How to onboard remote employees…..

Onboarding new employees is a challenge for the remote-first work environment. Lack of physical proximity, use of remote work tools and a tendency towards asynchronous work can all make it more challenging for a new employee to thrive in their new role. To get ahead of this challenge, companies need to really focus on employee onboarding. Interestingly, according to a recent Gallup survey only 12% of employees think their company does it well. Yet it’s clear that effective onboarding is crucial for both company productivity and employee retention.

What does remote onboarding cover?

Normal employee onboarding covers all the steps that must be taken to set up a new employee to be successful within the company. This includes introducing new recruits to the team, ensuring that they have the right equipment and providing training on key company policies.

To succeed with remote onboarding, I advocate the following:

1. Master preboarding

Preboarding covers all those steps for setting up a new team member before the formal employment period begins. This includes:

  • checking that all contracts and additional documents are signed.
  • providing essential company documents and policies, such as the code of conduct and health & safety policies.
  • ensuring the remote workstation is set up with everything the new recruit needs to hit the ground running. For example, the company laptop has been dispatched all the necessary remote work software uploaded.

2. Share a culture document

In a traditional office environment, it is relatively easy for new recruits to approach other staff and ask how things are done. This more casual approach doesn’t work in a remote-first work environment. Many prefer to work asynchronously and Zoom fatigue means that many want to keep meetings to a minimum.

This means, more than ever, the collective knowledge of the company needs to be documented and accessible for new staff.

3. Focus on cybersecurity  

Remote work increases the potential “attack surface” of an organisation — employees are likely to be working from non-secure connections and locations. This means they may be putting company IP or employee/customer personal data at risk or opening up the organisation to phishing and other cyberattacks.

Onboarding remote employees for cybersecurity means not just reciting the company’s security policies, but implementing online training and putting controls in place to ensure that those processes are being followed.

4. Ensure new employees feel included

Without the benefit of in-person introductions and social events, onboarding managers need to be intentional in helping new employees feel part of the team. This might include team members creating introduction videos for the new recruits (Loom is a good tool for this) and establishing virtual coffee breaks with key team members.

Also welcoming new employees with company “swag” is also a nice touch (stationery, coffee mugs and company hoodies are all popular).

5. Allocate a buddy for new recruits

All remote recruits should be assigned a “buddy” to whom they can feel comfortable asking any questions in relation to the company and their new role within it. Note this is different to a mentor or manager and it can be advantageous for the buddy to be peer of the onboardee.


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