Successful Onboarding For Remote Employees: Best Practices

Morgane Lança
August 17 2021

The importance of properly integrating a new employee upon their arrival at the company is well known. An essential for an employer brand that stands out, a good onboarding plan also contributes to employee engagement, which will in turn strongly impact productivity. A well-integrated employee will be operational more quickly and develop a team spirit necessary to the smooth running of the company.

With the recent expansion of remote work, it is essential to reflect on remote integration. What is this process, how can we face the new challenges it presents and what are the best practices for virtual onboarding?


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What Is a Remote Onboarding Process?

The remote onboarding process consists in welcoming an employee 100% digitally by following the same steps as you would in person, from the signature of the hiring contract to the first team meeting. To address all aspects of remote onboarding, we must first understand the need to implement the best management practices for remote workers and the importance of anticipating the employee’s arrival.

Setting Up Efficient Remote Practices

The pandemic made it clear that remote work is going to become increasingly common over time. The expansion of hybrid work patterns and full remote employees are all organizational evolutions that have gained ground in recent years, even more so in the current context.

If you don’t update your onboarding practices to take these important changes into account, you would, in turn, risk demotivating a growing number of your employees. If they are not welcomed like the others, they will never feel truly part of the organization and their morale and productivity will suffer.

The last few months have taught us more than ever the value of organizational flexibility to survive the various challenges a company may face. It is therefore urgent to develop onboarding management accordingly, and not to neglect the importance of logistics in welcoming an employee remotely.

How to Anticipate Remote Onboarding

First, it’s important to be prepared in terms of logistics and equipment. Does the employee have the necessary tools to start their work peacefully? Do they know who to contact to solve their issues and how to get help easily and remotely?

Anticipating an employee’s arrival does not necessarily mean planning for a specific task to be performed at a specific time. The virtual onboarding process should alternate between self-training sessions and meetings, video viewing, etc. A flexible schedule for the remote employee will prevent them from exiting their first days exhausted or bored.

Think about setting up a plan so that you don’t find yourself at a loss and risk losing your employee’s motivation in the first few days. Keep in mind, however, that distance should not be an excuse to stifle the new employee finding balance between autonomy and supervision is a must in cases of virtual onboardings.

A planned and detailed onboarding plan that is flexible and open to change will be a real asset in facing the challenges of virtual integration!

The Challenges of Virtual Onboarding

Now that you know what remote onboarding is and how to anticipate it, the question is how to meet the specific challenges of virtual onboarding. There are numerous, but they are far from insurmountable!

Feeling Close, Even From a Distance

How can you feel as close as you would in ‘normal’ times, but from a distance? Human resources professionals have valuable advice to give, having experienced this new onboarding format first hand:

The key is preparation beforehand, to make the employee feel expected and that their arrival is well taken care of. We can give them reading material in advance, small projects to do, and send them a first-day schedule so that they know what to expect. In short, we need to open communication with them and make them feel that we are very close despite the distance.” – Stephanie Picknell, Human Resources Manager at Go RH

Anticipation is, therefore, the keystone of good virtual integration. Virtual hires must feel involved and welcomed from the very first exchanges following the signature of the hiring contract. They should not be ‘different from’ or ‘less than’ because they are not physically present. In short, they should not feel like they are missing out on anything because of their specific situation!

To prevent psychological distance in a remote working context, daily communication must remain a priority. Building good relationships from a distance is not an unattainable goal: if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to implement virtual communication tools in your organization. Video chat software, instant messaging software like Slack and mailboxes are all tools that allow you to establish a steady remote link between colleagues.

Beyond the logistics, it is also important to make your staff aware of remote communication, so that it gradually becomes part of your employees’ daily habits. They should feel heard if they have questions about digital communication. There is no such thing as a silly question, so consider scheduling digital training workshops to make them feel comfortable!

By extending the use of these communication tools to all your company’s departments, you will ensure that the remote employee always finds someone to talk to, and that they are part of daily discussions among colleagues.

Don't Lose the Connection

Once you have set up a remote contact, you still need to make sure that the link lasts in the long term. To do this, it is necessary to involve managers and employees, not just the human resources department.

Remote hires should not only feel virtually integrated to their team: the link created at a distance must be cultivated and maintained continuously thanks to simple and effective team building activities. Weekly team lunches and informal chats that go beyond the professional framework are activities easily organized remotely, and they will be your greatest allies for building meaningful relationships. 

Video conferencing tools are once again key to setting up these activities and are really valuable to maintain a connection, even without seeing each other ‘in person’.

Once again, organizational flexibility is essential and will allow you to adapt to remote situations without impairing some of your employees.

Team spirit can and must be maintained outside the office, and with good will and a strong sense of organization, nothing will prevent remote employees from feeling as recognized and as integrated as office workers. 

An employee’s onboarding does not stop after the first few days and on a good first impression; the onboarding must be perpetual so that all employees feel involved in the life of the company.

Here are our best tips for maintaining good practices over the long term, even from a distance!

Best Practices For Virtual Onboarding

Digitalizing Processes

We’ve already discussed the importance of using instant messaging applications and educating employees to maintain a connection between colleagues, even from a distance. Beyond relational issues, organizational aspects also benefit from being dematerialized. There is only one solution to avoid missing out on the challenge of remote onboarding: digitalization. 

Dematerializing the steps related to employees’ onboarding offers several advantages, such as relief from administrative tasks usually attributed to employees or the HR department, but also the end of data loss or human oversight that might hinder good virtual integrations to the company.

Sticking to a physical process is both a source of frustration and error: if you overlook a step in the onboarding process, for example, your remote hires might feel lost or left behind.

To avoid any oversights, download our free onboarding checklist!

An obvious and easy-to-implement digitization tool is the HRIS (Human Resources Information System), a software adapted to your company’s needs that offers a tool to manage remote onboarding easily. As we said, onboarding is not just a matter of a few days, it is a process that takes place over time. An HRIS will allow you to clearly position yourself in the different stages of this process on a platform where all the data is centralized. Dematerialization allows for a particularly effective adaptation to remote contexts.

Thanks to your employee onboarding platform, onboarding has never been so easy to manage, even from a distance!

Involve the Entire Company

A warm welcome from the human resources department is a good start. Meeting your manager and getting to know them is a must. However, you should think about involving the entire team from the get go. This can be done through a short welcome message, team meetings presenting each employee, or even a longer virtual discussion with all colleagues to conclude the first day. Even better: try out all of these options at once!

In addition to building team cohesion from the start, you can also inform the whole company of the employee’s arrival, by detailing their position and introducing them in a few sentences in a group email. In the context of remote onboarding, you can even encourage other employees to interact with the newcomer, so that they do not feel isolated.

Involving the whole company in the onboarding process will make the employee want to get involved in the organization!

Need ideas of onboarding emails? Here are our favorites (with a bonus free template!)

Introduce your Company Culture

Even if the employee is not physically in the office, they deserve to know what kind of company they are joining. Dematerialize all the onboarding material (make sure everything is available virtually) and be ready to answer any questions the employee may have. Prepare an introduction video about the organization, presenting its values and employees’ benefits. The new employee’s team can also create a short video to welcome them. That’s what we do at Folks and our staff loves it! 

If you can, in addition to professional equipment, send the employee goodies with the company’s logo –  these little gifts are even more appreciated if you take the time to send them directly to their home!

In short, share just as much attention with your remote employees as you would with an employee onboarded in the office.

Ask the Right People

Now that you have all the tools and advice to organize efficient remote onboardings, it would be a waste to stop there and not further question your practices. Improvements are always possible and should always be an objective to reach.

The obvious solution to constantly improve your remote onboarding processes: ask your staff! Remote employees have valuable feedback, and collecting this data is truly useful. The benefits are numerous: employees will feel heard, and their testimony will allow you to correct any error or oversight in your remote onboarding practices.

Surveys are valuable tools for learning more about your employees’ personal experiences, all the while increasing their engagement and motivation.

Want to know more about implementing surveys in your company? Feel free to contact us!

Anticipation, adaptation, communication and dematerialization are key to efficient remote employee onboarding.

But beyond the evolution of employee onboarding management, it is necessary to improve all HR practices in these times of great organizational changes.  HR softare are solutions adapted to our current and future needs, and represent the start of a major shift towards business digital transition.

Interested in dematerializing your onboarding practices?

Discover our flexible onboarding features!

Request your free Folks HR demo


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