7 Tips for Onboarding Remote Employees

Onboarding remote employees is no easy task. Learn how to provide a successful onboarding experience with this step-by-step checklist.

Onboarding Remote Employee

The process of onboarding a new employee can make or break that person’s – and your team’s – success. As more companies around the world are turning to remote work, it’s important to have an onboarding checklist for remote employees in place.

Whether it’s your first time acting as a remote team, or you’ve been remote from the start, bringing on a new team member that you can’t interact with in person can be challenging at first. 

To help you prepare for the process of onboarding remote employees, we’ve put together a list of our top tips to make sure they have a smooth onboarding experience:

1 Create a checklist with goals for the first week

It’s important for anyone new to a team to feel like they’re progressing in the first few days, and to have an understanding of what they’re expected to do. At Fellow, we created an onboarding checklist template which we use for each new hire. Each team sets their own goals for the week, broken down into incremental action items that they check off as they go, giving them a sense of progress and certainty from being able to see what’s coming up. 

Here’s what the onboarding checklist looks like in Fellow.app 👇

Onboarding Remote Employee Checklist

When important milestones are hit, announce it in a Slack channel with the team! Seeing the rest of the team celebrate their achievements will make remote employees feel more included. 😄

2 Introduce them to the team

Make sure to let your team know that someone new has joined! Don’t wait for the first team meeting to introduce them to their new teammate.

Let them know via email or Slack right away, and include a few sentences that the new hire has written about themselves. 

By making it obvious that you’ve let everyone know about them, it will make it easier for the new hire to feel comfortable messaging their team members and asking for help. Consider using an app like Donut to pair people to have video calls with throughout the week, which simulates “by the water cooler” conversations and can help bring a bit of normalcy to a potentially difficult week.

Pro Tip

Some teams ask new remote employees to record an intro video to help the rest of the team learn more about them.

“It could be a cinematic masterpiece or an off-the-cuff iPhone clip, but its main purpose is to help the team learn a bit more about you — where you come from, what it’s like where you live, what you’re into, really anything,” says Matt Hryhorsky, UX Lead, International Growth at Shopify.

3 Set up your first 1-on-1 ASAP

In addition to introducing your new report to the team and sending messages throughout the day to check in with them, it’s critical to set up your first official one-on-one meeting with them as soon as possible. This is especially important so that they get some face time with you and are able to ask all the questions that they might have had throughout the day.

Some questions you can ask during that first one-on-one meeting include:

Everything you need to know about
one-on-one meetings:

4 Give them the unwritten info they’d only be getting from in-person interactions

There are certain cues people get about how they’re supposed to work by watching their teammates in the office. For example, it’ll be hard to figure out that a meeting in the calendar isn’t really a meeting when you can’t see that the team doesn’t get up to go to the meeting room. Think hard about the unwritten behaviour of the team and how that might impact someone new without that context. Write it down, and let them know!

Another great way to introduce employees to the cultural cues that they’d only see in-person is by sending them a digital employee handbook. Sharing a document that outlines your team values will help remote employees understand the culture better.

5 Set them up with a buddy

Everyone feels awkward asking a lot of questions when they’re new, especially if they’re now online with someone they may not have met!

After you’ve introduced the new hire to the team, send a separate introduction between them and a single member teammate who will be acting as their buddy while they get ramped up. Give the new hire free rein to ask as many questions as they’d like, no matter how silly they may seem.

Removing the hesitation someone may have about bugging someone too much (especially when they can’t see if they’re physically annoyed) means that they’ll get through any snags in their onboarding checklist in no time.

6 Help out with their home office setup

Your new team member may or may not have been expecting to work from home, and their at-home setup might be less than ideal for their new position. Check-in with them to make sure that they have an environment that will allow them to succeed. Whether it’s the internet speed, available hardware, furniture, or physical environment, helping them out by providing financial assistance or loaning items from the company is a good way to help level the playing field and eliminate as much stress as possible.

7 Ask new employees for feedback about the onboarding process

Whether onboarding an employee remotely or not, it’s important to collect feedback about their experience while it’s still fresh in their minds. Ask what could have gone better, or what information they would have liked to have – but also ask what went well that you should keep doing.

This will make sure that the next time you onboard someone, their experience will be even better!

Pro Tip

You won’t get much out of simply asking “do you have any feedback?”. Instead, when asking for feedback from employees, ask open-ended questions, such as:

Finally…

There’s no doubt about it, it will take longer for remote hires to get up to speed on the team and feel comfortable. For the first few weeks, it’s important to focus on human interaction and the relationship-building aspect of work – and to be there for your team now more than ever. 

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