remote work onboarding

How to Onboard Remote Employees: Checklist and Tips for Managers

Preparing to onboard remote employees? Create an enjoyable and effective onboarding experience by learning from Deel's Senior People Development Program Manager and following our remote onboarding checklist.

Anja Simic
Written by Anja Simic
April 18, 2022
Contents
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Your employee onboarding process might make or break your retention rates. 20% of employee turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment, meaning many new hires leave a new job before officially completing onboarding.

Remote employee onboarding can be even more challenging—and Deel is all too familiar with the process. Deel’s Senior People Development Program Manager, Danica Ristic, has onboarded around 600 remote workers from over 70 countries.

In this article, you’ll hear Danica’s best advice to hiring managers responsible for developing strong remote onboarding processes. You’ll also receive actionable tips to build enjoyable and effective onboarding experiences for remote workers, including a remote onboarding checklist.

Remote onboarding checklist for new employees

By the end of a virtual employee’s onboarding experience, they should feel comfortable with their team, knowledgeable about their tools and tech, and excited to settle into their role. The following checklist will walk you through the tasks you should complete during the six phases of employee onboarding.

These tasks (and their order) may change depending on your company, timeline, and the new hire’s role.

Preboarding

Complete these tasks one to two weeks before the new hire’s start date. This phase prepares the new hire (and their team) for their new role and gets them excited about joining the company.

  • Send out new hire paperwork (like their offer letter and contract)
  • Notify their team of the new hire’s start date and describe how the team’s role in the onboarding process
  • Place an order for the new hire’s workspace equipment (or give them directions on how to do it themselves)
  • Create the hire’s accounts for all tools and applications and send login instructions
  • Assign them a buddy or mentor
  • Schedule IT onboarding
  • Send them a digital welcome package, including:
    • A personalized welcome message
    • Login information for your onboarding platform
    • A schedule for their first day (or week)
    • Invitations to onboarding meetings (via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or Google Meet)
    • Information on how and when the company will deliver their equipment
    • Contact email or phone number for a member of the People Operations team

 

First day

Day one should ease the new hire into their new work environment. They will spend most of this day completing paperwork, learning about the company, and meeting colleagues.

  • Send the new hire a welcome message on Slack (or your internal communications channel of choice)
  • Host their orientation session with a member of Human Resources or People Ops
  • Complete IT onboarding (or schedule it with the IT team)
  • Book a 1:1 meeting between the new hire and their manager
  • Book a casual video call for the new hire to meet their immediate team
  • Employee to review: Communication channels and how to use them, product or company overview, policies, and perks
  • Employee to complete: Human resource forms (payroll, compliance, and security documents)

 

First week

At this point, the employee should be focusing on completing the necessary training and onboarding materials while getting used to their new environment.

  • Book daily check-in meetings
  • Book 1:1 video calls with the new hire and each of their immediate team members
  • Invite the new hire to recurring team meetings
  • Book a virtual team social event
  • Block out time for them to review onboarding materials and complete necessary training courses

 

First month

During their first month, the new hire will ease into their role by diving into their first project and meeting more of their peers.

  • Show them how to schedule 15-minute video introduction calls with extended team members, and let them book the calls as they desire
  • Start them on their first task or project
  • Host (at least) weekly check-in meetings
  • Book a longer 30-day check-in
  • Set performance goals with them for the first three months

 

First three months

This three-month period is all about guiding the new employee as they take on projects and settle in.

  • Host check-in meetings as per your standard check-in schedule (typically bi-weekly)
  • Book a longer three-month check-in to review their performance goal progress, give them their first performance review, and answer questions
  • Send a survey about their onboarding experience

 

Moving forward (continued support and development)

Complete the following tasks and activities on an ongoing basis after the three-month mark. From this point onward, tasks bolster on employee engagement, development, and performance.

  • Host ongoing check-in meetings and discuss their career progression goals
  • Build a career progression plan that outlines how and when they can get promoted
  • Schedule training sessions that focus on skill development

How is onboarding new remote employees different from traditional onboarding?

Whether remote or in person, the goals of an onboarding program are the same. By the end of the process, you want the new hire to feel welcomed to the team, excited about joining the company, and confident in their role.

Both remote and on-site hiring managers have to guide new employees through unfamiliar tech and processes—but remote hiring managers (and their teams) have to do it all through a screen.

Remote onboarding challenges

When onboarding and training remote employees, you have to rely heavily on technology and coordinate with a global workforce, which isn’t easy. Common remote onboarding challenges include:

  • Making connections: With no physical office space (or lunch table to gather around), new employees will need more time to feel comfortable with their remote team members
  • Timezone coordination: When scheduling introduction meetings and training sessions with multiple globally-dispersed employees, you have to work with the time differences
  • Demonstrating culture: Communicating your company values through digital documents and video calls is more complex than experiencing company culture in person
  • Keeping new hires engaged: During a traditional onboarding experience, new hires physically interact with their new office space and coworkers, which naturally keeps them engaged and involved in the process
  • Equipment distribution: Your IT onboarding team has to source, ship, and help new employees set up valuable equipment, all before their start date
  • Virtual communication: If a new hire experiences poor internet connection, lagging videos, or other technical issues, they’ll have a frustrating remote onboarding experience

Remote employee onboarding benefits

Remote onboarding isn’t reserved for hiring globally dispersed teams. Localized teams can reap the benefits, too, including:

  • Higher productivity levels: If you need to onboard new team members quickly, the virtual approach works best—remote workers can be 25% more productive than their on-site counterparts
  • Convenience: Remote employees don’t have to worry about getting to work on time or finding their new office
  • Cost savings: Virtual onboarding means less money spent on hosting in-person events (where costs include travel, venue rental fees, accommodations, printed materials, and more)
  • Flexible scheduling: New hires can lead themselves through their training at their own pace
  • Simplified HR: If you use a cloud-based HR platform, you can create, share, and store the new hire’s offer letter, contract, payroll documents, and more, all in one place
  • Meet the whole team: During onboarding, new hires can use video conferencing and communication tools like Slack, Zoom, or Google Meet to get to know any of their team members, regardless of their physical location

Learn more about the benefits of remote work.

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10 best practices for onboarding remote employees

The best remote onboarding experiences fit the new hire’s unique role and the company’s unique culture. Here are ten actions to elevate your remote employee onboarding for your team.

1. Consult your People teams

Danica’s tip: Book a consultation with your Knowledge and Learning, People Operations, and Onboarding teams before onboarding your first new employee.

In your meetings, discuss topics like:

  • When the virtual onboarding should take place
  • What tasks need to be completed before, during, and after the onboarding process
  • What role-specific training the remote employee will need
  • What other team members will be involved


2. Welcome new hires to the team ahead of time

Help your new hire feel like a part of the team before their first day. Some companies send their
new hires physical welcome packages with their printed employee handbook and swag like stickers, mugs, and sweaters. Since international shipping can get pricey and time-consuming, you can send them a digital welcome package instead.

In your digital welcome package (which could be as simple as an email), include:

  • A personalized message welcoming them to the team
  • A link to your employee handbook
  • Your company’s social media handles (which will ideally give them a glimpse into your culture and keep them up-to-speed)
  • An invitation to a casual video call with their soon-to-be peers (limit it to their immediate team to avoid overwhelm)
  • A digital org chart so they can familiarize themselves with the company structure

3. Give new employees early access to their tech stack (with tutorials)

The week before a new hire joins the team, create their work email address. Then, invite that email address to join all of the platforms and tools they’ll use.

Include a link to a video tutorial for each platform, program, or tool, so they know where to start. Ideally, someone on their immediate team will lead this, demonstrating how the new hire will use the tool for their specific role.

 

4. Schedule waterfall check-in meetings

A waterfall check-in schedule is front-loaded with meetings between the new hire and their manager. As each week passes, there are fewer meetings scheduled. The number of meetings gradually peters off until you reach your standard check-in schedule.

  • Week one: Daily check-ins
  • Week two: Three check-ins (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
  • Week three: Two check-ins (Tuesday, Thursday)
  • Week four: One check-in (Scheduled on the same day as your standard bi-weekly check-in)
  • Onward: Bi-weekly check-ins


5. Have other team members lead training sessions and introduction meetings

Danica has led Deel’s onboarding process for several hundred people (and counting), but she doesn’t do it alone. “The best thing you can do for onboarding is connect it with everyone and not work on it in isolation,” she said. 

At Deel, candidates meet several team members before their start date, including hiring staff, direct managers, and leadership. Then, during their first few days at Deel, they meet more People team members, receive training from team members, and meet other new hires in their onboarding cohort.

All of this, according to Danica, helps new hire find their place in the company.

6. Share a personalized onboarding plan

Provide new hires with an onboarding plan that lists the tasks, role-specific training, and meetings scheduled for each day of the process. You can follow the 30/60/90 day framework if it aligns with your team’s workflow.

At Deel, we use the productivity software Notion to build and share collaborative onboarding plans. Inside, new hires can find information like:

  • An interactive, day-by-day onboarding checklist for their first four weeks
  • Links to general onboarding documents
  • Role-related resources
  • Names and titles of coworkers they’ll be working with

7. Survey your current employees about their onboarding experience

“Ask your current hires for feedback on how to improve the onboarding,” recommends Danica.

Approximately three months after an employee joins the company, send them a survey or interview them about their experience over a video call. If you send a written survey, combine sliding scales, multiple-choice questions, and comment sections to simplify the feedback process.

Ask open-ended questions, like:

  • How did you feel about the length of your onboarding experience?
  • Who did you interact with during the process? How was your experience with them?
  • What topics or processes would you have liked more information or training on?
  • During which phase of onboarding did you feel the most excited?
  • When did you feel frustrated or alone?
  • What steps of the onboarding process went the best?
  • What steps of the onboarding process can we improve?

The beauty of remote onboarding is that the process is malleable. If you want to revise your onboarding documents or welcome package, editing a PDF or email is easy. If you’re going to digitize your processes, various online HR tools and onboarding software can help.

8. Mix self-led learning with social events and interactive activities

Virtual onboarding can feel lonely (and dull) for new remote workers. In addition to self-led learning, consider expanding your plan with these activities and media:

  • Videos produced by your company (explainers, client interviews, product tutorials)
  • Audio interviews of the founder, or podcasts about the industry, perfect for a mid-day walk or screentime break
  • Have them create an intro video, answer a personalized quiz that you share with the team, or create a mood board that represents who they are


9. Use video calls and the buddy system to introduce new hires

At Deel, every new hire is partnered with another newbie so that they can learn and grow together. They also get partnered with a more senior employee who can provide guidance and company insights.

If possible, onboard remote employees in groups (or cohorts) so they have a built-in support system and people they can contact if they have questions or just want to socialize outside of their immediate team.

Give new hires the opportunity and support system to make connections naturally, too. Instruct your employees to use Slack channels, Zoom, or another remote tool to foster collaboration and promote communication throughout the company.

Schedule one-to-one video calls or phone calls between the new hires and other immediate team members. Then, branch out and have them schedule their own meetings with extended team members from different departments.


10. Talk about your company culture and set clear expectations

“Make sure you are explaining culture, proper communication, and expected behavior as much as you are explaining tools and procedures,” says Danica.

If you don’t set a clear and international onboarding schedule, technical training and paperwork can monopolize a new hire’s experience. Communicate your workplace culture, communication, and behavior expectations verbally or through written documentation. Then, take it a step further by actively demonstrating those expectations throughout the onboarding process.

Demonstrate culture wherever possible. If your culture is social, schedule introduction calls, happy hours, or lunch-and-learns with new hires and employees from across departments.

Demonstrate communication style, too. If your team solves problems and communicates over Slack (instead of email or video meetings), initiate conversations on the app and redirect new hires if they send an email or request a call with you incorrectly.

Last, demonstrate expected behaviors. If you expect a new employee to be online and available for specific hours each day, do the same. Update your Slack status regularly to make expectations clear.

Frequently asked questions about remote onboarding

Before you start onboarding remote employees, check out these frequently asked questions:

Is onboarding the same thing as orientation or training?

Onboarding refers to the overarching experience of a new employee joining a company and includes orientation and training.

Orientation is one session in the onboarding process, where new hires are welcomed to the team and walked through the company’s mission and background. Orientation will also cover what to expect during general onboarding.

Training refers to specific courses or modules dedicated to the new hire’s learning and development. Training could focus on behaviors, tools, products, or compliance and security.

How long should remote onboarding take?

Onboarding can take anywhere from three weeks to three months, on average. There’s no right or wrong answer here, though. The length of your remote employee onboarding will depend on the complexity of the role, your timeline, and the size of your company.

What does a new employee need to do before they start working from home?

Before an employee starts working from home, they should gather the documentation required for the onboarding process, like their social insurance number, valid government ID, or direct deposit information for payroll.

Most remote roles also require a strong internet connection, so new employees may have to upgrade their internet package. (Run an “internet speed test” online to determine your internet’s download speed.)

Build your remote workforce, and let us handle international payroll and compliance

Remote employee onboarding is an involved process—and one that has to be done well if you want to keep your new hire around for more than 45 days.

It’s a lot, but at least you can hand the technical elements over to us. With Deel, you don’t have to worry about gathering tax information from your new employees or generating their employment contracts. The entire employment process gets handled by remote hiring experts, so you can focus on building your best business.

Read more about how Deel works or book a demo to see how we can help you and your team grow.

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