salaries high as well, but the converse is also true in many locations with low costs of living. A US-based employer can offer a very competitive and attractive package to international professionals, and still pay less than they would for a similarly qualified employee based at the home office.

Additionally, remote employees do not require further office infrastructure. The investment that would go into renting larger spaces and paying higher utility bills can be spent on hiring a larger, more competitive remote team, or anything else that drives company growth.

3. Attract new employees

Work-life balance is very important to employees, as the Great Resignation showed. With remote work, employees can have a flexible schedule that allows them to save hours spent commuting and spend more time with their loved ones, while still advancing their careers. By spending less on office space, employers can free up funds to offer benefits packages and bonuses that attract the best remote talent available.

4. Retain employees

Often, good employees have to resign to spend more time with their children, take care of a sick family member, or move to a new location following a partner’s job offer. With remote work, none of these needs to be a reason for a good employee to leave their job.

What is remote onboarding?

Remote onboarding is the process of getting a new remote employee everything that they need to start work. This includes meeting their peers and managers, getting trained on software and company protocols, learning standard operating procedures, and learning the responsibilities and expectations relating to their own work. It also includes filling out any legal paperwork required by local regulations, both in the employer’s and the employee’s jurisdictions.

Onboarding remote employees properly is crucial to ensuring the success of your remote workforce and remote hiring strategy. 

What are some remote onboarding challenges?

1. Making employees feel welcome

In any work environment, new employees have to feel that they are part of a team, and that they have somewhere to go when they have questions. Without the face-to-face contact of an office, this can be a bit trickier. One-on-one video calls, group chats, and plenty of open communication both within teams and throughout the organization will help new remote employees feel welcome and supported.

Also, remember that all employees have different learning styles. Some may prefer learning about their new position by jumping in and working hands-on, while others need to learn by discussing with others, or reading a handbook. In remote work, these cues are not self-evident, so it is up to the employer to find the right options that will fit their employees.

2. Cybersecurity 

Remote work inevitably involves giving access to the company intranet, logging into remote desktops, accessing company databases, and/or other potential security risks. If you have an internal security team or work with a security consultant, show them your entire remote work setup and ask them to test it to be sure risk is kept at a minimum. If you’re working with a PEO or EOR to process your remote employees, ask them for advice or if they have security consultants available. You can also ask your software vendors for their best practices in onboarding new remote employees.

3. Training 

In a physical office, it’s easy for new employees to ask their neighbors for help, or to walk over to the desk of a superior. In a remote situation, there needs to be more setup beforehand. The last thing you want is for a new hire to start working without having the tools that they need or knowing how to use them. To prevent this, create a solid onboarding package, assign a mentor or buddy to the new hire, introduce them to the entire team, and continue checking in and training over their first few months of work.

What are some remote onboarding best practices?

1. Set up new employees with the right tech/accounts

If you are providing your new remote employees with equipment, try to have their computers, phones, and other hardware shipped with all necessary software already set up. Otherwise, make sure they have the account access they need. 

At the same time, ensure that the new employee’s full information is uploaded to your company’s HR information management system. 

2. Adequate training 

It is extra important to have complete documentation for remote employees. This could be an employee handbook, or a series of constantly updated articles on how to best solve problems or perform certain functions.

Even with documentation, you’ll have to show new employees the ropes. This could be done with videos, walkthroughs on a shared screen, interactive tutorials, or a combination. Your handbook and training documentation should be living documents, keep improving the system as your remote team grows.

3. Mentorship/buddies

In addition to training, a mentor or buddy is critical in helping a new remote employee get off to a good start. The mentor could be the same person who handled the new employee’s original training, or in a larger organization, it may be a peer or direct supervisor. Having a buddy or mentor makes the new hire feel that they are part of a team, preventing them from feeling lost while working alone at home.

4. Group Onboarding

Consider group onboarding if you are planning on hiring several remote workers who will be engaged in similar work. A group process will help make the new hires feel that they are part of a team, bringing them closer to their immediate peers. By getting to know each other early on, the new team will have an easier time communicating and can help each other.

A group onboarding process will also make preparation easier on the management side. If you are planning walkthroughs or sample workflows, you can save a lot of time by going through the process once. Since you’re preparing for more than one new hire, your onboarding team can devote more time to creating high-quality materials as well.

5. Check-in on new hires

Having a central space for new hires to ask questions and post comments, such as a Slack channel or other group chat, will help new hires stay in communication with each other and with management. It also provides a place for management to monitor the progress of the new hires and evaluate the remote onboarding process.

One-on-one meetings are also important. Schedule informal video calls or chat sessions frequently to answer questions, provide tips and extra training, and generally bring the new employee in as a productive team member.

6. Prepare the onboarding package

If you’re hiring a remote employee or team for the first time, go through a dry-run of the onboarding package; make sure they have all of the software, passwords, technical information, and contacts that they will need to do their job. If you’ve already hired some remote employees, go through the system and see what can be improved.

7. Introduce them to the team

Introduce the new hires to other members of the organization that they will need to know to request resources, or work with on specific issues. This will save everyone time, and make it easier to track new hires’ progress as they collaborate with various teams.

Onboarding remote employees — the right way 

Onboarding your first remote employee will take some extra preparation. There may be mistakes, and the process may generate a whole list of things that can be improved upon in the future. Keep improving on these best practices; upgrade your materials over time, and don’t stop evaluating the progress of new employees and the success of the onboarding process itself. Soon you’ll be hiring remote employees and teams with ease. Remote work will continue to change every industry for years to come, and to stay competitive it’s important to start the process off right.

 

FAQ

Prepare for the new employee by creating a complete onboarding package. Get them online, communicating with team members, and in training as soon as possible. Stay in touch with the new hire, make sure they have all material that they need, assign a mentor to guide them through complex processes, and watch their progress through group chats and one-on-one calls.

Start off by being well prepared. Then, get to know the new employee just as you would in-person. Schedule a call and have an informal chat about the job, their past, and their work goals. Introduce the new employee to the whole team, everyone they will be working with directly, and other teams and management throughout the organization. Keep checking in to make sure they are happy and motivated in their work and have all the resources that they need on hand.

Article By
Managing Editor
Milly is an international lawyer and tech entrepreneur who has advised companies on expanding globally for over 5 years. She is an advocate of remote hiring and regularly consults on future of work matters. Milly founded RemotePad to help employers learn more about building and growing international teams.

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