Virtually Onboarding Remote Employees: Best Practices, Tips, and a Helpful Checklist

7 minutes • Aug 25, 2021Onboarding
Onboarding remote employees

The employee onboarding process is one of the best tools your business has to make new hires feel supported, confident, and motivated as they’re ramping up. And if you’re adding remote workers to your team, that goes double. 

In this guide, we’ll go over 16 best practices for migrating your traditional onboarding process to the virtual world and setting your remote employees on the right track from day one. You can also download one of our new employee onboarding checklists to use alongside the tips and insights in this article. Let’s dive in. 

How Is Virtual or Remote Onboarding Different Than On-Site Onboarding?

During onboarding, your newly hired employees get their first taste of what it’s like to work for your company. They’re immersed in the company culture, shaking hands with their managers and coworkers, exploring their new workspace, and learning the ropes. As a result, it’s a huge determining factor for employee success and retention.

In fact, one Glassdoor study showed that a positive onboarding process improves new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.

But when they’re onboarding remotely, your employee may experience day one from their kitchen table or nearby coffee shop. The physical distance and time zone difference can act as barriers to a sense of connectedness and team cohesion. It’s harder for them to feel integrated with the company and invested in their new position. 

In addition, your company may be actively tweaking and testing your remote onboarding process, or even launching it for the first time. Maybe your software trainings aren’t quite smooth yet, or your virtual welcome events could use some work. 

Remote workers also face different day-to-day challenges than their in-person counterparts. According to Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work, they struggle to unplug, collaborate and communicate effectively, and ward off loneliness and distractions.

Struggles of remote work


All of these roadblocks can quickly lead to new hire retention and productivity challenges — but not if you invest in your virtual onboarding workflow!

Best Practices and Tips for Onboarding Remote Employees

Here are the most important measures you can take to make remote onboarding seamless and help your new hires succeed.

Attracting and Recruiting the Right Remote Employees

According to Growmotely, 97% of employees and entrepreneurs want to keep working remotely some part of the time after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. And 74% of professionals expect remote work to become standard. That said, full-time remote work isn’t every employee’s first choice. Follow these tips to make sure candidates are a fit. 

1. Promote Remote Work on the Right Job Boards

You’ll have more luck finding remote-ready candidates on job boards that are geared toward remote, hybrid, and telecommuting positions. FlexJobs, JustRemote, and We Work Remotely are just a few examples of remote-focused job boards where you can post your listings.. 

LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, and other popular job-hunting sites allow candidates to filter open listings to find remote opportunities. So, categorize or tag your posts accordingly! 

2. Make Your Remote Job Descriptions As Transparent As Possible

Today’s workforce expects job descriptions to have crystal-clear responsibilities, salary and benefits, and remote work policies, especially in light of COVID turbulence. Address top-of-mind questions like these: 

  • Is the role fully remote, temporarily remote, or work-from-home flexible? 

  • Can remote employees travel while working? 

  • Do they need to adhere to work hours in a certain timezone? 

  • Will they be required to come into the office or travel periodically? 

If you haven’t already, solidify all of these details in a remote work policy to share with your current and future hires. 

3. Ask Your Team About Possible Recruits From Their Networks

Your current team members can be a goldmine for recruiting new talent. The benefits are endless. For starters, referred employees stick around longer, fill positions faster, and save companies over $7,500 per hire.

We highly recommend asking your staff for recommendations and incentivizing their participation with employee referral bonuses. You can also pull in your current remote team members for feedback on your job description. Does it appeal to them? 

Creating a Pre-Boarding Program to Get Them Hyped 

Welcoming your remote employees starts before day one at your company. A pre-boarding program empowers new hires to hit the ground running and makes them feel like part of the team before they even log into their company email. Check out these helpful pre-boarding steps. 

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4. Outline Workday Logistics and Equipment You’ll Provide

It may sound obvious, but make sure you have any key equipment configured and shipped well before your employee’s start date. In addition, send an email that lets your new remote hires know:

  • What their first day will look like (ideally, outline their first week)

  • Which equipment your company will provide

  • Which equipment they’ll provide 

Another tip? Warm up your welcome by including some company swag, like a nice T-shirt or branded webcam cover. 

5. Provide Clear Role Expectations

One way to start off on the right foot is to set clear expectations with an onboarding plan. It typically outlines the projects they’ll work on, the resources they’ll use, and what they’ll accomplish in their first 30, 60, or 90 days while leaving room for conversation about their professional development goals. 

6. Share Essential Paperwork Before Day One

As we cover in our pre-boarding guide (linked above), no employee wants to spend their first day sitting at their laptop filling out new hire paperwork. By sending essential documents ahead of time, you leave ample time for live introductions, training, and breaks. In other words: Put people before paperwork. 

Officially Onboarding Your Remote Employees

It’s the big day for you and your new remote hire! Here are some key strategies and ideas for their first few weeks. 

7. Schedule a 1:1 With Their Managers and People Ops Team To Start

Put a 1:1 on the calendar to help your new hires get acquainted with your leadership and People Ops teams. This is a great opportunity to answer their initial questions, build rapport and trust, and further clarify the role.

We’ve compiled a list of impactful 1:1 questions and tips for better 1:1 meetings for you. 

8. Assist Them With Their Digital Workspace Setup

If you haven’t already, guide your new remote workers through the steps to set up their profiles and add profile pictures, create and store strong passwords, and take care of other logistical to-dos. 

9. Set Up a Walkthrough of Resource Spaces

Similar to a physical office walkthrough, you’ll want to show your remote workers around their new virtual work environment. Point out where commonly used tools, resources, and information can be found, such as your company org chart, shared folders, and more. Don’t forget any digital communal spaces, such as social Slack channels.

Can remote workers use your office as needed? If so, you could share a brief virtual video tour of the office to help everyone get a understanding of what's available. 

10. Schedule Training for Software Tools

One of the most important parts of remote onboarding? Providing software training sessions that are tailored to a variety of learning styles (visual learners, auditory learners, kinesthetic learners or people who learn by doing). You can cater to all three styles by creating trainings with: 

  • Simple written instructions and links to further reading

  • Screen captures with voiceovers 

  • Short videos, screenshots, or GIFs 

  • Numbered steps and/or quick, easy test projects

Set up sessions for your project management tools, expense management tools, messaging tools, video conferencing tools, and so on. We recommend including a live element, like a walkthrough or Q&A session, so your new hire has a chance to ask questions while talking to a person. 

11. Introduce Employees to Their New Teammates via Video Introductions

Give your remote hires some “face-to-face” time with their new team members. We love the idea of sending remote hires a gift card for a food delivery service so they can enjoy a first day lunch with their team over a video call. 

Opt for fewer meetings with more people in each call rather than tons of one-on-one introductions. Grouping many people into a single meeting helps avoid Zoom fatigue for your new hire. 

12. Create a Shared Space for Peer-to-Peer Questions

This could look like a Slack channel or a shared Google Doc where new hires can jot down questions as they arise and find answers to frequently asked questions. New hires will appreciate having the option to find their own answers or ask their peers rather than wait till their next onboarding touchpoint.  

13. Work in Multiple Virtual Social Events

Team-building is essential, especially for remote employees who can’t bump into coworkers in the hallway or jump in on a water cooler conversation organically. And it’s an indirect way of improving work collaboration between your remote and on-site teams. 

Integrate them into your company’s culture with virtual social events — like game nights, virtual happy hours, and more — spread out throughout the year. 

It’s much easier for new employees to build relationships when they know who’s who ahead of time. Help them put names to faces with interactive tools like an org chart, employee directory, and who’s who quiz using Pingboard. 

14. Introduce Them to and Assign Them to Their Projects

We all know what the first day of a new job feels like. You’re taking in a ton of information and may feel like you’re not making progress on anything. Those early anxieties are amplified for remote workers who are isolated from the hustle and bustle of the company. 

Add some relatively simple projects to their onboarding program so they can apply their skills and grow their confidence early on. Clarify any project goals, deliverable expectations, and deadlines so they can dive in. 

15. Offer Professional Development Opportunities Based on Their Personal Goals

Professional development goals are a huge part of keeping your new hires around for the long term. 

They provide a sense of autonomy and purpose, boost motivation and productivity, and allow them to develop skills that advance their careers and create value for your company. And if you notice signs that your remote employees are becoming unengaged, it’s an effective way to get them invested in their role again.

There are a couple ways to approach professional development as part of your onboarding program. You can include opportunities in their first few weeks, such as preplanned lunch and learns, skill-building courses, or career-focused Q&A sessions.

You can also partner closely with each hire to create a professional development plan that’s tailored to their personal career goals.

16. Check In and Measure Remote Employee Satisfaction

There’s no better measure of a successful remote onboarding experience than feedback directly from your new hires. 

Schedule plenty of meaningful touchpoints during the first few weeks. During these chats, avoid asking closed-ended questions, also known as yes or no questions. For example: “Is everything going alright?” “Do you understand everything we’ve covered?” 

Instead, ask open-ended questions that give employees a chance to compose their thoughts and follow up with questions of their own. For example: “What can I do to make you more comfortable?” “What do you need help with?”

Finally, use employee satisfaction surveys to gauge how employees feel about your program and company, track helpful HR metrics, and uncover actionable insights.

You don’t have to start from scratch: Download our free employee satisfaction templates and build off the example questions there.

Pingboard Helps Make Remote Onboarding a Better Experience for Everyone

Pingboard’s suite of connected workplace solutions offers an onboarding welcome experience that is sure to delight your new remote employees. 

Our software solution plugs into your HR and People Ops teams to deliver effective employee communication, enhance the software tools you already have, and improve visibility across your organization. Try it now with a free 14-day trial.

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