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Onboarding in the Age of Remote Work: Best Practices for Success

The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the working world, leading to a significant shift towards remote work for businesses worldwide. Remote work has become essential and is likely to remain so for some time, if not indefinitely. This shift in the way we work has not only impacted organizations and their day-to-day operations but has also had an impact on the hiring process. With the changes in the hiring process comes a renewed need to review and enhance the onboarding process.

Onboarding is defined as the process of integrating a new employee into an organization and its culture. It is a critical function that impacts the success of the employee and the organization. Effective onboarding leads to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and employee retention. In contrast, poor onboarding can result in a lack of engagement, disconnection from the culture, and a lack of direction for the employee. Remote onboarding can be a challenge for HR teams, who are used to the traditional in-person onboarding process. However, with the right strategies and tools, remote employee onboarding can be just as effective as in-person onboarding.

The following are best practices for remote onboarding that can help ensure success:

Establish Communication Channels

Effective communication is essential for remote onboarding success. The traditional in-person onboarding process is replaced by a remote onboarding model, which makes communication even more critical. The new employee needs to establish communication with their manager, team members, colleagues, and other departments in the organization.

Establish regular communication channels early on, such as video conferencing, email, and messaging platforms like Slack, which can help the employee connect to the team and the organization. Create a point person to help the new hire connect with the relevant people in the organization, and provide a list of important contacts and departments. This will help employees feel more comfortable, and it will ensure they don’t feel isolated or disconnected from the organization.

Virtual Onboarding Packets

One of the most significant challenges in remote onboarding is providing new hires with the information they need. An effective solution is to create a virtual onboarding packet. This packet can include all the necessary information the new hire will need, such as the company handbook, company policies, benefits information, and important HR forms.

Make sure all the information is easily accessible and easy to understand. Use simple language and avoid technical jargon. This will help your new hire get up to speed faster and feel more comfortable with the company’s operations.

Virtual Orientation and Training

During the orientation process, make sure to go over company culture and values so that the new hire can better understand the organization’s philosophy and expectations. This can be conducted via video conferencing, recorded sessions, or presentation documents.

Conduct a virtual tour of the office, so the new employee feels more connected to the company culture. Consider virtual training sessions for various departments or areas of the company. This can include job training, skills development sessions, or a breakdown of company processes and equipment. Virtual training sessions can be an effective way to ensure your new hire is confident about the company’s day-to-day operations.

Provide a Mentor

A mentor can provide guidance and support for a new hire in a remote environment. Assigning a mentor can help a new employee feel more connected to the team and get their questions answered while adjusting to new technology and systems.

Consider pairing the new hire with a mentor who has the same background or skills to make onboarding more effective. Ensure the mentor is equipped with the necessary tools and resources to assist the new-hire, like checklists to ensure the new-hire is on track or personalized coaching sessions.

Encourage Virtual Interactions

Creating a sense of community is crucial for a remote workforce. Set up virtual meetings, coffee hours, and chat rooms that allow the new hire to meet and interact with fellow employees. This helps them get to know their team and feel like they are a part of the organization.

Use video calls and conferencing software to facilitate personalized interactions, and encourage new hires to schedule virtual coffee chats with colleagues. Encourage them to join virtual events such as happy hours and birthday celebrations.

Set Clear Expectations

Setting and providing clear expectations for tasks, goals, and deadlines is crucial in any onboarding process, but especially in remote onboarding. This ensures that new hires understand their roles and what they are expected to deliver. Prioritize transparency and open communication early on – a new employee should feel comfortable asking questions to avoid confusion about deliverables and deadlines.

Have a clear plan on how to assess the new hire’s progress. Set up follow-up meetings and ask for feedback from the new hire regarding the clarity of communication, support and feedback, performance measures, and the connection to the organization’s culture.

Seek Feedback

Having an effective feedback system in place is key for a successful onboarding experience. Make it clear to the employee that you want to hear feedback about their onboarding experience and how they are fitting in with the team.

Use feedback to make necessary adjustments to your onboarding processes and better support new hires. Having open communication on the feedback system will help create a transparent work environment, and it will help build trust and relationships with the organization and the employee.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

With remote onboarding, technology is your friend. Use technology solutions like video conferencing software, virtual onboarding software, and virtual tours to make onboarding interactive and engaging. This can help replace the in-person experience somewhat, ensuring that the new hire can connect with the organization’s culture effectively.

Leverage video communication to check-in, share information, and get feedback from new hires often. Bridging the gap allows the employee to feel like they are working with you, and it helps the organization monitor progress.

Make HR Support and Information Accessible

New hires can quickly become overwhelmed with the amount of information to process during the onboarding process. Provide a single location for HR resources, links, and forms – a designated user-friendly intranet site or accessible portal may suffice. Ensure it’s easy to access, intuitive to navigate, and straightforward, so employees can locate relevant information quickly.

Make it clear that HR is available to answer any questions and concerns, whether it’s a dedicated onboarding chatbot, a ticket system, or a helpline number. Since new hires are not on-site, HR needs to provide them with various channels to reach out for assistance.

Set Scheduled Check-Ins

Stay connected with new hires by setting scheduled check-ins. Weekly or monthly check-ins can help the new hire feel supported and will enable you to track their progress, offer feedback, and provide assistance when necessary.

These scheduled check-ins can also identify issues before they become more critical problems. It allows the organization to address problems early on and nip them in the bud.

Incorporate Team Building Activities

Remote onboarding should include team-building activities, making it easier for new hires to feel connected to the team and the organization. Simple activities like team-building exercises can be conducted over video conferencing software or social media platforms like LinkedIn.

Consider sending out care packages like branded merchandise, goody bags, or swag as welcome gestures. You can incorporate team-building games into these virtual meetings, creating a sense of fun and community. It’s these little details that make remote onboarding feel more personalized.

Make Any Necessary Accommodations

Ensure that the new hire has the necessary equipment and the necessary software to complete their tasks. Provide them with access to required applications, and pay for the licenses if necessary. Ensure that they know how to use all the equipment, and have access to technical support should issues arise.

Organizations should also make necessary accommodations, such as providing accessibility measures for employees with disabilities to ensure they have a level playing field. Organizations should be proactive in addressing these issues and make reasonable accommodation adjustments.

Encourage Self-Paced Learning

When it comes to remote onboarding, one of the critical elements is learning on demand. Encourage the new hire to take the time to learn and understand the organization, the culture, and job expectations at their pace while waiting for scheduled sessions.

Encouraging self-paced learning can boost engagement, relieve stress, and decrease the likelihood of information overload. Make sure all relevant documents/info are available for employees to access in their own time.

Measure your Success Rate and Tweak your Approach

Keep tabs on your onboarding success rate. HR teams should evaluate feedback from new hires and assess progress to ensure that the onboarding process is working optimally. Use any constructive criticism to improve and tweak the onboarding process to better support new hires and improve their experience.

Give New Hires Time to Adjust

The onboarding process does take time, and remote onboarding can feel very different from in-person onboarding. Give the employee time to adjust and understand the working environment and culture. Encourage them to reach out to HR for guidance and support. Set clear goals and expectations and follow up regularly to monitor progress. With patience, clear communication, and the right support network, remote onboarding can be as engaging and effective as traditional techniques.


The shift towards remote work has been significant, with most organizations having to make changes in their day-to-day operations. With the changes comes the need to review and enhance the onboarding process. Effective onboarding is crucial for the success of the employee and the organization.

Remote onboarding can be challenging for HR teams, who are used to the traditional in-person onboarding process, however, with the right strategies discussed; remote employee onboarding can be just as effective as in-person onboarding. Establish communication channels, create virtual onboarding packets, virtual orientation, and training, provide a mentor, encourage virtual interactions, set clear expectations, and seek feedback from new hires. These are best practices that can help ensure success in remote onboarding and lead to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and higher employee retention rates.

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