Remote employees have gone from being the exception to becoming a major part of the workforce. In fact, the number of people working remotely has increased by 159% since 2005. With a larger population working remotely, there's been a change in how companies onboard new employees. Since effective onboarding improves retention and many employees feel like companies don't do a great job with onboarding or focus too much on paperwork, it's time to turn onboarding around and make it people-focused.

Smart companies have changed the way they orient new employees by working together with remote employees to find out what they need. Dell hosts all onboarding materials on a dedicated website including documentation, videos, and a success team available via chat and email. Stack Overflow sets up calls between new hires and the company's executives to hear the company story firsthand and open the door for questions. They also provide new hires with an assigned mentor.

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These new onboarding processes have eased the transition of joining a new team and feeling like you have support and camaraderie, all from your home office with a sleeping 2-year-old in the other room. Employees are twice as likely to seek out another job if they have a bad onboarding experience, so starting out on the right foot saves your company time, money, and having to retrain new hires frequently.

Here are the strategies you can implement during before, during, and after orientation and a remote employee onboarding checklist that will encourage a sense of community among your individual remote workers, improve new employee happiness, and reduce turnover.



1. Start early.

Developer network Adeva adds new employees to team Slack groups and sends them information about company culture and projects they'll be working on up to three weeks prior to their start date. Try sending some videos, a link to get some swag, setting them up with a mentor, or directing them to your social media channels to get new hires jazzed to get started.


2. Get employees online ASAP.

As a remote worker, your connection to the team is through the web. Without access to the digital workplace, i.e. company intranet, messaging apps, video conferencing software, and other apps and tools, new hires will feel like they are cut off from asking questions and getting familiar with the flow of the team. Start orientation with IT set up early on to get your new team members their passwords and access right off the bat.


3. Provide a digital employee handbook and company culture.

Make an effort to digitize all existing employee documentation as well as information about company culture and stories about how your company came to be. Many companies use an intranet or internal wiki to maintain digital documentation of projects, successes, failures, and culture outside of day-to-day operations.


4. Create a sense of belonging.

Becca Van Nederynen, head of People Operations at Help Scout, found that a lot of new remote employees felt a sense of impostor syndrome. They felt isolated and like they didn't know where to turn for feedback, questions, and checking in. Van Nederynen talks about how remote work faces the challenge of replacing the casual smiles and unconscious sense of belonging that exists in a physical office.

To combat this loneliness, OutreachPete, adds all new employees to a Slack channel where they provide new hire instructional materials, then encourage collaboration amongst new hires to complete the tasks.

Assign either a mentor or a peer "orientation buddy" who they can go to with any questions and grow and learn together. In fact, buddy programs boost new hire proficiency.


5. Provide an individualized onboarding plan with video check-ins and goals.

Remote employees look forward to concrete goals and an opportunity for one-on-one face time with their manager. Employees with proper support during onboarding are 54% more productive as new hires. Don't let support end after the first week, try creating a 30/60/90 day plan with action items and goals for each milestone. This can be a living document and grow and change with the employee.


6. Initiate professional development and personal growth from the start.

67% of remote workers are looking for more work-related training. Provide opportunities for new hires to access online courses during or after orientation and a stipend for their personal and professional development of their choosing.


7. Encourage collaborative learning.

When new employees have to work as a group to complete a case study or group project during onboarding, it forges bonds and introduces team members, but can also be an opportunity to cross-train teams. Have a new sales rep work with a marketer and a support team member throughout orientation so they later have contacts in other departments.


Remote Employee Onboarding Checklist

1. Send new employees links to company culture articles, videos, and links to order swag. If you'll be providing any hardware, make sure you are prepared for it to arrive early so your employee can be ready for orientation.

2. Schedule an individual or group orientation via video conferencing call and review your company mission and values. Provide a meeting agenda ahead of time and send a digital copy of your employee handbook and any onboarding documentation they may need. Assign your new employee both a mentor and an orientation buddy and have them set up a time for a video call.

3. Give new employees time to review videos, documents, internal wiki, etc.

4. Schedule a human resources orientation. This is where your new employees can digitally sign any HR documents, learn about benefits, and set up any accounts they may need access to.

5. Host a communication orientation with IT where new hires are given tools, passwords, are added to relevant Slack or messaging groups, email access, and open time to help get acquainted with any new software they'll be using.

6. Hold a team orientation and provide new teammates with links to all team documents, an organization chart, relevant contact information, team calendars, and anything else your team uses on a daily basis.

7. Have a product, sales, or service rep (or all three!) review what exactly it is that your company does or sells in a product/service orientation. Make sure to leave time for new employees to ask questions about the inner workings of your service, pricing, and the history of your product.

8. Encourage feedback throughout the onboarding process. Your remote employees can tell you exactly where you can improve for your next group of new hires.

9. Create an individual 30/60/90 day onboarding plan with video check-ins and goals.

10. Introduce your new hires to everyone on the team. Set up video coffee chats or use Donut, a Slack app.

11. Conduct role-specific training. Make sure your new hire has the contact information and a video meeting with anyone they'll be working with or interacting with regularly during the onboarding process. Provide training and any necessary certifications for anyone new to the field or position.

More than half of employees report experiencing a mishap during onboarding whether it was not having required technology, not having a company overview, missing coworker introductions and having to do them themselves, and more. Use these resources for remote employee onboarding to set your new hires up for success and helping them to avoid feeling isolated or cut off from the team or any support.

remote recruiting, interviewing, and hiring guide from Owl Labs