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Remote Onboarding: 5-Steps to Bolster New Hire Retention

Since Covid, the number of companies that have gone fully or partially remote has skyrocketed. With that new trend, HR managers have found themselves needing to adapt to a new way of onboarding, one that feels very foreign to them: Remote onboarding.

And since the onboarding process is so closely linked to employee retention, half-assing remote onboarding isn’t a choice. I know change is hard, but if you resist, you’re gonna lose some awesome talent.

As a company that’s been fully remote since the very start in 2014, we’re experts in remote onboarding, and we want to impart our wisdom to you so you can put together the best process possible for your remote new hires.

In this article, we’ll cover what remote onboarding is, its benefits and challenges, and the best practices to make sure you get it right!

And I even included a free remote onboarding template just for you. 😉

What is remote onboarding?

Remote onboarding refers to the process of welcoming and integrating new employees into a company, without the need for physical proximity or face-to-face interactions.

In today’s digital age, where remote work is becoming increasingly popular, organizations are recognizing the importance of effective onboarding programs for remote teams.

Remote onboarding is designed to provide new hires with all the necessary tools, resources, and information they need to quickly adapt to their new role and become productive members of the team. It involves facilitating a seamless transition into the company’s virtual environment, where employees have the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world.

Unlike traditional onboarding, which typically takes place in a physical office setting, remote onboarding requires a different approach. It leverages various communication technologies, project management tools, and video conferencing software to connect new hires with their managers, colleagues, and necessary resources.

One of the key goals of remote onboarding is to create a sense of belonging and establish a strong company culture, even in a virtual setting. Organizations often use virtual meetings and training sessions to introduce new employees to their company’s values, mission, and core beliefs.

Additionally, providing them with company swag can help foster a sense of pride and identity within the remote workforce.

A well-planned remote onboarding program takes into account the unique needs and challenges of remote employees. It may include pre-boarding activities to familiarize new hires with company processes and expectations before their official start date.

By providing access to benefits portals and career path resources, organizations can ensure that remote employees have the necessary support to thrive in their roles.

good remote onboarding boosts retention

How to onboard remote employees

The process of onboarding remote employees is, thankfully, not that complicated. At least, it doesn’t need to be. We can take all the elements of remote onboarding and break them down into five easy steps. Let’s dive into them:

Step 1: Get the paperwork in order

If you want the onboarding process to go smoothly, don’t skimp on the paperwork.

Really, this should be done before the new hire’s first day. Confirm you have all of their basic information, including:

  • First and last name
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Date of hire
  • Start date

Once you have all the basic information, you can prepare the necessary documents you need to have completed such as:

  • W-4
  • I-9
  • NDA
  • Insurance forms
  • Background check
  • Direct deposit forms

Having all the information and forms squared away means that you can focus more on the new hire on their first day. It also shows the employee that you are organized and generally on top of things, which helps them feel more comfortable as they get started. 

Not getting all the paperwork done before the first day can delay and derail parts of the onboarding process, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure it’s done and done correctly before the start date.

Step 2: Welcome the new employee

Okay, so now it’s your new hire’s first day. It should be made clear to them before Day 1 what they need to do on their first day. This can be done via email, and it’s how I knew what I needed to do on my first day at Process Street.

I was given my onboarding workflow, so I knew what I needed to do before I even had a call with anyone. Workflows are an excellent tool for remote onboarding, but I’ll dive into them a bit later.

That first day is crucial as you want to make a good impression on your employee and make them feel welcome. 

Spending the time to make your new hire feel welcome and setting them up so they understand their first tasks right away will make the best possible first impression. 

Step 3: Give the employee a mentor

Every new hire should get a mentor. It could be someone in their own department or someone in a completely different department. The mentor is there to be a friend to the new hire. They are a great help in getting the new hire adjusted to the company culture and easing any doubts they have overall.

From the jump, you should be scheduling calls between the new hire and their mentor. The calls between them should generally skew to be more casual and social since there will be plenty of time for professionalism as the ball gets rolling. 

Though I was brought on as a content writer, my mentor was a RevOps analyst. We had no overlap in our day-to-day work, but I always looked forward to my weekly 30-minute call with my mentor. We spent very little time talking about work and spent most of it talking about our lives, and it was so nice to have that little bit of social connection. Even though I am now long past onboarding, we still hop on calls here and there just to hang out.

Remember, remote employees get lonely. Giving them a friend and someone to confide in will increase their overall satisfaction with the onboarding process and their job as a whole. 

Step 4: Assign the employee their first project

After about a week, your new hire should be ready for their first project. What that project is and the scope of it is entirely up to you, the employee, and what their role is. 

It’s your job to ensure that the new hire has a complete understanding of what the project is and when it needs to be finished. After the project is completed and approved by the new hire’s manager, it’s a good idea to hop on a call and deliver feedback. Let the employee know what they did well and where they could improve. 

Additionally, make sure to ask the employee for feedback. Were the instructions for the project clear enough? Were they given enough time to complete it? Did everything go smoothly or did they run into bottlenecks? 

Getting the new hire’s feedback is a great way to help you stick to a model of continuous improvement.

Step 5: Establish check-ins

Finally, as the remote onboarding process draws to a close, you need to establish check-in points with the new hire so you can make sure everything continues smoothly as they get adjusted to their new job. 

What these check-ins are and how frequently you do them is entirely up to you. We recommend doing them for at least a month. They can come in the form of a weekly email, bi-weekly call, or whatever works best for your organization. The point is to make sure your new hire never feels abandoned. 

Free remote onboarding template

To help put all of this together, we have a free remote onboarding workflow template, which you can customize in whatever way suits you best.

Take a look at it below!

Show workflow  
Onboarding Remote Employees Checklist
Click here to add this workflow to your free Process Street account.

Benefits of remote onboarding 

Remote onboarding offers several benefits for both employees and organizations. By embracing this virtual approach, companies can tap into a wider talent pool and recruit top talent from anywhere in the world. Here are some key benefits of remote onboarding:

Increased flexibility

Remote onboarding allows new hires to adapt to their new roles in a way that suits their schedules and lifestyles. Whether they are located in a different time zone or need to balance personal responsibilities, remote onboarding provides the flexibility to learn at their own pace.

Cost and time savings

Traditional onboarding often involves travel expenses, such as transportation, accommodation, and meals. By eliminating the need for face-to-face meetings and physical materials, remote onboarding significantly reduces costs for both employees and organizations. Additionally, time spent commuting to and from the office can be saved, giving new hires more time to acclimate to their roles.

Enhanced employee engagement

Remote onboarding programs can be designed to foster a greater sense of engagement and connection among new hires. Virtual meetings and collaboration tools provide opportunities for interaction, enabling employees to build relationships with their colleagues and managers despite the physical distance. This engagement translates into higher job satisfaction, productivity, and retention rates.

Access to resources

With the virtual onboarding process, remote hires have access to a wealth of information and resources at their fingertips. By utilizing project management tools, training sessions, and online documentation, organizations can ensure that employees have everything they need to succeed in their roles. These resources can be easily accessed and revisited, allowing employees to refresh their knowledge as they need it.

Seamless integration

Remote onboarding can help new hires seamlessly integrate into their teams and the company culture. Virtual introductions, team meetings, and buddy systems can be implemented to ensure that new employees feel welcome and supported from day one. By creating a positive and inclusive onboarding experience, organizations can establish a strong foundation for long-term employee satisfaction and loyalty.

better remote onboarding

Challenges of remote onboarding 

Now, just because remote onboarding is full of benefits, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges. 

There’s a lot of pressure to get the remote onboarding process right. The costs associated with losing and replacing top talent range from $30,000-$45,000. So let’s take a look at some of the challenges and how to overcome them.

One major challenge is the lack of face-to-face interaction, which can make it difficult for newcomers to build relationships and establish a sense of connection with their colleagues. This can lead to feelings of isolation and hinder the development of a strong company culture.

Another challenge is the effective communication of information and expectations. Without the luxury of in-person training sessions and informal conversations, remote onboarding relies heavily on communication technology such as video conferencing software and messaging tools.

However, communication challenges may arise, such as technical difficulties, miscommunication, or delays in response time, which can hinder the onboarding process and create frustrations for both the new employee and the team.

Additionally, remote onboarding may lack the same level of structure and guidance as traditional onboarding. Without the physical presence of mentors or supervisors, newcomers may experience a sense of confusion or lack of direction in navigating their roles and understanding company processes.

Furthermore, remote onboarding also requires individuals to navigate a remote work environment, which may present its own set of challenges. This includes being self-disciplined, managing time effectively, and finding ways to create a productive workspace at home.

Tips to avoid remote onboarding mishaps

Remote onboarding can be a challenging process, but with proper planning and execution, you can avoid common mishaps and ensure a smooth transition for new hires. Here are some tips to help you navigate the remote onboarding experience successfully:

Establish clear communication channels

Effective communication is crucial for remote onboarding. Ensure that all communication tools, such as video conferencing software and messaging platforms, are set up and properly functioning before the onboarding process begins. Encourage open lines of communication and provide guidelines on how and when to reach out to team members and supervisors.

Provide comprehensive onboarding materials

Remote new hires may feel overwhelmed and uncertain about their roles. To alleviate this, provide comprehensive onboarding materials that include detailed information about the company, their role, goals, and expectations. This can be in the form of videos, documents, or interactive online modules.

Assign a buddy or mentor

Assigning a buddy or mentor to new hires can help them navigate the remote environment more smoothly. This person can serve as a point of contact for any questions or concerns and provide guidance and support during the onboarding process. This connection can also help combat feelings of isolation.

Schedule regular check-ins and feedback sessions

Regular check-ins and feedback sessions are essential for monitoring the progress of new hires and addressing any concerns or issues that may arise. Schedule virtual meetings or one-on-one sessions to provide guidance, answer questions, and offer constructive feedback. This will help new hires feel supported and connected.

Foster a sense of belonging and inclusion

Working in a remote setting can often lead to feelings of isolation. Take steps to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion by organizing virtual team-building activities, virtual social events, or online forums where employees can connect and engage with each other.

Encouraging participation in company-wide programs or initiatives can also help new hires feel part of the larger remote team.

Provide ongoing training and development opportunities

Remote onboarding should not be limited to just the initial weeks or months. Offer ongoing training and development opportunities to help new hires continually grow and enhance their skills. This can be in the form of virtual training sessions, webinars, or online courses that align with their roles and career aspirations.

Seek feedback from new hires

To continuously improve your remote onboarding process, seek feedback from new hires on their experience. Ask for their suggestions on how to enhance the process or if there are any areas that need improvement. This feedback can provide valuable insights and help shape future onboarding programs.

Remote onboarding tools

When it comes to remote onboarding, having the right tools in place can make all the difference. Here are 10 top tools that work well for remote onboarding.

Process Street

Official website link: Process Street

Description

Process Street is a no-code business process management platform that allows you to streamline processes and improve operational efficiency by creating, automating, and tracking checklists. They make it easy by offering an AI-powered interface that’s as easy to use as telling the software what you want it to do for you. Setting up a remote onboarding process has literally never been easier.

Key features

  • Task assignments
  • Task approvals
  • AI-powered workflows
  • Conditional logic
  • Integrations
  • Automations
  • Data sets

Ideal for

Businesses looking to streamline their approval processes while leveraging the power of AI.

Pricing

Process Street pricing page.

Integrations

  • DocuSign
  • Google Forms
  • Salesforce
  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Google Sheets
  • Jira
  • HubSpot
  • Mailchimp
  • Stripe
  • Greenhouse
  • Zapier
  • Power Automate
  • Airtable
  • BambooHR
  • Hireflix
  • Monday.com
  • Workable

Customer reviews

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Document approvals
  • Task approvals
  • AI-powered workflows
  • Free demo
  • Free trial
  • Tons of integrations

Cons:

  • Pricing details are not available on the home page

Asana

Official website link: Asana

Description

Asana is a project management platform designed to streamline team collaboration and task organization. It empowers teams to work efficiently, communicate effectively, and achieve their goals seamlessly.

Key features

  • Agile methodology
  • Ad hoc reporting
  • Product roadmapping
  • Project workflow
  • Role-based permissions
  • Task management
  • File management
  • Dashboard creation
  • Customizable templates
  • Spreadsheet view
  • Activity tracking

Ideal for

Perfect for project management teams that prefer Agile methodologies.

Pricing

Asana pricing page.

Integrations

  • Zoom
  • Canva
  • Dropbox
  • Salesforce
  • Mailchimp
  • Jira
  • Basecamp
  • Rippling
  • Google Suite
  • Google Calendar
  • Gusto
  • FreshBooks
  • Zendesk Suite
  • Airtable
  • Confluence
  • Miro
  • Jotform
  • Zoho
  • Outlook
  • Hubstaff

Customer reviews

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Has advanced features
  • Can manage multiple projects
  • Lots of integrations

Cons:

  • Some features are hidden behind a paywall

ClickUp

Official website link: ClickUp

Description

ClickUp is an all-in-one project management platform that empowers teams to streamline workflows, communicate effectively, and stay organized. Its user-friendly interface and wide range of integrations make it a go-to solution for seamless collaboration and productivity.

Key features

  • Agile methodology
  • Cost tracking
  • Audit trail
  • Daily reports
  • Gantt view
  • No-code
  • Project planning
  • Product lifecycle management
  • Sprint planning
  • Workflow automation
  • Calendar management
  • Scheduling
  • Lead generation

Ideal for

Great for Agile teams looking to automate product lifecycle management.

Pricing

ClickUp pricing plan.

Integrations

  • Slack
  • Trello
  • Gmail
  • Google Drive
  • Google Workplace
  • Asana
  • Zoom
  • Dropbox
  • Jira
  • GitHub
  • Basecamp
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Zapier
  • Calendly
  • HubSpot
  • Zendesk Suite
  • LiveAgent
  • Jotform
  • Miro
  • Outlook

Customer reviews

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Invite guests for free
  • Powerful features
  • Easy to use
  • Lots of video tutorials

Cons:

  • Customers have complained about the mobile app

Kissflow

Official website link: Kissflow

Description

Kissflow is a business process management software tool that simplifies workflow automation and enables organizations to build custom applications without coding. It allows teams to streamline their processes, optimize efficiency, and drive better productivity across the entire organization.

Key features

  • E-signatures
  • Agile methodology
  • E-verification
  • Single Sign-On
  • Role-based permissions
  • Workflow automation
  • Peer appraisals
  • Project workflows
  • Expense tracking
  • Approval control

Ideal for

Good for Agile business process management.

Pricing

Kissflow pricing plan.

Integrations

  • DocuSign
  • Zapier
  • Salesforce
  • IBM Cloud
  • Formstack
  • Dropbox
  • Google Docs

Customer reviews

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Well-designed interface
  • Good support team

Cons:

  • Many users report poor value for money

SmartSheet

Official website link: Smartsheet

Description

Smartsheet is a versatile and collaborative work management platform that empowers teams to plan, track, automate, and report on work-related tasks and projects. It enables seamless coordination, real-time visibility, and streamlined communication, helping businesses achieve greater efficiency and drive successful outcomes.

Key features

  • Performance dashboard
  • Extensive integrations
  • Project management features
  • Custom automations
  • Digital asset management

Ideal for

Smartsheet is ideal for businesses looking to streamline document approval for projects.

Pricing

Smartsheet pricing page.

Integrations

  • Jira
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack
  • Google Chat
  • DocuSign
  • Miro
  • LucidSpark
  • Zapier
  • Bridge
  • Workato
  • McAfee
  • Salesforce

Customer reviews

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Customizable dashboard
  • Resource tracking
  • Conditional formatting
  • Workflow automation
  • Proofing and approval tools

Cons:

  • Difficult to learn

Remote onboarding best practices

We could go into great detail about the best practices for onboarding, and we have, but let’s narrow the scope down to just remote onboarding. 

  1. Have a plan: If I haven’t made it clear enough yet, you need to be organized. No sloppiness. Have a clear plan for your remote onboarding. If you don’t, how do you ever expect your new hire to know what’s going on?
  2. Use onboarding software: This should come as no surprise. By using remote onboarding software you will be able to map out your plan in a clear and concise way. Parts of it, like collecting the pre-onboarding information and documents, can even be automated to make your life easier. 
  3. Set clear expectations:  Using your well-thought-out plan and fancy new workflow software, setting clear expectations with your new hire should be a breeze. The employee should start with a clear understanding of the company, how onboarding will go, and what is expected of them.
  4. Offer training: While training is generally part of onboarding, sometimes new hires need to spend some extra time in certain areas in order to fully understand everything. Make sure they understand that it’s okay for them to ask for any additional training they need. Or, even better, offer before they ask.
  5. Provide learning resources: Like we already covered, new hires are hit with a lot of information in their first weeks. Make sure that the things they’re learning are easily accessible to them to reference by providing them with digital manuals, web pages, videos, audio, or whatever you have. 

Remote onboarding doesn’t have to be a nightmare. So long as you take the time to put together a process that makes things easy for the new hire, you will be just fine. We believe in you!

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