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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. 

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 will cover:

What is remote onboarding?

We can define remote onboarding as the process by which an employee or a customer is onboarded to a new company.

For our purposes, we’re going to look at employee onboarding specifically. Regardless of where your new hire is, your remote onboarding process should work the same.

good employee 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 

The benefits of remote onboarding are really no different from the benefits of onboarding in person. Remote onboarding 

  • Boosts employee retention
  • Saves time and money by getting rid of the need to use on-the-job training
  • Reduces stress for the new hire and their peers
  • Keeps things organized
  • Provides the new hire with all the necessary tools to be successful in their role
  • Encourages the new hire to share feedback and ideas, making them feel valued

You can even automate remote onboarding when you use software, so you can have all the benefits of remote onboarding while doing less work. That’s pretty amazing, so don’t miss out!

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.

Probably the biggest challenge when setting up a remote onboarding process is finding the right balance between making sure everything is clear without bombarding the new hire with information. Too little information and the new hire doesn’t know what to do. Too much information and the new hire feels overwhelmed and important points fall through the cracks.

You should be giving the new hires all the information as they need it. They don’t need to know how to turn in a project on their first day; they just need to know things like logins and information on how to complete their first couple of tasks.

The best way to stagger the delivery of information and keep it all organized is by using a workflow. It will make it easy for the new hires to understand what they need to do now and what’s coming next. As they check off tasks in their onboarding workflow, they gradually learn more information without becoming overwhelmed.

You need to invest in your onboarding process because, in the long run, it will cost you less than replacing talent. One of the biggest things to invest in is workflow software so you can achieve the level of organization necessary for successful remote onboarding.

And look, I’m not just trying to sell you on our workflow software (though it is pretty great ngl). We’ve reviewed tons of workflow software before, so read about it, shop around, and choose the best one for your organization.

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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