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4 Tips for Effortlessly Onboarding Your Remote Staff

Published February 24, 2017

Remote staff working

Every new hire should go through a systematic onboarding process. Many companies are opting for virtual employees. However, it can be difficult to connect with and motivate remote workers. Companies should develop an onboarding process geared toward offsite employees. Organizations that fail to effectively onboard remote workers will find them less engaged. With the right communication tools, companies can ensure higher productivity and more accountability.

Why Onboarding is Important

Onboarding is the entire experience of adapting new hires to company roles and expectations. An effective process familiarizes them with the company mission, colleagues, business leaders, and any procedures they must follow. New hires will adjust more quickly to their responsibilities and relationships with coworkers.

A well-planned process ensures that new hires become more comfortable and better prepared to fit into their new company. Inadequate onboarding programs, particularly for remote workers, can result in feelings of alienation and uncertainty, leading to poor performance and lower motivation. In order to build a productive team culture, it’s essential to provide a good experience for remote employees.

Onboarding Remote Employees

When new hires can be introduced in person it’s easier to ask questions and note responses. But virtual employees don’t often get that opportunity. Remote workers are obliged to telecommute using channels like phones or email. They are less in tune with company culture or current information, making it harder to form relationships.

When developing an onboarding program, you should assess each new hire’s responsibilities, personality, and talents. Here are some practices that can improve the onboarding of remote employees.

Connect Face-to-Face

Knowing the face behind the voice is crucial to relationships. Consider bringing the remote worker to headquarters for their first week. When this isn’t possible, video conferencing and screen sharing platforms will have to do. Inviting remote hires to video conference with meetings is a good way to introduce them to their fellow team members. Visual context and being part of processes helps remote workers feel comfortable so they can ask questions and seek personal connections.

Video permits both the new hires and veteran team members to make eye contact and observe body language and facial expressions. These provide intuitive social clues. Including virtual employees whenever possible can allow them a presence without the time and expense of physical travel.

You could also provide a virtual tour. This helps familiarize them with colleagues and the working environment. Having coworkers introduce themselves and offer greetings helps remote employees to feel like part of the team. They form relationships more easily.

Set Clear Expectations

Employment goals should be communicated prior to starting work. Explain your expectations as far as responsibilities, performance, and accountability. Include discussion of company values and team dynamics. Identify the systems and tools they’ll use, orientation projects you’ve planned, and how they can access employee resources.

Preparing new hires as much as possible is key to reducing anxiety. You should also work with them to schedule future meetings. Ensuring that remote workers are well-informed is essential to an effective onboarding process.

Make Them Feel Welcome

Going to work for a company that may be hundreds or thousands of miles away is a big change for workers used to traditional workspaces. It’s important that in-house teams are prepared to share ideas, advice, and experience with their remote colleagues. Remote employees that create personal connections are much more likely to be engaged and productive. The first step is making remote workers feel welcome.

Inform the whole team about the new hire ahead of time, including what their skillsets are and how they fit the team. The whole team should be open to working with the new hire and integrating them into the workflow. Consider providing a mentored relationship with a senior team member for the first few weeks to build a solid connection and bring remote workers up to speed faster.

Evaluate and Refine the Process

When you introduce any business process, you want to assess the value it provides. As the onboarding process takes place, document everything, including evaluation of how employees respond. Determine what works best for both new hires and existing team members. Through experimentation and constructive feedback, you can adapt your onboarding program to achieve better results in the future.

Give virtual workers a period of time to get comfortable, then reach out for their thoughts regarding their onboarding experience. By continually improving the process, you will make it easier for the next remote worker to become an engaged and productive member of the team.

In summary, onboarding a remote employee is more challenging than local hires. Different time zones and cultures may leave them feeling alienated, so it’s important that they be introduced and welcomed as soon as possible. Before they start, be sure virtual workers are informed of their duties and familiar with company culture. If possible bring them to headquarters, but frequent video conferencing will also work.

At times, finding the best talent means looking far afield. People from different cultures and backgrounds can not only bring new talent, but a fresh perspective and new ideas. That’s worth the investment in creating a good onboarding program. If it’s done well, your virtual employees will be happier with their jobs and more likely to be productive in the long term. An onboarding process that’s better for the remote hire is also better for the team and the company.


About the author

Jill Phillips

Jill Phillips is a freelance writer from Buffalo, NY. She is an aspiring entrepreneur and tech enthusiast, who loves to share her insight on various topics. When she is not writing, Jill enjoys taking photos and hiking with her dog. Connect with Jill via Twitter @jillphlps


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