How to onboard remote employees effectively?

As the latest reports suggest, the new work order is here to stay. It’s the way we adapt that’s gonna make it or break it for еach company. Therefore, it is highly likely that organizations will continue their remote work transformation beyond the pandemic. Taking care of a remote team is an art of its own. We have to keep in mind that remote workers face different challenges and have different needs. And that includes onboarding. For those used to a face-to-face work environment, hiring new employees remotely might come with plenty of difficulties. More and more employees are requiring flexibility and remote work schedules. 

In this article, we are looking at a list of suggestions on how to stay on top of your onboarding game in a remote world. 

Change your mindset

Before we continue with anything more concrete, we have to let go of past models and begin on a clean sleight. Onboarding remote teams is nothing like doing it for in-office employees. Reimagining your onboarding process through a remote-first attitude is essential.

Put yourself in the shoes of your new hires. How would you feel on the first day of your new remote job? Sure, having previous experience with remote working will probably give you some peace of mind. However, you still wouldn’t know exactly what to expect from your new employer. You are not familiar with the culture. You would still need time to understand the processes and would want to know exactly what is expected of you. Traditional in-office communication usually gives us these answers through spontaneous interactions with our colleagues. As we all know – that’s no longer there. Therefore, this has to be approached with a “how would I feel if I was in this situation” mindset. 

A strong start

It’s crucial to get off to a reassuring, well-structured, and inspiring start. That sets the tone for how professional your company actually operates. And let’s be honest. First impressions are key. In a working environment, they give a clear indication of how well you are expected to deliver. If you require precision, attention to detail, and a strong sense of dedication from your new hires it’s only natural that you provide them with the same. They will surely feed off of a seamless, energetic, and detailed onboarding. 

Poor onboarding can have long-term consequences. That includes lack of motivation, lower productivity, and a shorter commitment. It also affects the individual’s confidence throughout their time at the company. 

Optimize your existing onboarding process

It’s a great time to reassess your onboarding strategy and resources. If you feel like any existing onboarding handbooks are good enough and worth keeping – great! However, it is still necessary to consider reimaging them with more remote work policies. Here are a few key points worth going through: 

  • Are you happy with how well your current onboarding process works? 
  • Is your remote employee handbook digitally friendly and easy to read? 
  • What are your current employees saying about your onboarding process? What was useful and what could be improved? Seek honest feedback.  
  • What’s no longer there in a remote setting that was very important in a traditional in-office onboarding? How can you replace it virtually? 
  • Does your company culture come across clearly? Is it any different from what it was before remote work became the norm?
  • Is this onboarding experience immersive enough? 
  • Are you using technology to its full advantage? 
  • Have you invested in the right onboarding tools? 

Make sure to get familiar with some great examples of handbooks created by organizations that took the remote work road long before yours.

When it comes to the more mundane aspects of onboarding like storing and signing important documents, contracts, HR, payments, managing time off, etc., here at Motion Software we are fortunate enough to be using our very own all-in-one remote work platform Who Is Available. It combines HRM, CRM and ATS capabilities, automating all such processes in a simple and easy to navigate way both on the employee’s and employer’s end.  

Be upfront about potential remote work challenges

Have a conversation with newcomers about your vision of remote work. Being in the early stages of this mass transition, different companies can have a different interpretation of remote policies. People with previous remote work experience might already have an established working style. That’s why you have to address what’s important to you. Go through potential issues that you would want to avoid. Those could include: 

  • Ineffective communication
  • Burnout
  • Lack of productivity
  • Ineffective trainings
  • Getting your company policies across
  • Scheduling difficulties
  • Lack of personal connection and nonverbal cues in conversations
  • Lack of community spirit

Make sure that managers communicate the desired remote work style and preferences clearly with both new and existing employees. It’s extremely important to have somebody always be present and available to answer potential questions and constantly give feedback in the first few weeks. Every new employee needs that type of reassurance. 

Set clear expectations

In a virtual environment, setting boundaries between work and one’s personal life is hard. You will most definitely get acquainted with both ends of the spectrum – having some of your employees not working enough and those who find it hard to unplug properly. That’s why it is vital to clarify your expectations as early as possible. Talk about schedules, productivity, workload, so that new employees can have a very clear idea of your vision. Be as specific as possible. Those few questions might help you with that: 

  • Are there any specific hours that your employees need to be online? 
  • What are the communication channels that will be used? 
  • Are daily or weekly meetings the better fit for each particular team or team member? 
  • Are you communicating tasks and deadlines clearly? 

You will most likely be onboarding your new hires through training videos and video calls. Make sure to also cover topics like wellness and work-life balance. 

Setting clear responsibilities, especially when it comes to the new employee’s first tasks is necessary as it creates a strong foundation for future success. Having their first achievements happen early on would immediately give them a strong boost that is much needed during one’s first steps at a new organization. 

Talk about company culture

How would one know if they fit in if they’re not aware of the core values of your organization? Take the time to make sure your new hire is familiar with the story of your company.

  • How did it all start? 
  • What has your journey been so far?
  • Be honest about your failures and achievements.
  • And most importantly, talk about your values and mission. 

This is the base that every person needs on their path to become a valuable member of a new community.  

Explaining how one’s work affects the broader company mission, vision and goals creates a sense of understanding and true meaning behind the work. To achieve that, newcomers should be familiar with the company’s larger goals. Ideally, managers would take time to explain that, so that each team member understands how their work fits into the whole.

On a more particular level, you will also need to provide clear guidelines on: 

  • Virtual etiquette
  • Working hours
  • Communication norms
  • Level of formality
  • How work gets done
  • Dress code

Allow enough space and time for your new team member to ask questions. 

Help newcomers feel connected

You can initiate this connection even before the “official” onboarding process has begun by sending a small company gift, care package or branded merch. In the new world of work, we need to go beyond the administrative and technical setup which is what traditional onboarding used to look like.  

Help new team members feel connected and engaged. In a remote setting, those opportunities need to be created as they won’t just happen. You will need to fight the lack of spontaneity and lack of in-office small talk opportunities that usually are the foundation of establishing long-lasting relationships. That includes actively initiating meeting key stakeholders, communication with colleagues, and diving deeper into the work culture. Help newcomers build a larger network. For example, inviting them to less relevant meetings sounds odd but can help establish a broader and more meaningful connection to the whole organization. For more ideas on how to approach this, you can check Pumple’s extensive guide

Recreate the office virtually

Some remote workers are already starting to realize that they miss the little things – the authentic in-office interactions between colleagues. You can no longer accidentally stumble upon a colleague while making coffee. Your smoke break is no longer the most social part of the day. How about finding a way to recreate those instances virtually? 

For example, you can consider hosting virtual lunches and coffee breaks. Here at Motion Software, we have our regular coffee roulette chats which are always so much fun! This way you always get to “stumble upon” a different colleague. That’s how new hires can gradually get to know more of their peers. This is important not just for newcomers but for everybody at the company. This way we get to know each other beyond our CV and work duties. 

Assign a mentor 

In the world of remote work, you can’t just spontaneously ask questions as they come because your colleagues are not around. Having a real guide through a new journey smoothens each employee’s first few months. People often feel uncomfortable asking questions, especially in the early days of their new job and especially when working remotely. Knowing that there is a person who’s been specifically assigned to help out with any questions removes any feeling of embarrassment and allows for a quicker and more effective onboarding process. The mentor can also provide their new colleague with daily feedback on both work tasks and company culture, so that they can quickly feel like a full-fledged member of their new team. 

Reach out to new hires regularly

What differentiates poor onboarding from successful onboarding is that it doesn’t end after the first week or so. Once you’ve achieved a strong start,  you have to keep the momentum going. Consider creating an ongoing program that includes continuous onboarding throughout each step of the employee’s journey. After the first few months, you can focus on the individual’s professional relationships across the company and talk about their performance. 

Allow fun to be part of the onboarding process

Don’t make it all dull and robotic. It’s enough that we are doing this virtually. Try to mix things up a bit and strike a balance between formal and informal onboarding settings. You want your employees to feel comfortable, so that they can easily communicate without restraining themselves. Allow time for fun, games, and other socializing activities to help them break the ice. Zoom meetings can quickly get tiring and repetitive. Informal video calls, talking about art, or sharing your favorite Spotify playlist can quickly make things more exciting.  

Community matters

Building human connections matters more than ever, now that we see each other in person so rarely. Creating a community requires conscious time and effort but is an invaluable tool to keep your team happy, motivated, and supported. At Motion Software, we do this through a number of in-person activities (when possible, of course) such as team retreats, outdoor escapes, hiking, sea vacations, city breaks, and board game nights.

Telegram Community channels where we share valuable content, upcoming events, or sometimes just fun memes are also a key part of our strategy to stay connected. In fact, creating a whole new channel for newcomers and keeping that strictly informal is also a great idea.

Recently, we’ve also started our own weekly webinars (or Motionars as we call them) covering various tech topics where different team members share their expertise. All of this and more is what creates a sense of belonging in a world where traditional communication is no more. 

Creating a true remote onboarding program is something that’s beyond the current pandemic situation. Companies will likely be using this model for years to come. Making sure that your new specialists feel welcome, valued, well-nurtured, motivated, and inspired from the very start is a recipe for success and longevity. Don’t let it slip away.

You might also want to check out:
How to build a culture of wellness with remote teams?
7 Steps to a better communication in a remote setting


Motion Software starts operating under the name of its parent company Exadel, taking effect on July 15th.

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