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7 Tips for Effective Remote Onboarding

Jun 17, 2022
7 Tips for Effective Remote Onboarding
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Resignations are at all-time highs, and worker availability is at all-time lows. Retention starts with onboarding. Learn how to get remote onboarding right. 

It is not news that resignations are at all-time highs, or that remote work is here to stay. If you land a new hire, how do you keep them? It all starts with onboarding.

Remote Onboarding is Different

Onboarding remote employees presents a unique set of challenges—and opportunities—than bringing a new in-office employee onto the team. With 74 percent of companies planning to have remote employees for the near future, it is essential to get remote onboarding right. 

Resignations are tough and expensive. The first weeks and months are critical to keeping new employees. The first 45 days of a new job account for 20 percent of turnover, and 30 percent of new hires quit in the first six months. Effective onboarding can improve retention by 82 percent, one study found.

Financial Impact of Onboarding  

The average onboarding process involves 50 activities. Onboarding does require some upfront resources and time from you and your team, which can result in a short-term slow-down of productivity. But the long-term benefits far outweigh the risks. Effective onboarding makes groups and individuals 70 percent more productive. Well-onboarded employees give 20 percent more effort and are 18 times more committed to the company. 

Then there is this: Companies with committed employees earn 147 percent more than their peers. 

The High Cost of Poor Remote Onboarding 

Gallup found that 88 percent of companies do not have an effective onboarding process. That is expensive. Studies show that:  

  • 33 percent of new hires look for a new job within the first six months. 
  • It costs 16–20 percent of an employee's salary to hire a replacement. 
  • The total employee replacement cost ranges from 100–300 percent of the individual's salary. 

"It's always baffling to me when companies do all the work to hire someone and then don't set them up to be successful," said Cate Hudson, manager at all-remote pioneer Automattic. "Hiring is so time-consuming. Managing people who are not delivering in their role is time-consuming, too, not to mention emotionally draining. Onboarding people and helping them to be effective is—by far—the easiest option." 

Beyond Orientation and Compliance 

More than half—58 percent—of companies focus on processes and paperwork during the onboarding process. But onboarding is different from orientation—showing people around and filling out forms for payroll, healthcare, 401k, etc. Now, effective onboarding starts there, but that is just the beginning. 

Successful onboarding programs for all employees, remote or not, are a combination of information and inspiration. The remote onboarding process should engage and educate your new hires about your business mission and vision, work standards, culture, and performance expectations. Here is how to share the resources your new team member needs to succeed. 

The 7-Step Effective Remote Onboarding Process 

1. Make Sure IT is Set Up  

Harvard Business Review conducted a detailed study on employee engagement and released all of its findings in a journal called The Impact of Employee Performance. From this journal, we got to know that 71 percent of executives believe it's a high level of employee engagement that set their company for immense success.

Further breakdown of this percentage tells us that the biggest employee engagement driver is the recognition of high performers. It is followed by having a clear understanding of their role and contribution to the strategy, communication with senior leadership, understanding of business goals, socialization skills, and corporate training and development of the individuals.

You can use it to direct your employee engagement in the right direction. And once the situation is better, acquire employee testimonials. These will help you verify your implementation strategy. Thus, making room to proceed with the other two metrics that lead their organizational success include:

  • High-level of customer service (80 percent)

  • Effective communication (73 percent)

So, that's what you should follow once employee engagement has worked well enough.

2. Document Everything You Can

Remote employees (and all employees) need to have standard operating procedures to stay coordinated. Create a wiki or Box repository to store workflows, team documents, and company documents for individual employees and teams. Examples include: 

For all employees: 

  • Mission, vision, and values. 

  • Organizational charts. 

  • Employee directories. 

  • Communication procedures (how and when to use email, video calls, and chat). 

  • Tutorials for commonly used tools. 

  • Security standards. 

  • Templates for standard documents (presentations, email invitations, sales follow-up emails, etc.). 

For marketing: 

  • Lead qualification criteria. 

  • Content style guide. 

  • Blog and SEO best practices. 

For sales: 

  • CRM contact information standards. 

  • How to order business cards. 

  • Travel and expense procedures. 

For software developers: 

  • How to set up a development environment. 

  • Codebase. 

  • Development processes. 

  • Architecture standards. 

These are just examples, but you get the idea. You should have a standardized, documented way to perform all your workflows for your team. Documentation keeps everyone on the same page and limits the time new hires must ask questions. 

3. Overcommunicate and Overcommunicate Again

There is no such thing as overcommunication during the remote onboarding process. When you are not in the same office as your new hire, you will not pass by their desk and say "hi," read their facial expressions, or have that "watercooler" that makes people feel welcome. At the same time, the new employee cannot read your mind. Set standards for how and when you communicate through various channels, including:  

  • Frequently scheduled check-ins. 

  • Desired response times for phone calls, email, and instant messages. 

  • How you will provide feedback. 

  • How and when to send reminders for meetings. 

And do not forget to give positive feedback. It is one of the strongest motivators for engagement and productivity at work, and it is easy to forget when someone is remote. 

4. Performance management  

Be clear about how you will manage the performance of your new employee. Setting clear expectations is crucial for both sides of the relationship—you need to be clear about what success looks like. New employees need to understand those expectations to do an excellent job. You need to let the new virtual assistant know what they can expect from you as a boss and from them as an employee. Topics to cover include:  

  • Expectations of work hours and days. 

  • How you communicate and provide feedback. 

  • KPIs. 

  • How to handle missed deadlines. 

  • How to request time off. 

  • How to track task progress. 

  • How to log time. 

It is also crucial to talk about development opportunities. Address development during the onboarding process increases engagement by 350 percent. Talks about: 

  • Career goals. 

  • Company growth projections. 

  • Learning and development opportunities. 

It is easy for remote employees to feel left out of company growth plans, which does not need to be the case. 

5. Effective Remote Team Introductions  

Remote employees need to meet their teammates just like any new employee would. Team introductions are easy to overlook when any new employee is remote. There are a few ways to integrate remote employees with the rest of your team:  

  • Have a group welcome video call. 

  • Schedule one-on-one introduction calls. 

  • Hold shadow sessions where your new employee sits in as others perform work processes on a screen share. 

  • Use recorded sessions like sales calls or customer service calls to familiarize new employees with your customers and messages. 

  • Give a virtual tour of your facilities. 

Employees perform best when they know they are valued teammates and share the same communication and collaboration tools and best practices with the rest of the team. While you cannot take a remote employee out to lunch in person, everyone has adapted to video coffee breaks, lunches, and happy hours.

6. Start quickly but start small  

New employees want to be productive as soon as possible. Start with one task during the onboarding process and get a straightforward process established for that function. You do not have to give big, risky projects right away, but you also do not want to bury them with reading material and leave them alone. Some examples of immediate productivity exercises might be: 

  • A mock sales call for a new salesperson. 

  • A coding challenge for a software developer. 

  • A first blog post for a marketer. 

Remember that you want the remote employee to be engaged from the start. But that is a two-way street. New employees need to know that their teammates and supervisors are engaged with them too. The point is to let new hires do what they do best right away and give them feedback. 



7. Use the Buddy System in Remote Onboarding

More than half of employees with at least one friend at work love their companies, and two-thirds of employees with at least six friends love their companies. Gallup found that people with a friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged, and 62 percent of people with at least one friend at work would not accept a job offer. You can jumpstart friends in the onboarding by pairing new hires with someone on the team you think they will click with. 

Find someone compatible with the new employee based on social and work factors such as common pets, hobbies, cultures, etc. The friend can be the designated person to answer those "how do I do this?" questions. To avoid awkwardness, you can assign specific activities like: 

  • Virtual lunch and coffee breaks. 

  • Virtual tours of each other's homes. 

  • Introduce each other's pets. 

  • Share vacation photos. 

With some intention, such as pairing people of similar age, family, or hobbies, "the buddy system" can strengthen your business and culture. 


Make a Great First Impression 

As the saying goes, you never get a chance to make a first impression, and onboarding is your chance to make a great first impression with your new employee, and that first impression. The first impression when it comes to a new job is a marathon, not a sprint. Effective onboarding is crucial for all employees, and remote employees need more structure and attention. Follow these steps to make a lasting, fabulous first impression. 


About Author: This article is written by our marketing team at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is dedicated to providing powerful solutions for your HR teams and creating an exceptional employee experience. Our aim is to help your company improve employee engagement, onboarding, and to save you valuable time!

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