How to set up remote employees for success: Tips for virtual onboarding

Onboarding is more than just completing paperwork and other routine tasks. It is a comprehensive journey that requires human resources and other company stakeholders and can last months.

The unprecedented work-from-home model that occurred globally a few years ago made the onboarding process harder.

In particular, helping remote workers develop relationships with their managers and team members while learning their role in a virtual setting has become overwhelming.

Onboarding ain’t easy!

There are numerous solutions to help organizations create a pleasant onboarding experience. But what do employee onboarding statistics have to say? 

  • Managers are 20% more satisfied with employees who have received formal onboarding training. [GoCo]
  • 37.4% of HR professionals find remote onboarding to be the main challenge when filling a job position [Workable’s New World of Work]
  • Only 12% of US employees say their company does a good job of onboarding [Gallup]
  • One in five employees report poor onboarding or no onboarding at all [Gallup]
  • 47% of companies struggle with onboarding employees due to infrastructure access challenges [2022: The Year of Access Report]
  • Only 43% of employees report that they received an onboarding process that lasted longer than a day [OC Tanner]


Technology platforms will help you structure and deliver seamless training and orientation but don’t show how new hires fit into the culture.

Whether you work for a small company that onboards one employee at a time, or a larger firm that brings in platoons of new hires that go through onboarding together, the following tips can help you make virtual onboarding programs a success. 


Tip #1: Make the connection

Start your virtual onboarding program from day zero when a candidate accepts the job offer.

Many organizations send a care package after candidates accept the job offer. If your company doesn’t have the budget, there are inexpensive ways to stay connected.

Sending a weekly newsletter to keep them in the loop about the company’s social events, policies, and other organization-related news should give them an understanding of its culture.

You could also create snackable, bite-sized onboarding videos to provide new employees insights into the company’s culture, core values, and expectations.

Canva created a 5-minute video for new hires to familiarize them with the office atmosphere, rituals, and events.


Tip #2: Identify and appoint a dedicated buddy

Socialization is an important part of joining a new team. New employees need to make friends and know who to ask for help. Likely, a new employee joining your company today may never have experienced a remote onboarding process and may feel lonely in the virtual environment. 

Even in the office, it’s a good idea to appoint a buddy who can act as an informal mentor, to support a new hire. It is essential that this buddy is different from the person’s manager so that the person can be more comfortable asking any question, no matter how ‘simple-minded’ it may sound. 


Tip #3: Set up tools of trade

Employees need to work with company-issued devices on the go. Some companies send a laptop or a smartphone before the start date, fully set up with the necessary applications and security protocols, for an out-of-the-box experience. 

IT teams have that under control by using an Android mobile device management solution. Offering a session with your IT team to show how the company offers broad access to data and work applications on personally owned devices (without playing Big Brother) can alleviate first-day anxiety.


Tip #4: Think of onboarding as a longer journey

Organizations expect human resources to shorten the runaway for new employees as they want to see contribution and productivity as soon as possible. But that is counter-productive.

With roughly 20% of turnover occurring in the first 45 days of employment, a longer onboarding program can increase long-term employee commitment. 

In a virtual setting, individuals need more time to ramp up in their new role because you can’t rely on the “bump into someone” relationship building that happens at the office.

Try developing network maps to counter the lack of relationship building in an office. New hires can connect with individuals or teams in the network to set up a mix of formal and informal interactions over coffee or lunch.


Tip #5: Set clear expectations

Talented people want to work with you because they see new possibilities promised during the job interview.

You should get the hiring manager to have conversations so the new hire can link their work to the company’s mission, vision, and goals. 

They may also employ tools such as coaching management software to help new hire improve their performance through one-on-one coaching, group training sessions, or mentoring programs.

The reporting manager and new employee should work together to identify key goals for the employee in the early days of employment.

Use a 30-60-90 plan to set responsibilities and measure the outcomes at each milestone. The role may evolve and become complex over the long term, but achieving early wins will set new employees up for future success.


Tip #6: ABC (Always Be Checking)

Loneliness is one of the most common complaints about remote work, especially for new remote workers that may miss the informal social interaction at the office.

This may seem acceptable initially; however, over a longer period, social isolation can cause an employee to lose a “sense of belonging, ” resulting in an intention to leave the company. 

To combat isolation, establish structured daily check-ins. Many managers start their day with one-on-one calls with remote workers. You must ensure that the calls are daily rituals and a platform for employees to share any concerns they may have.


Wrapping Up

Remote work isn’t likely to go away, but the pitfalls of virtual onboarding sure can. You can add more tips to this remote employee onboarding checklist and make it your own.

Remember, every onboarding program is about acquainting new employees with your company’s culture and establishing a social connection, albeit virtual.

Ultimately, the goal for you should be to create a wholesome onboarding journey that engages a scattered and remote workforce. 

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