Hiring and Onboarding Remote Employees: Tips and Best Practices

Onboarding is an essential part of the hiring process. Now that many businesses are switching to remote work, learn how you can onboard effectively, even with a remote workforce.

The remote work revolution is here to stay. Now that businesses have proof that certain work is still feasible to perform remotely, employers and employees alike have discovered the benefits of remote work. 

The flexibility and focus it offers employees is readily apparent, but employers are also seeing the positive effects that remote work brings to productivity. According to Global Workplace Analytics, "Over two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their telecommuters." In addition, companies like "Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical, and many others show that teleworkers are 35-40% more productive." Contrary to what some employers believe, remote work can benefit a company's productivity rather than harm it.

However, one challenge to working from home is onboarding virtually. How do you get remote employees onboarded, trained, inspired, and motivated when you aren't physically with them?

Remote Employee Onboarding and Hiring Checklist

Truly effective onboarding of remote employees is an art form that spans all parts of the hiring journey. It takes care and precision even when everyone is in person, but it's crucial in the context of remote work. Good onboarding is a long-term and deliberate process, and though it takes time and effort, it’s a valuable activity that will pay back far more than it costs in the long run.

Here are the basics of how to train new employees virtually.

Be Clear in the Recruiting Process

It's essential that you use clear messaging to attract new remote employees through job postings, social media announcements, and other recruitment media. Any candidates who read your message should gain a thorough understanding of the credentials your company wants, precisely what they can expect from accepting the position, and clear communication that this is a remote role. 

Cover Remote Work Expectations

When it comes time to select the right candidate, reiterate your expectations for the role. It’s helpful at this point to make sure you and your candidate are on the same page about the position. If the candidate understands the expectations of the job, they can better determine if it's a good fit for them.

Upon sending the offer letter, ensure that the logistics and expectations of a new hire's daily work are also crystal clear. How flexible is their work schedule? What equipment will you provide for them? How do time-off and sick leave policies work? Will they ever be required to be onsite at the office? Who is their supervisor and how should they report in each day (if needed)?

Start the Remote Onboarding Process Early

Transitioning to a new job is a tiring process. When onboarding remote employees, your new hires will likely have a lot to take care of, such as ending things at their previous jobs and adjusting their home workstations. Stay in touch between their acceptance of the position and their start date, but be careful not to overload them with information.

What you should do during this time is build excitement about working for your company, which can include the following: 

  • Sending new hires a "welcome package" with a personalized letter from company leadership
  • Informing them of the role’s perks and amenities 
  • Holding a virtual meetup with their new teammates to help them feel like part of the team

Additionally, keep the channels of communication open. New hires should have access to whatever messaging groups your company uses, as well as relevant phone numbers to call or text if necessary. They will likely have many questions, so try to answer promptly.

Discuss Deliverables, Goals, and Company Culture

It's a good idea to take some time in the beginning for a remote orientation and to spell out your expectations for success. Inform your new hires about how they will be evaluated, what a successful day of work looks like, and how often they should expect to check in with their teams.

Part of this process should include a rundown of company culture. Because of the nature of remote communication, it's advisable to discuss culture more than you would in person. Go into depth about the best practices of navigating company life, and the dynamics of their team. Get them excited about cultural events and team-building activities they can look forward to, especially those they can participate in remotely. 

Set Virtual Meetings So New Employees Can Meet the Team

When a new employee joins the company, all coworkers have one new name and title to remember. The new employee could potentially have dozens. Though rarely easy, it can be even harder to learn about new people and group dynamics without faces and conversations to help jog your memory. That's why it's imperative to set up virtual meetings to get everyone acquainted in remote work situations. Try scheduling a video call for a get-to-know-you team-building meeting whenever you have a new hire, and foster unity by regularly focusing on team-building.

Assign New Hires a Welcome Buddy

Designate an experienced coworker as the new hire's "welcome buddy." In addition to their normal duties, the welcome buddy will regularly meet with the new remote employee to ensure they fully integrate into the new workplace. By pairing new hires up with mentors during the remote onboarding process, they have a built-in resource to turn to for questions on ethics, standard procedures, company history, or company culture.

According to a look into Microsoft's buddy program by Harvard Business Review, "56% of new hires who met with their onboarding buddy at least once in their first 90 days indicated that their buddy helped them to quickly become productive in their role."

Think Beyond the First Week

Onboarding — and indeed, training in general — is not a "one-and-done" event. Yes, much of the heavy lifting takes place in the early days of a new hire's tenure, but to onboard them effectively as a remote worker, you'll need to think about long-term integration. Experts advise that proper onboarding takes anywhere from four months to a year — far longer than just a week or two. Now think about the challenges that come along with being remote!  

Think about your own schooling. When it came to the critical topics, teachers didn't just teach you once. They periodically reviewed and evaluated your progress to ensure the lessons sank in. Remote onboarding best practices are similar. While the first few training-intensive weeks are an essential part of the onboarding process, they alone aren't adequate. Many of the procedures and best practices new hires learn early on can be easily forgotten, but periodic reviews and check-ins ensure new skills and knowledge become second nature, and connections become more profound and genuine, even if your team doesn’t share a workspace. 

In the end, proper recruiting and onboarding for both remote and in-person workers are crucial. Not only does it build the best possible foundation for an individual employee’s success, but it also benefits the company at large. Good virtual onboarding creates a better-trained workforce and a more unified team, ultimately leading to long-term success for the company’s culture, expertise, and prosperity.