Remote work is becoming the new normal. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 5 million American employees work from home half the time or more. And in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have shifted to remote workforces.

So. . . if you’re among the companies moving forward with hiring, you’re most likely onboarding new employees virtually.

Onboarding plays an important role in a new hire’s success and retention. Companies with an engaging onboarding program retained 91% of their first-year workers.

What is remote onboarding?

New hires complete several tasks that allow them to meet other employees and management, complete mandatory paperwork, learn about benefits and policies, and receive training about processes. In-person onboarding usually contains some self-driven tasks and can be done remotely. 

But onboarding is more than just filling out paperwork. Part of onboarding is connecting with colleagues, discovering the company culture, and learning about their role. How do you provide onboarding remotely that lets your new hire feel connected?

Good, effective remote onboarding needs to engage your new hires — before their start date. Onboarding should take place over an extended period. Depending on the complexity of the role, onboarding can last from a couple of weeks to over three months.

Research by Partnership for Public Service suggest that companies can increase employee retention by extending onboarding throughout an employee’s entire first year. This helps employees feel comfortable in the workplace, adapt to company culture, become more productive, and build better relationships.

Engage — before their start date

There can be a lag between the offer letter to starting. Be deliberate and intentional about creating an engaging experience for each new hire, even before they officially start working. Help them settle into the organization and build relationships.

You want to make them feel as though they are already part of your company. Onboarding is as much about making them feel comfortable as it is about teaching them the role they were hired for.

  • Have a virtual welcome party
  • Send them SWAG
  • Connect them to their colleagues

Build manager relationship

COVID-19 has changed the way remote workers work. Make sure you communicate schedules and availability. Your new hire may need to keep irregular hours due to COVID-19 circumstances (such as childcare).  

In-person onboarding process often have several hour-long sessions. Adjustments for remote onboarding include shorter video conferencing sessions with lots of breaks.

Quick Wins

Set up your new hires for success by having a plan accomplish certain tasks. And check in frequently so that new hires can ask questions.

  • Develop a clear plan for the new hire’s first 30, 60, and 90 days — and beyond.
  • Set up regular check-ins for giving feedback and praise.
  • Ask colleagues to introduce themselves to new hires to start building relationships — from the beginning.

Keeping new hires engaged

More than half of remote employees say they feel disconnected from in-office employees. And 19% cite loneliness as the biggest challenge of working from home.

Keep your team connected — beyond onboarding.

Schedule fifteen minutes a day or a couple times a week for a standing video chat over coffee. Use the time to catch up or have a question of the day to get the conversation started. Or, offer professional development opportunities during an extended coffee break.

Did you know workplace book clubs can improve communication, and boost employee performance? Pick a book, then plan your virtual discussion dates.

Successfully onboard remote new hires by setting up a deliberate and intentional remote onboarding process.


Remote onboarding checklist resource:


This article shouldn’t be construed as legal advice. If you have detailed questions, they should be addressed directly with your labor and employment attorney.