Remote onboarding: the do’s and don’ts to get it right

Remote onboarding checklist inside!

Person waving at laptop camera

The remote onboarding process is different from in-person onboarding at an office, both for the new employee joining the team and for the manager who hires them. And HR plays an integral role in helping new remote employees onboard successfully and achieve their full potential.

When employees join an organization from afar, it can be more challenging for them to reach out for help, keep up with the team, and form lasting bonds with their manager and colleagues. They might feel unsure if they’re on the right track, or being recognized for their skills.

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On a manager’s side, it can be tricky to find the balance between being available to new hires and avoiding coming off as a micromanager. They want to show their new team member the ropes, but also form a rapport and earn their trust. And all of this is a lot more challenging through a screen.

So if you’re getting ready to welcome someone into your company virtually, a little extra effort can go a long way. Set new hires up for success with this complete remote onboarding checklist of do’s and don’ts.

Remote onboarding checklist: the do’s and don’ts to get it right

Here’s everything you should do (and not do) to bring a new remote employee into your company the right way.

Preboarding: Preparing for your new team member’s arrival

The preboarding period is usually 2-4 weeks before a new hire’s arrival. This is when you arrange technical things like getting their computer, accounts, and software up and running. It’s also a good time to get the interpersonal side of things organized, like having their new manager schedule team and one-on-one meetings and establishing a buddy for them on the team.

❌ Don’t: Assume preboarding is simply ordering a computer for your new hire.

✅ Do: Take the lead in getting your onboarding team (this might include other HR staff, IT staff, and the employee’s direct manager or close collaborators) aligned and make sure everyone is aware of what they’re accountable for and when. Determine one primary liaison for your new hire to avoid confusion or miscommunications.

❌ Don’t: Leave everything to the last minute. If your new employee is greeted with a half-baked onboarding checklist and a meager “welcome to the team!” Slack message, they might see you as disorganized—or worse, they might feel like an afterthought.

✅ Do: Make a clear list of what needs to get done, and tackle it one task at a time. Ideally you’ll have enough time to spread things out, but if need be, use your delegation skills and ask for help.

Onboarding checklist

❌ Don’t: Send your new hire multiple emails leading up to their start date. Whether they’re wrapping up at their previous job or taking some time off between gigs, you don’t want them to feel overwhelmed before they even start.

✅ Do: Send a clear, concise email outlining what they need to do ahead of day one, like creating their new email account, picking up their laptop, or downloading your video conferencing software of choice.

Onboarding: Integrating a new employee into the team

Depending on the role, the industry, and the new hire’s level of seniority, a full onboarding plan can take anywhere from 3-6 months. This is the time when a new employee starts to understand the business, the goals, their team, and their role in all of it. It’s also when they start to assume their tasks and responsibilities, and begin getting to know their colleagues. An employee’s onboarding is one of the top factors in whether they achieve their full potential at your business.

❌ Don’t: Expect them to be an expert on day one. Technological barriers and not being able to turn to you for help can slow down the learning curve, and that’s normal and okay.

✅ Do: Give your new employee time to adjust. Encourage them to ask for help when they need it, and encourage their manager to take the extra time to share screen recordings, talk them through things, or jump on a call when needed. And, schedule your own check-ins with the new employee to ask about their experience.

Video introductions on screen

❌ Don’t: Assume your new hire is building team relationships on their own. Forming those bonds comes easier to some than others, and the barrier of a screen can make it more challenging.

✅ Do: Arrange team building activities and make space for virtual relationship building. Plan a game during work hours for your new hire to get to know the team, or start a Friday Slack thread where everyone shares their weekend plans.

❌ Don’t: Pile on the work too quickly. It’s normal for people to take a little longer as they ease in, and when people are working from home, it’s harder to notice if they’re working overtime or eating lunch at their desk.

✅ Do: Slowly build up the new employee’s tasks, and check in regularly to see how they’re managing. Pay attention to how they’re meeting deadlines and whether the quality of their work is improving, or diminishing (this could be a sign of a too-heavy workload).

Training: Building up your new hire’s skill set

Training is a part of most employee onboarding plans, and is a good idea for remote onboarding too. These are the skills and strengths based onboarding activities that help an employee learn to perform new tasks or get comfortable with new tools.

❌ Don’t: Assume it’s up to you to plan a person’s full training. Especially if your new employee is in a different field or area of expertise than you, you might not be the right person to find the best training for them.

✅ Do: Reach out to someone who’s in a similar role to the new hire and ask for their input. Better yet, ask your employee what kind of training they think they need to succeed in their role.

❌ Don’t: Only give skills-based training to new employees. Or if they’re already an expert in their field, give them no training at all.

✅ Do: Give training on the tools your team uses, how you plan and prioritize your work, what your remote communication practices are, how you track your core metrics, or other team- and company-specific knowledge.

❌ Don’t: Expect your employee to do training in their time outside of work, or on their own. It can be draining and lonely to watch a series of training videos from home.

✅ Do: Schedule (or ask your employee to schedule) training into their calendar, to make sure they have enough time for training, tasks, meetings, and breaks. Set them up with a cohort of other onboarders to do their training together, if you can. Make it interactive with quizzes or a live Q&A session.

Rituals: Creating a rhythm for your employee

Remote work can be great for the flexibility it brings, but it can also make keeping up with priorities and project statuses a little more challenging. That’s why creating rituals for your new hire to stay aligned with their manager and their new team is essential. Onboarding is the perfect time to introduce established rituals and create new ones to help a new employee find their rhythm and integrate into their role.

❌ Don’t: Fill their calendar with meetings, check-ins, syncs, virtual coffees, social events, and more. Zoom fatigue is real, and every remote employee shapes their day differently.

✅ Do: Book a few key meetings like a daily check-in for their first week, and weekly one-on-ones after that. Ask when they want to schedule recurring meetings, and give them a list of people you suggest they connect with, whether on a call or through a message.

❌ Don’t: Expect your new employee to fall right into the vibe your team set prior to their arrival. It can make people feel even more like “the new person” when they get added into long-standing events and traditions after the fact.

✅ Do: Share your current ways of doing things with them, and ask for their feedback. Once they’ve had a chance to settle in, have a team meeting to talk about things like core work hours, recurring meetings, and communication practices to reset the standard.

❌ Don’t: Forget to give your new hire a rundown of the performance review cycle, compensation structure, career planning approach, and goal-setting practices.

✅ Do: Book a dedicated time to discuss and map out a 3-month, 6-month, and 1-year growth plan with your new employee. Take this opportunity to walk them through how performance is evaluated, when compensation is adjusted, how goals are tracked and measured, etc. Check in with them regularly to make sure they’re still motivated and on track, and be sure to answer any questions they have.

Proper onboarding sets new remote employees up for success

When your new employees are effectively onboarded and given the tools, resources, and support they need, they’ll quickly assume their role and become an invaluable member of your team. Remote onboarding can be just as great of an experience (and even better) as in-person onboarding, with a little creative planning and a bit of extra care. Use this checklist to set each of your new hires up for success from day one.

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

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