How to Onboard Remote Employees

By Sherri Bennett, SPHR & SHRM-CP on Apr 15, 2021
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how to onboard remote employees

The coronavirus pandemic caused an increase in employees working remotely from home like nothing the country had ever experienced. One year later, Reuters predicts that number to more than double from pre-pandemic statistics based on survey results it obtained from Enterprise Technology Research.

The percentage of Americans working at home before the pandemic was 16.4%. By the end of 2021, decision-makers responding to the Enterprise Technology Research study expect remote employees to make up 34.4% of the workforce. This leaves HR departments to face some unique challenges with the onboarding process for remote employees.

Experienced Remote Workers Make a Great Resource

Employees who have already worked from home for a while know better than anyone the challenges of the arrangement. HR managers should ask these employees for input on how to set up training for new remote employees and organize their workflow. Current remote workers can also provide valuable insight into how to improve communication among staff working remotely and those still working from the company’s office.

How tot Engage Remote Workers

Tips for Onboarding Remote Employees

Advanced planning and organization are critical elements of a successful remote onboarding process. Creating a checklist of everything to include in the new employee’s onboarding experience will help both the employee and HR department stay on track with continual progress.

Before the new employee reports for the first day of employment, HR should have already laid out what his or her schedule will look like for the first several weeks. Although this increases the workload for HR, it helps employees feel supported by their new employer. This is especially critical for retention purposes when employees work entirely from home.

Here are some additional tips for remote onboarding from members of the Business Development Council at Forbes Magazine.

  • Stay connected before the employee’s first day of work to help ease any anxiety and validate their decision to join the company. The process of onboarding new employees should start from the moment they accept the job offer.
  • Prepare HR documents and personalize them for the new employee. Documents should include an employee handbook, information about direct deposit of paychecks, an employment contract, confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement, and benefits information tailored to the new employee’s role.
  • Allow the new employee to remotely job shadow a more experienced employee for at least the first week. This person should work in a similar role and express willingness to help a co-worker learn the ropes. HR will need to arrange a video meeting between the two employees and provide technical instructions on how to participate in remote meetings and client sessions. The new employee will also need several ways to reach the mentor in case of questions later.

onboarding vs orientation

Hardware and Software Concerns with Remote Employees

The company should set up all hardware and software before the new employee starts working. Including the new hire in the discussion and decision-making process about hardware and software requirements when possible can expedite the entire process.

Some companies ship these items to the new remote worker while others provide a budget for the employee to select preferred hardware. Discussing any available reimbursement for office furniture at this time is also a good idea. Here is a software onboarding checklist for remote employees.

  • Antivirus software
  • Google Drive
  • Messaging tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack
  • Microsoft Office
  • Project management tools such as Trello, Basecamp, or Asana
  • Time and attendance software
  • Video meeting applications like Google Meet or Zoom

The remote onboarding team will also need to provide software specific to the employee’s position.

How to Handle Video Meetings with Remote Employees

Onboarding for remote employees should include scheduled group and individual meetings. This checklist of contacts should ensure that the new work-at-home employee meets all key individuals within the first few weeks on the job.

  • A representative from HR to go over the employment contract, employee handbook, how to request time off, benefits information, and related topics.
  • Direct manager or supervisor to discuss job expectations and answer additional questions.
  • Each member of their team or department to give the new employee a chance to learn names as soon as possible.
  • IT department representative to assist the new employee with setting up company hardware and software.
  • Other people they may work with or go to with questions.

The employee’s manager or supervisor should schedule these meetings using a calendar system for at least the first several weeks. New hires will appreciate knowing their meeting schedule and not having to work around time zone issues they may not be entirely familiar with yet. Be sure to spread meetings out over several days to provide the new employee with adequate time to absorb all the new information. Managers should also provide the new remote worker with expectations for meeting behavior and dress.

Lastly, sending company gear to the new hire’s home before the first day of work can go a long way in helping him or her feel like an important part of the business. Whether the gear is a t-shirt, baseball hat, or something else, it should promote a feeling of welcomeness by displaying the company logo or slogan.

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