Onboarding Remote Employees – 9 steps to ensure success

I was onboarded remotely.

And let me tell you, it was a rollercoaster of an experience.

onboarding remote employees

On the one hand, the COVID blues was getting to me. On the other hand, I was trying my best to learn all about my new job. Online 😒

But at one point, I found myself actually giving my all to reading education material, interacting with my team in meetings, and getting accustomed to the company culture.

This is going to sound super dramatic, but I was onboarded so well that my COVID blues went away. (I was Jim, then I was Dwight all of a sudden)

If you have ever been in a hiring position, you know that is the best onboarding feedback you can have. 

And I am determined to help you get your new hires to feel the same way.

Today, we will talk about:

Let’s get started.

What is Remote Onboarding?

Remote employee onboarding is an employee onboarding process that takes place online due to the remote working conditions of a certain company, mandatory or optional. Many different strategies are adopted by companies to make sure their remote onboarding is a success, while some of the practices that need to be avoided are still trying to be used.

After becoming the center of attention during the COVID pandemic, for many employees, working remotely wasn’t an option.

And so, remote onboarding also became a necessity as life kept going on and new hires were needed. Some of those new hires are still at home because turns out it all works out this way too!

This means we will need remote onboarding in the future too, with or without the pandemic. Let’s talk about the reasons why.

Why is remote onboarding important?

Because remote onboarding is the future.

But hey, weren’t some people working remotely already?

Yes, they were. However, before the pandemic, it was only a few lucky – or unlucky –  people.

Yet today, 85% of marketers estimate that remote working will be the norm in the coming years.

36.2 million Americans will be working remotely by the year 2025.

68% of marketers say remote work is getting easier and easier, compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

Get the message people.

Say goodbye to your physical working mates, ‘cause you will be seeing them in pixels now.

Joking aside, one thing is clear. Remote employee onboarding has to be discussed, learned, and perfected. And it has to start right now.

Remote Onboarding Mistakes to Avoid

I repeat once again, remote onboarding isn’t a new thing, but that doesn’t mean it was a common thing before.

So, it is only natural that there are certain mistakes that might be made when trying to make a good impression.

Of course, these mistakes are accidental (👀) but let’s take a look at some of them to know exactly what we should not be doing.

1- DON’T overwhelm with learning material

Some positions require more learning, some less. But there is always learning.

And then there is always the possibility that your hiring manager might take you for a big fan of reading material about your position 🤓

If you are that hiring manager, let me ask you: why? Why do you do this?

But for real, it is hard to estimate just how much of your company’s last quarter records of customer interviews would be too much. What to do then?

Talk to the new employee. Simple as that.

Imagine how much easier work would be if we were all a bit better at communicating.

And if you are the new employee, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. If you think something is wrong with your onboarding process, say it out loud.

Remote onboarding is a new thing, it could use some feedback.

2- DON’T create false impressions

Do you know just how many people quit their jobs each year because they were made to believe something too good to be true?

Too many.

It can be the working hours, vacations, team structure, job description, basically anything you are told or tell about the work.

If you or the company can’t back it up, don’t say it.

Getting the wrong impression, and then resolving it might be way harder in remote conditions than it is in an office environment.

And it is even easier for new employees to quit.

This goes for teams and other employees as well. Since employees don’t share a working space, it can be hard to get used to working together.

Yet again, communication is the key.

3- DON’T expect productivity right away

Depending on the job description, remote onboarding can take a week or a month. It all depends on the process.

It is also important to note that a short remote onboarding process isn’t necessarily better or worse than a longer one.

The design of the process makes the difference.

When this is the situation at hand, expecting new hires to get to work right away is, to say the least, childish thinking.

The ideal scenario is that the employees are given time and space to learn to be a part of the team, the job, and the productive process.

And we want the ideal scenario.

Now that we know what not to do, it is time to talk about what to do for a successful remote employee onboarding. 

how to onboard remote employees successfully

How to Onboard Remote Employees for Success

They say there are four phases of employee experience. These phases are onboarding, initial development, ongoing development and retention, and separation.

Obviously, remote onboarding is included in the onboarding phase. But I like to separate it into three phases as well: first day, first week, first month.

Phase 1: First Day

1- Create a great first impression

Let’s make a mental note here.

If you are hiring someone, that means you need their skills, their experiences; you need them. You want this person in your company.

So what you do?

Act like it. This is not McDonald’s. (unless?)

Because you cannot meet your new hire physically, you need to be extra warm with that welcome. Let them know they won’t regret taking the job.

But how do you do that?

  • Say hi – this should go without saying, but the warmest welcome starts with a warm hello. You can introduce the new employee to the team in a meeting, set up a virtual coffee meeting with team members, and introduce them on the Slack channel. Just let your new employee have the time of their life!
  • A Thorough tour – every new employee welcome includes a full tour of the office, the team, or whatever the work environment is. Since you can’t show the new hire where the coffee machine is, help them with the online technicalities instead. Show them how to join meetings, which website you use for certain tasks, and so on.
  • Company merch – A t-shirt and a mug with the company name on it won’t do the onboarding for you, but they sure do help. In fact, it’s almost like a shortcut to getting the new hire feeling like a part of something bigger, that is, your business. Pack the goods and get your new employees geared up.

Phase 2: First Week

1- Start with simple tasks

Remember what we talked about giving the new hires some time and space? This is exactly where it matters.

Being a new employee is being in new territory. There is new information coming in every other minute. The last thing a hiring manager would want is to burden them with more.

Of course, there will be learning material. There will be readings, reports, user manuals, or some other necessary information. But you don’t want to put everything in there on the first week.

Let the newcomers breathe.

Give them tasks and learning materials that will help them both learn and get familiar with the job. Don’t scare them away.

2- Help access tools

Especially if you are a SaaS company, there will be a ton of tools a new employee will have to learn how to use. I personally had to start using 5 different tools in my first week.

I got all the tools running in the first two days.

“That’s fast, how do I do that?”

Handhold your remote employees: UserGuiding to the rescue 🦸‍♀️🦸‍♂️

When our one and only inbound marketing specialist Selman was talking to me about my remote onboarding process on the first week, I told him I was anxious.

“I have never been in a remote working environment”, I said.

“What if I don’t get something? Who do I talk to?”

“Oh, you will get it. Don’t worry.”, he said. “We are called UserGuiding, remember?”

remote onboarding userguiding
Exactly what the world’s best boss would say 😁

And with interactive guides handcrafted for each tool I needed to learn, I was able to get it all down right away.

And others too, check out RAM’s success story.

Wanna try an onboarding tool for your remote employee onboarding too?

The UserGuiding tool has:

✅ Product tours

✅ Interactive guides/walkthroughs

✅ Checklists

✅ Hotspots

✅ Tooltips

NPS surveys

✅ Resource centers

It is no code, yes free trial. Ready to give it a try?

Phase 3: First Month

1- Education accelerates

You didn’t scare them away on the first week? Cool, let’s do it now.

By the time your new employee has been working with you for a month, there is obviously going to be an increase in new information for them.

This time, since they are familiar and comfortable with their new position (because you prioritized that) it is easier for them to focus on more tasks, reading, and learning about their job.

Still, you don’t want to force the education down the new employee’s throats. The key is to come up with a plan beforehand.

All you need to do is spread it to a time period and talk 👏 to 👏 the 👏 newcomer 👏

2- A part of the team

In the first month, the most dangerous thing that can happen is the excitement dying down.

Sure, everyone was cheering up and taking care of the newcomer in the first week but if it dies down, so does your new employee’s enthusiasm.

At this stage, you have to make sure the new employee understands that they are a part of the team now. And you do that by making sure you:

  • Include and address them in daily and weekly meetings,
  • Get them to be a part of important projects,
  • Ask for updates on work-related and non-work-related issues,
  • Get managers to be extra available and approachable,
  • Treat them like you treat the rest of the team – no special treatment or ignoring

Keep this in mind. The first week is all about identifying with the company, the first month is about identifying with the team.

3- Check up on them

I am of the opinion that employee onboarding never ends.

Essentially, it’s all about getting comfortable with the working environment, meeting new people, and learning new skills fit for the job.

How can onboarding ever end when your business is ever-changing? Looking at you, SaaS people 😉

However, there is an end to a formal initial employee onboarding. Ideally by the end of the first month or before that, depending on the job description.

And when that time comes, it is time to check for success.

But how do we define success?

If you and your new employee have completed the initial remote onboarding process successfully, here are the things you should be able to observe:

✅ A clear understanding of the job and tasks on the employee’s side,

✅ Being comfortable and enthusiastic about working on projects,

✅ Being able to take initiative when it comes to tasks and projects,

✅ Healthy communication with the rest of the team and the company,

✅ No difficulty in completing tasks and showing early signs of success

And in case you think your new employee is having a hard time with one or more of the above, don’t worry. There is always time to work on problems.

As I said, employee onboarding is an ongoing process.

Conclusion

Centuries of hiring and employee onboarding is still not perfected. And unless business stops being as dynamic as it is, it won’t be perfected any time soon.

The same goes for remote employee onboarding as well. Plus, there are even more challenges to it.

But are you going to let it stop you educate your employees and create a comfortable working environment for them? Hell no.

Hope this article helps you help your employees in the best way possible.

Frequently Asked Questions


How would you onboard a remote employee?

Onboarding employees remotely can be tricky. There are not only many challenges to onboarding by itself but also technical and communicational challenges of being online. But by providing the resources for employees to educate themselves and creating a comfortable environment, it is not so hard to achieve.


How do you welcome new employees remotely?

There are many ways of welcoming your employees remotely, such as introducing them to the whole company on Slack, setting meetings among team members, sending them company merchandise, and the simplest but most effective one of them all, saying hi.

Serra Alban

Serra is a Creative Content Writer of UserGuiding specialized in user onboarding and UX. When she is not writing you can find her playing video games or throwing random movie trivia at uninterested people.