Remote Onboarding Checklist [free tool]
Updated: Mar 11
If you’re an organization that has recently hired a remote employee, you may be wondering how to get them up to speed quickly and avoid messy handoffs. You want to be able to trust that they can handle everything on their own, without having to be micromanaged and without getting frustrated. This guide will walk you through the common challenges and best practices around remote onboarding, and leave you with checklists and tools that you can use to hit the ground running.
Hard facts and soft skills
74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work after Covid. By 2022, 90% of agile development teams will include being distributed as part of their business continuity planning.
Remote work is here to stay.
Whether this has been your status quo for some time or if you’re adjusting to the new normal – nailing the remote onboarding experience is a must if you want to keep your efficiency up. Well-planned onboarding documentation should take the form of a to-do list, so that it can be easily adapted and digitally implemented.
In their recent employee playbook for ‘distributed work’ Google set out several healthy guidelines for how to keep things as consistent as possible even while teams are dispersed. Note how many of these focus on emotional intelligence – making well-being a priority, recognizing teammates, and setting regular check-ins.
Challenges of remote onboarding
Even in the best of times, a great onboarding experience is a delicate process. You’re ushering new colleagues through an avalanche of paperwork and protocols, equipping them with the necessary hardware and software – all while trying to communicate “Hey! We’re so excited to have you with us – you made a great decision to be here.” It’s a fine balance between bureaucracy and sensitivity, but one which pays off in the long run.
Research by Glassdoor found that organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent.
These challenges are compounded when your workforce is dispersed by office, location, and even time zone. This, combined with the following challenges, can quickly result in a lack of engagement. Here are some of the ways in which remote onboarding is challenging for employees and companies:
Onboarding is boring – The onboarding experience is often monotonous and therefore seen as just another box to check. But if your employees aren’t engaged enough to read your training materials on day 1, it doesn’t set a high bar for the future. There’s a good chance they’ll make mistakes, and it’s just not a fun way to start the relationship.
Remote work is isolating – For those of us accustomed to working among colleagues in a bustling office, remote work can feel downright lonely at first. Perhaps it’s the camaraderie and social atmosphere, or maybe it’s the ability to tap your colleague on the shoulder and ask them how to file those TPS reports. Either way, team members who feel isolated are less likely to reach out and ask for help, and less likely to stick around. According to Digitate, employees who had a negative onboarding experience are twice as likely to look for other career opportunities in the future.
Weak company culture – First impressions count for a lot, and those early days in a new job are absolutely key to creating an employee bond with both teammates and company. But certain rituals such as connecting over a team lunch or getting a tour of the offices are impossible to replicate in a remote format. If steps aren’t taken to fill this emotional void, it can result in new hires feeling unloved and unsure about their decision to work at your company.
Information overload – Many new employees speak of an avalanche of training materials, and there is only so much information one can absorb at a time, especially on screen. Companies in the age of remote work must find creative solutions that let employees onboard at their own pace — but with accountability so that you and your HR department know they’ve completed their training.
Out of sight, out of mind – Even managers with the best intentions are often overloaded with their own tasks, and sometimes things slip through the cracks. It’s easy to overlook things like facilitating introductions to teammates or the health and safety of employees when they work from home. For these things, you need an onboarding checklist.
Soft skills – A warm welcome is just the first of many touch points that tell an employee you care. It’s crucial to signal to new hires that these lines of communication are open, and they also allow you to check-in and see how they’re adjusting to the new role. Scheduling these periodic check-ins was always important, although more informal management styles allowed for ad-hoc monitoring to happen spontaneously around the office. In the age of remote work, a calendar for check-ins necessary to keep both employee and manager accountable.
Software – Logins, licenses, VPNs and permissions. Time to get up to speed on shared tools such as company email, group messaging tools, video conferencing software and web phone applications. But digital onboarding can feel overwhelming, not to mention time-consuming. A well-planned onboarding process keeps all the steps clearly laid out in an accessible location.
Hardware – Just because employees are working from home, doesn’t mean companies should cut corners on hardware. In fact, remote workers require more help on the part of the employer to ensure that their new workers have a fully functioning workstation up and running before their first day. That means everything from a new computer to a chair that will be comfortable to work in for hours at a time.
Remote Onboarding Checklist
Remote employee onboarding doesn’t have to be difficult if you document the process ahead of time and make sure to earmark some personal touches. With the right framework, you can beat these challenges and come away with an onboarding experience that is more efficient than the in-person training of the past. Here are a few tips for a smooth onboarding.
Before day 1
Create post-offer touch-points – As soon as a new hire has accepted a job offer, be sure to have his or her direct manager reach out with a congratulatory text or email. As this relationship will be the most important, it’s important to start things off on the right foot by sending a warm note, signaling an open line of communication and alleviating any doubts he or she might have around asking questions.
Order hardware – To ensure that new employees are ready to work on day 1, make sure a home delivery has been arranged for a computer and any other necessary hardware that might be necessary for a remote employee:
Keyboard / trackpad / mouse
Share company swag – A big part of company culture is making sure employees feel included and know that your company is a fun place to work. Let them know they’re part of the team with:
Branded merchandise, such as coffee mugs or hoodies
A welcome letter from your CEO to let them know how happy you are to have them on the team
Bonus gifts – Some companies like to go the extra mile and treat new hires or a gift card to a premium gift like a set of noise-canceling headphones. While this may seem indulgent, the return on loyalty with these gestures can be huge, even making their way onto social media.
Send HR paperwork – Perhaps not as fun but equally important, every new hire must sign employee contracts as well as other legal documents to remain compliant with company policy. Save everyone the time and hassle of printing and mailing these paper documents using an e-signature tool such as HelloSign or DocuSign. It’s good for the environment, and it’s more secure.
Set up accounts for main tools – Depending on the nature of the role, there is a whole suite of tools that employees use for day-to-day communication. To name a few, this can include:
Group messaging tools
Video conference software
Training – With the right tools, training new hires in the age of remote work can be streamlined to make things more efficient for both employees and companies alike. It’s all about documenting the process with training materials that can be easily accessed through an internal knowledge base. Your onboarding process should resemble a to-do list with items to be checked off once completed. Break it up into sections so the onboarding feels less monotonous.
Read more about setting up your knowledge management system
Introductions – While this step might vary based on the size of your team, it need not depend on location when employees are working remotely. Assuming that you are all working in the same time zone, set up a team sync where you can introduce new colleagues and ask them to set up personal introductions over the coming days.
Review HR materials and paperwork – Nobody’s favorite, and therefore absolutely mandatory to calendar this in before it gets away from you.
Set up trainings – Remote training presents a host of new challenges, especially for companies that haven’t made it a part of their culture yet. Ensure that you include all necessary information to introduce the new employee to your product or service. Frame it in terms of a story, introducing them to the history and the values of the company. To combat this gap in communication, innovative teams use some of the following tools:
An internal content hub to facilitate the onboarding process
Recorded Zoom trainings to better illustrate the tools
Forums for employees to reach out with questions
Schedule check-ins – Be sure to pencil in some time to formally check-in with new hires towards the end of their first week. This ensures that you’ll have a sense of how they’re adjusting, while also ensuring that the new hire feels looked after.
Introductions – In their first week, new employees should have met with everyone on their immediate team. These calls should include roles and responsibilities, but also include time for personal introductions. Sharing personal interests and professional backgrounds is a great way to build relationships between team members, serving to create a sense of belonging even while teammates are physically distanced.
File-sharing applications and cloud backup software (like Google Drive, Dropbox)
Computer security (how to lock laptops and install anti-virus software)
Password management and data encryption tools to protect devices
Product demo – New employees should be familiarized with the product or service that your company provides. This can take the form of a video call between product experts and any new hires that have joined in this period. Another solution to let your trainees learn the product at their own pace is to house your product training video within an internal knowledge base, which can be referred back to at any time.
1-on-1’s – Set up meetings with new team colleagues and other key members of the company. These meetings could be one-on-one and/or group calls. During their first days, remote employees should meet with:
Their manager and direct reports
Employees from other departments they’ll work closely with
Security training – Most companies hold security orientations for their new employees on a monthly basis, so while basic corporate compliance should be established on day 1, further dos and don’ts can be unpacked in the first month.
First project – Start with a small, manageable task that will require a bit of collaboration across teams, pushing them to discover new paths for acquiring of institutional knowledge as well as meet some of their new colleagues. This gives new employees the opportunity to pick up on other forms of tacit knowledge in context, asking questions they might not feel comfortable raising with their direct supervisor.
Internal Knowledge Base
Every job has a learning curve and training new hires takes time and company resources to implement, especially in the age of remote work. However this new challenge also presents an opportunity to streamline your training process going forward. Costly time spent onboarding can now be drastically reduced with the help of a knowledge management system or ‘knowledge base’ to house your expertise.
This framework ensures that new employees will be ready to add to your team’s overall productivity from day 1 – but it also aligns all employees around shared company information, such as product updates and continued training programs.
If you want to see how an internal content hub can improve your onboarding experience, check our knowledge management system.