Helpful Tips for Onboarding Remote Employees

Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a significant shift in the way businesses operate. As governments and private companies continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic, remote work has become the new norm. And in a report published by McKinsey, more than 20% of the workforce could work remotely between three and five days a week – just as effectively as they could if working from an office. 

With so many companies encouraging, and in many cases enforcing, their staff to work from home, successfully onboarding remote employees during Covid is crucial. 

Key Takeaways

1. When new employees go through a structured onboarding program, they are 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years. 

2. The first step in the remote onboarding process starts with preboarding. As an employer, make sure that before your new employees’ first day, they’re up-to-speed on your company policies, as well as the steps involved in their role.

3. Whenever you hire a remote employee, part of their onboarding should include meetings with managers, team leaders, and key personnel within your business. 

4. Schedule calls after a remote employee’s first week, month, and quarter to touch base and maintain an open line of communication. This will help you understand if your new hires are facing any difficulties and whether they’ve settled into their roles.

Effective onboarding is critical for companies to retain talented team members and achieve long-term success. In fact, studies indicate that up to 20% of staff turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment. 

Employers need to provide their new employees with accurate insights into their company’s policies, procedures, and benefits. Employee retention can be improved by prioritizing onboarding programs that emphasize their company’s commitment to advancing their employees’ careers. 

When new employees go through a structured onboarding program, they are 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years. Furthermore, organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new-hire productivity

The ability to connect with remote talent and hire foreign employees represents a daunting challenge for businesses across all industries. This challenge is compounded by the ambiguity that surrounds onboarding remote employees. 

Whilst onboarding remote employees can seem daunting for many employers, there are tools you can implement to help new employees better adapt to your company culture and their new role. A Gartner, Inc. poll of 334 HR leaders found that 86% of organizations are incorporating new virtual technology to interview candidates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This same technology is now being used to great effect when onboarding remote employees. 

Onboarding Remote Employees Checklist

To ensure your remote employees are adequately prepared for their first day on the job, we’ve compiled a step-by-step, onboarding remote employees checklist. 

  • Identify a set of goals for your new employee’s first week. This will help your remote employees to better acclimatize to their first week, and to have a more thorough understanding of what’s expected from them. 
  • Go through a list of tasks that help your remote employees learn about the role, their direct team, and your company’s goals.
  • Introduce remote employees to your team and include a little about them, their strengths, and their interests outside of work. 
  • Set up an official one-on-one meeting between your remote employee, their manager, and important cross-functional partners – as soon as possible.
  • Help your remote employee to create accounts in all company productivity, security, HR, and communication tools.
  • Share a digital employee handbook with your remote employees. 
  • Team your remote employee with an experienced team member to act as a ‘buddy’. 
  • Define clear expectations that you expect from your remote employees – and outline a timeline that you expect such tasks to be achieved. 

What Are the Challenges of Remote Onboarding?

Before we go into the details of how to effectively onboard your remote employees, let’s address some of the pitfalls associated with remote onboarding.

A One-Size-Fits-All Process 

While your employees may tell you they’re happy to work remotely, this doesn’t necessarily mean they have the resources to do so. A number of candidates apply for remote positions and simply assume they’ll be handed everything they need to be successful.  

Unfortunately, if your remote employees fail to understand how your business operates, they run the risk of breaking rules and making mistakes. Whilst you can inform new employees about your business model and procedures, it’s significantly more effective to make the remote work experience more engaging

Providing Adequate Support 

Many candidates apply for remote jobs with the false assumption they’ll receive everything that’s required to stay productive from their company. 

Just like you would in a traditional working environment, it’s important to ensure that your remote employees have the correct equipment at home to perform their roles. Depending on your company’s budget, this could mean providing your remote employees with additional resources such as a new computer or business phone. 

Remote employees also need to have sufficient access to the software and technology that’s needed to perform their job. For some employees that are new to remote work, it can be beneficial to offer them an introduction to mediums like video conferencing or cloud document sharing

Combating Isolation

For many people, the idea of remote work seems like a dream. Who wouldn’t want the chance to skip the morning commute, choose your daily hours, and work from the comfort of your home (or even a local cafe)?

However, there are well-documented downsides to remote work that have to be addressed. And if you’re accustomed to being surrounded by your colleagues your friends in a busy office, one of the major downsides can be loneliness.  

As an employer, if your remote employees feel too isolated, it’s unlikely they’ll feel a strong connection to your company. Consequently, there is a high probability these employees will look for job opportunities elsewhere. When onboarding remote employees, you should encourage new hires to build relationships with your existing workforce as quickly as possible. 

You can start this process by assigning a mentor to new remote employees on your team. This way, they’ll have a confidante to turn to whenever they’re feeling nervous or apprehensive.  

It’s also a fantastic idea to have weekly or monthly meetings that enable employees to communicate through video conferencing and get to know each other; both on a professional and a personal level. 

Lack of Engagement 

Engagement is one of the most challenging concepts for an employer to cultivate in any working environment. To demonstrate this, experts tell us that only 15% of employees are legitimately engaged at work. For employers, it becomes even more difficult to engage their remote workers due to a lack of face-to-face interactions and interpersonal connections.  

According to Gallup, highly engaged workplaces can claim “41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects, and 21% higher profitability”.

Fortunately, there are strategies you can adopt that increase engagement. One such strategy could be offering your remote employees the opportunity to earn rewards and gain extra recognition for their work. 

As an employer, recognizing your employee’s work performance with occasional incentives is a proven way to make them feel more involved in your team. If your remote employees feel as though they’re working towards something valuable, they’re more likely to boost their work performance and better contribute to your team.  Keep in mind, too, that there are some special strategies worth applying when tracking performance in remote teams

Showing your appreciation is a simple, yet often neglected, way to motivate and engage your remote employees. Studies have indicated that employees are less motivated by money and are more driven by the so-called ‘little things’ – like opportunities to grow within a company, gain more responsibility, and most importantly, the acknowledgment of their ideas and suggestions. 

Read more about employee engagement and how to cultivate it in your organization at What is Employee Engagement and Why is it the Key to Your Organization’s Success?

So, now that we’ve addressed the challenges of remote employee onboarding, let’s look at how to onboard new employees virtually.

Begin With Preboarding 

After recruitment, and conducting a remote interview, many employers make the mistake of waiting until a new employee’s first day to begin the remote employee onboarding process. However, there’s an important step that comes before onboarding; known as preboarding.

Preboarding ensures that before your new employees commence their job, they’re up-to-speed on your company policies, as well as the steps involved in their role. It also reduces the likelihood that new hires become overwhelmed during their first day. When companies introduce effective preboarding activities, studies have concluded that first-year retention rates increase by as much as 80%.  

Preboarding activities can include:

  • Filling out documents (employment contracts, tax, super information, etc.).
  • Notifying their references that they have accepted the offer and thanking them for their help.
  • Posting an announcement on your company’s social media pages.
  • Frequent contact between the new employee and the hiring manager or recruiter.
  • Reviewing benefits options.
  • Getting to know the employee better by collecting personal information (such as their hobbies and interests outside of work)

For companies hiring remote workers, there are support options that can assist in managing this process remotely. New Horizons Global Partners has resources to generate compliant employment contracts and provide your employees with a proficient means of auto-signing contracts and sharing important information with your organization. 

Create an Effective Onboarding Strategy

Maintaining an effective onboarding strategy has always been critical, and this is especially true with remote employee onboarding. The number of people working remotely has increased by a staggering 140% since 2005, which only serves to highlight that onboarding has never been more important. Furthermore, studies have found that 69% of employees are likely to remain with a company for three years if they have an engaging and structured onboarding experience. 

By creating a structured program that is based around your company’s key training concepts, new employees have the resources needed to better perform their roles. These programs should ideally include a virtual orientation session, one-on-one meetings with managers and team leaders, and relevant training applicable to the employee’s role. By implementing these processes, you provide new hires with the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about your company. This gives remote employees the best chance of success, which ultimately benefits your company. 

Even though a well-structured onboarding process is crucial to employee retention, employers are also advised to keep things simple and not overwhelm their new hires. To achieve such a balance, try to include a combination of essential training and more informal, ‘get-to-know-you’ meetings during an employee’s first few weeks on the job. This will give them time to learn more about your company, liaise with key personnel, and acclimatize to their new role.  

Ensure Remote Employees Have the Right Tech Equipment

Before any new remote employees commence work, it is essential they have access to the technology and tools required to successfully perform their role. For anyone working remotely, there’s nothing more frustrating than having IT issues; and this frustration extends to employers. As a company, if you can alleviate such issues – ahead of time – this will support your remote employees to seamlessly transition into their roles and become more productive members of your team.  

Unlike most traditional office spaces, remote workers don’t have the luxury of onsite tech support. To mitigate this challenge, it’s even more important for remote workers to have the necessary equipment and system access – from day one. 

If your company has the resources available, you can elect to have the required equipment delivered to remote employees before they commence their job. Furthermore, if your remote employees need specialized access to any systems, you can ensure they have access on their first day; or advise them of the steps needed to request such access. 

Connect Remote Employees to Different Teams 

Whenever you hire a remote employee, part of their onboarding should include meetings with managers, team leaders, and key personnel within your business. Additionally, it’s worth introducing new hires to employees from other departments across your company. This showcases to remote employees how teams work cross-functionally and the manner in which they add value beyond their roles. 

According to Business.com, you can establish fun company traditions, such as things like celebrating birthdays, virtual happy hours, or informal Q&A sessions. This helps employees to get to know each other on a personal level and keeps things fun and light-hearted. 

In addition, partnering new hires with experienced team members can improve the logistical challenges associated with remote onboarding. Also, forging strong connections – without in-person meetings – provides new hires with the benefit of one-on-one attention and additional support. 

Utilize Digital Platforms to Promote Company Culture 

When onboarding remote employees, digital platforms act as a proven way to promote company culture and workplace dynamics. Platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Flock allow new employees to get to know each other and become accustomed to key members of their team. This can even extend to initiatives like virtual trivia nights, vision board workshops, or Tik Tok challenges. 

For employers to keep their remote workers engaged, and help them feel as though they’re legitimate members of a team, it’s pivotal to highlight the best aspects of your workplace’s culture. And this needs to be achieved in a manner that resonates with your employees in a virtual environment. 

Even though you’re onboarding – and hiring – employees remotely, the process should be much the same as a ‘traditional’ hire. If there are standard onboarding protocols you have for in-house employees, try to implement similar elements for remote employees. For example, if you encourage health and wellness among your team, perhaps you can create an incentive for your remote team to get outside, exercise, or create some sort of healthy habit. You can then utilize such initiatives to attract more remote workers to your company. 

Establish Clear Expectations 

When hiring and onboarding remote employees, clearly communicating your teams’ expectations around their role is incredibly important. Even though many professionals thrive when working in a remote environment, other workers will require additional motivation and accountability to adequately perform their roles. 

Whilst McKinsey reports that the potential for remote work “varies across countries, a reflection of their sector, occupation, and activity mix”, the most successful remote workers all possess high levels of self-motivation. However, if remote workers have not been provided with any guidance or clear indication of what their role entails, this will ultimately disadvantage both the employee and the employer. Therefore, it is vital that employers set transparent expectations for their remote employees. This will hold remote employees to account and encourage them to become more responsive; whilst delivering what’s expected from them.  

Summary 

Onboarding new employees is a challenging process, which has been compounded due to Covid-19 and more people now working from home. Therefore, providing a structured and engaging onboarding experience is critical to improving your remote employees’ performance, job satisfaction, and retention rates

Gallup research finds that companies that don’t meet employees’ needs – such as providing flexible work arrangements – have trouble keeping the employees they do have. Gallup data also shows that “51% of workers are actively looking for a new job or are open to one”.

Employers have the capacity to build career development into the onboarding process by encouraging new hires to foster connections with their co-workers, while also advancing their own career goals. 

After the onboarding process has been completed, it is important for employers to seek feedback from their employees and ensure that all expectations are being met. Successfully onboarding remote employees has a direct correlation to employee retention rates and should therefore be seen as an investment in your organization’s future. 

How New Horizons Can Help

As a leader in global hiring and employment compliance, New Horizons’ in-country specialists help your business to attract and retain talent across all industry verticals. Our team of recruitment experts source, hire, and onboard your employees; in accordance with all local employment legislation and tax regulations.  If you’re looking to connect with and hire the world’s brightest talent, New Horizons’ end-to-end employment solutions support you to build remote teams, whilst embracing a remote-first culture and growing your business globally.  For businesses that wish to expand their operations internationally, New Horizons’ global Professional Employer Organization (PEO) streamlines your compliant expansion into your new market. In addition to helping you gain a legal presence in foreign countries, our global PEO processes payroll, withholds and pays payroll taxes, provides access to employee benefit programs, offers HR expertise, and takes care of HR tasks on your behalf, such as benefits administration. This enables you to commence operating in foreign countries in as little as 48 hours and can save your business up to 85% on normal expansion costs. 

Request a Proposal

Request a Free Consultation
We're here to help you hire. Globally.