Your updated go-to checklist for onboarding remote employees

Hiring & Onboarding
Alexandra Cote
July 20, 2021

We’ve all seen way too many remote employee onboarding tips by now. And they all have something in common: they focus on what you should do. 

That’s exactly why there’s a problem. If you only have a checklist of steps you need to cover you’ll stick to this tunnel view and omit early warning signs or issues. That’s why, according to a Gallup study, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their company does onboarding correctly.

So instead, here’s an actionable checklist for onboarding remote employees and staying wary of cues that tell you whether a person is right for your culture and if your current onboarding process needs improvement.

Create an onboarding agenda but leave room for other activities

At Panther, we always have an experienced team member hold an onboarding call with the new teammate first. This lets us set goals, work needs, and expectations straight away. You can use this intro call to customize the onboarding agenda to the new employee and set milestones for every stage of their onboarding journey.

Turn this into a checklist the new hire can go through so they’ll get a visual representation of what’s done and what they still need to cover. Don’t make the schedule too strict though. Allow room for unexpected tasks, meetings, or fun team-building activities they can take part in from day one.

Avoid losing time with all the paperwork

Nobody wants to spend their first day filling out contracts and agreements. When onboarding remote employees, automate the process by having a set stack of documents to edit and send in bulk. You can make the most out of pre-onboarding time by sending the paperwork then. This leaves you with enough time to clarify any contractual points or tweak the remote onboarding process based on the new hire’s feedback.

With Panther, remote employees can self-onboard in minutes, so you can focus on what matters. As soon as you onboard someone, they’ll automatically be given access to our employment platform where they’ll have all the documents and contracts they need to start working.

View of Panther's employee dashboard, with three new employees onboarding the company.
View of Panther's employee dashboard.

Provide all materials in one go

Onboarding remote employees is a much more efficient process when you allow new hires to go through everything in an orderly manner. So if you’ve got a file on the team’s communication policies, make sure you don’t send that PDF describing daily standup meetings two months later.

Having even just a quick look over everything within the first days lets them prepare questions by the time they meet with more teammates. And, that’s it! You’ve scored the perfect recipe for onboarding success just by knowing when to send the learning materials.

Extra tip: Perhaps even more important during the remote onboarding stage is making sure you’re offering enough materials related to your company culture, values, and way of work. You’ll want your new remote employee to first feel safe and confident before jumping into the details of their role.

Don’t let your new remote hire go through onboarding alone

A good remote onboarding buddy is responsible for:

  • Providing more insights and tricks into the work process
  • Making the new hire feel part of the team straight away
  • Connecting new employees with the rest of the team
  • Improving productivity and satisfaction at work
  • Keeping the new hire motivated and boosting self-confidence
  • Helping with handling unexpected issues

Don’t forget to schedule introductory calls with team members they’ll regularly interact with. This ensures they won’t still be meeting new people after half a year and they’ll know exactly who to talk to for a specific inquiry. One-on-one meetings should be a thing as early as the first week. These let you spot any potential struggles or worries a new hire could have.

Along with these calls, coaching opportunities are handy for both junior and mid-level roles when switching from one industry to another or changing work scope. Regular check-ins should also become routine whether you’re holding them via Scrum meetings or a Slack channel discussion.

Don’t assume that onboarding remote employees takes just a couple of weeks

An onboarding process can last up to 12 months which is crazy considering some people change their jobs as early as one year later. But here’s why you’re looking at the remote onboarding process to last at least 2-3 months:

  • In large companies, it’s impossible to meet everyone within your first month.
  • It can take at least three months to get used to what the company’s selling and often they’ll only know the full details years later.
  • Remote work requires more sessions that aren’t work-related to straighten a relationship and build rapport with new colleagues. 
  • It takes more than just a couple of chats to create a sense of belonging.
  • Learning how to use a new tool or get accustomed to a process specific to your company takes time. And that’s fine because you’ve got enough time.
  • You can only avoid information overload by equally distributing learning points and tasks over a longer time frame.

Not to mention you should keep tweaking your remote onboarding process based on the new hire’s feedback and evolution. Three months in and you might realize they’re a better fit for a different project or team — time for new onboarding materials.

Don’t skip vital onboarding stages by having a new team member jump straight into the nitty-gritty of a project. Start with small tasks which gradually introduce a larger workload and more team members.

Finally, always keep in mind what the true goals of onboarding are: 

  • Getting accustomed to a team and its particularities
  • Connecting new remote hires with managers and colleagues they’ll regularly work with
  • Setting the stage for team bonding to happen early on
  • Presenting the company’s values and processes thoroughly

Proper onboarding can increase retention by a whopping 82% and will ensure your new hires keep recommending your company to potential candidates.

Photo by Duncan Meyer on Unsplash