If you think onboarding a remote worker is tricky, you’re right! Onboarding can be stressful enough when everyone is working in the same office; onboarding remote workers poses its own unique challenges.
Onboarding is a hugely important process for any new hire. Efficiently doing so increases employee performance, engagement, and productivity and reduces turnover.
Just because an employee won’t physically be in your office doesn’t mean their onboarding is any less critical.
Here are ten steps to consider when onboarding remote workers to ensure they receive a thoughtful experience.
1. Set expectations during the recruitment process
Onboarding a remote worker begins long before their first day – it starts during the recruitment process.
When hiring remotely, it’s essential to keep in mind struggles such as managing workloads, unclear work hours, lack of accountability, and isolation from co-workers. These are all common in remote positions.
You want to ensure that you are clear about workload, hours of work, and how success will be measured. Doing so will help avoid burnout, overworking, and confusion around expectations.
You may also want to discuss expectations that the employee has about working remotely and what they need from you to flourish in their role. Doing this will help set them up for success from the get-go.
By clarifying these areas during the recruitment process, you avoid any misinterpretation later, which means they are more likely to feel understood and supported in their role from the start.
2. Have a remote worker checklist
Before onboarding a remote worker, you will need a checklist; one for you and one for them. There is a good chance you already have one, but it should look different for onsite and remote workers.
Your checklist should cover everything you have to complete before their start. It’s all about ensuring the first day goes smoothly.
Finding your feet on the first day of a new role is always a challenge, but even more so when you are isolated from the rest of the team. There is a lot to learn, and you don’t have colleagues sitting next to you to help you find your bearings.
Make your checklists as detailed as possible – even include names of the employees in IT and HR who will help you complete your checklist.
A remote worker’s checklist will be like onsite employees but should be specific to their remote role. It should help them feel comfortable and know what they need to do. It may take a few days or weeks to complete depending on the timelines involved.
Any onboarding checklist should be department-specific and modified slightly for each new hire depending on experience.
3. Digitise all paperwork
Signing employment contracts and other legal documents can be time-consuming. They must be printed, signed, scanned, and emailed/posted back.
It can also be an expensive process, especially as many people working from home don’t have printers, scanners, or fax machines in their homes.
If you are still onboarding a remote worker using the old-school paper way, it’s time to go digital.
Software like HelloSign and DocuSign are legitimate and legally binding. Both allow employees to digitally sign documents, keep a copy, and share documents in a secure environment.
If you do need documents to be physically verified, consider covering any costs incurred for notary services.
If your remote worker doesn’t have the means to print and scan, you will need to provide them with the appropriate equipment, otherwise, send them a hard copy in the mail to sign and send back.
5. Introduce them and the team
Nothing beats a friendly in-person introduction. This is trickier when onboarding a remote worker. As they can’t easily go around the office introducing themselves, you will need to help them make introductions.
Make your team aware a new remote worker is joining you. Give an overview of their work history and how they will fit in with the wider team. Introductions should be done before their official start date.
On the day they start, use your team’s internal communication tool and welcome them. Encourage co-workers to message and introduce themselves. It can be awkward to be the new person; a warm personal welcome will prevent this feeling when onboarding a remote worker.
Set up short, strategic one-on-one video calls with the team. Make sure remote workers connect with the people they will need to know. #
Beyond meeting with HR, IT, and Payroll, think about who they will be working with the most. Make sure they get to know them personally so they will feel comfortable reaching out to them in the future.
6. Assign a work friend
Learning processes, procedures, and company standards don’t happen overnight. Even after you finish onboarding a remote worker, they will have a lot of questions to ask.
For onsite employees, it is easier for them to figure things out or ask a co-worker. However, remote newbies can find it challenging to know where to find documents and who to direct their questions to.
For this reason, it is essential to assign a “work friend” as part of your process when onboarding a remote worker.
An assigned work friend shouldn’t be a direct manager, but someone senior on the team who has been with the company for a good amount of time. It will be their job to show the new hire the ropes and act as a point of contact for questions or concerns.
7. Organise a virtual coffee or lunch
While you can’t go out for lunch together as a team when a new remote worker starts, you can do the virtual equivalent. Have the group log in to a video call – cameras and microphones on.
The video call should be about getting to know one another rather than being all about work.
Connecting on a personal level allows remote workers to get a feel of team dynamics and help them to build stronger working relationships with their colleagues.
This is important in preventing remote workers from feeling secluded or side-lined, which could lead to them leaving the company further down the line.
Getting to know co-workers by putting a “face to the name” will help their nerves about reaching out to people, alleviate loneliness, and make remote workers feel like part of the team straight away.
8. Schedule one-on-ones and team meetings
Schedule first week, one month, and quarterly touch bases when onboarding a remote worker. These calls will help identify any difficulties they are facing and how they are adjusting to their role.
Scheduled one-on-ones are your opportunity to get to know them better as a person. You’ll miss opportunities for daily coffee chats with remote workers. Don’t only check in on work during these calls; take a personal interest in their lives.
Make sure remote workers understand they are expected to attend all team meetings, just as any other employee would. Ensure video conference facilities are set up so they can see the team and interact with them.
Check that remote workers get included in every team meeting, even last-minute ones. Doing so ensures they are aware of the decisions taken and allows them the opportunity to contribute. Not only will this build comradery, but will guarantee their expertise and opinion add to the full picture.
9. Have a clear work plan
Everyone works better when they know what is expected of them, and they have metrics to measure their success. This is critically important for remote workers who cannot see how their co-workers behave.
After onboarding a remote worker and they’ve settled in, take some time to go over individual KPIs. Define short-term and long-term goals they can work towards. Don’t forget to explain team budgets and expectations. Don’t do this in a way that adds pressure to their role. Instead, do so in a way that illustrates how their work helps contribute to team goals.
Once they have completed a few simple tasks, extend this into their full responsibilities. Provide context for projects, set expectations, and give them points of contact they may need.
Make sure they have a list of tasks to work through. Remote workers shouldn’t have to wait for a manager to come online to start working.
Make sure your remote workers have regularly scheduled one-on-ones with their superiors to review work that has been undertaken.
This is as much an opportunity for remote workers to voice their needs and any concerns as it is a chance to catch up on what they’ve been doing. This is important for building trust and making sure everyone is on the same page.
10. Follow up and refine your process for onboarding a remote worker
Onboarding a remote worker isn’t a one-and-done process. It generally takes a couple of months to help a new hire acclimatise and set them on the path to success.
Encourage feedback throughout the onboarding process. Be open to listening. Your remote workers can tell you exactly how you can improve the process for your next group of remote hires and can even become a point of contact for new remote workers, helping them better understand the ropes.
No one will know more about your remote employee onboarding process than someone who has already experienced it themselves. So, make sure you consult your current remote workers when you’re looking to expand your remote team.
How you go about onboarding a remote worker sets the tone for every interaction you have moving forward.
Get it right, and you’ll have an engaged and trusting remote worker. Get it wrong, and you might find yourself rehiring for this role sooner than you expected.
Onboarding a remote worker
The above steps are just a guideline on what to consider when onboarding remote workers.
Every business is different, and every remote worker will have different needs. The key is to be flexible and adjust your process as you go, ensuring that you always put the remote worker's needs first.
Be thoughtful about the process, be open to feedback, and be willing to adjust as needed. With a little bit of planning, you can successfully onboard a remote worker and set them (and your business) up for success.
Searching for talented professionals to join your remote team?
Recruiting qualified candidates can be daunting, especially if you don’t have the support of an experienced recruitment agency to match you with the best candidates for your open roles.
That’s where our team comes in. We are experts in matching businesses with qualified remote professionals across a wide range of industries and roles. At Airswift, we use our years of experience in the recruitment industry to help businesses like yours find, hire and retain the top 1% of remote talent from around the world.
If you are looking to fill open roles with qualified technical candidates who are a good fit and will be long-term assets to your company, connect with one of us today! Let’s work together to hire the remote workers your company needs.
This post was written by: Charlotte Bosley-Plumb, Content Marketing Coordinator