8 Best Practices for Effective Onboarding in Remote Times

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12 minutes
Last updated:
January 14, 2022
Time to read:
12 minutes
Effective onboarding practices with examples and tips to build stronger employee connections during remote times.
As covid vaccines begin to roll out, fully vaccinated employees are partially trickling back into office spaces. “We call it Work From Work Wednesday,” - Keryn Koch, HR at CommonBond.

Just like CommonBond, a lot more organizations are preferring Hybrid models for reasons like: access to global talent, increased productivity, and lower costs. A closer look at Bloomberg’s study just shows that employees too, share a similar preference – 40% of them will change jobs if forced to give up remote work.

Planning a hybrid setup is one thing. But, bringing your whole organization onboard, and to seamlessly implement it – is far more challenging. 

Areas threatened by ineffective hybrid work include culture, health, and productivity

From poor onboarding to feeling isolated and disconnected, organizations are at the risk of losing their talent by delivering a muddled onboarding practice. 

What is supposed to be the ‘best of both worlds’, has resulted in 31% of employees resigning in the first 6 months. Consider this your sign to reimagine your onboarding practices – one that strikes a perfect balance between your new talent and organizational culture. Here are some to get you started:

Onboarding improves retention, productivity, and satisfaction

1. Start with a great pre-boarding experience

Onboarding practices: Preboarding welcome package

If you’re investing so much time and cost in finding the right talent, why not take it a step further and greet them with a welcome package! An essential part of your onboarding practice, a great pre-boarding package helps to make a memorable first impression. 

Here are some things you can include in your company package:

  • Company handbook 
  • WFH equipment 
  • Tech and gadgets 
  • Login details for all accounts
  • Snacks and sweets

Welcoming new hires with a customized kit helps create momentum, excitement, and to some extent, bridges the gap between them and your organisation. It lets them know that this is just the beginning of many other fun activities to come. 

Why you should send a company swag:

  • Strengthens your organization’s culture
  • Reflects your brand voice and ethos
  • Makes new hires feel welcomed and inclusive
  • Builds excitement 

If you’re new at this, read our full guide on sending welcome packages to new hires, to get started! 

Zavvy's template for preboarding employee

2. Give your people a structured experience

Onboarding tip 2: Give people structure

The best of leaders have been there and experienced the new job anxiety. What makes you think your people won’t feel the same? 

New hires are at a vulnerable position when joining an entirely new working environment. And an unstructured onboarding process will only negatively impact their experience – a top reason why 31% of new hires leave their job within six months!

It's a best practice to streamline your entire onboarding by creating new hire checklists, automated reminders to managers and recruits, and have all your documents under one platform. 

This will greatly save your HRs’ from redundant processes, and they will spend less time answering emails that could’ve been an FAQ. Meanwhile, your new hires will gain confidence in their role and begin to take up responsibilities from the get go. 

Ways to deliver a structured onboarding process:

  • Understand their challenges: Who do they need to report to? Do they need any WFH equipment? Do they need external training? Be sure to include answers, and solutions to all the challenges your new hire might face on their first day. 
  • Boost their learning: Assign a boss/manager who can guide the new employee on different tasks and learnings about your organization’s products, customers, technologies, and systems.
  • Include group projects: Try to blend team-building activities and projects during the first weeks of the new hire. Introduce them to your team, and make it clear that everyone is expected to help the new hire climb up the learning curve.
  • Give them direction: Set job-specific expectations like: What do they need to do? How should it be done? How can you motivate them to accomplish a task?
  • Automate where necessary: You want your new hires to spend more time connecting with your team rather than feeling bogged down into piles of paperwork. Automate repetitive processes so they can focus on work that matters.

Find our remote onboarding checklist here to design an onboarding process that works for you, as well as your people! 

3. Deliver actionable information piece-by-piece 

Onboarding tip 3: Make info actionable - and deliver it piece by piece

While it’s important to have a detailed onboarding process, an overload of information can easily get too overwhelming for the new hire. Spread out your content – from company policy to information on your mission and goals – over bite-sized videos, webinars, and fun activities like ’walk and talk’. 

Not only this makes the whole process more engaging, but your new employees will be able to retain critical information in the best way possible. 

Next, ensure that your employees should be able to successfully navigate through each step. Do this by scheduling automated reminders and tasks. It is always a good idea to loop in the designated manager and their team members about the new hire. And always share a list of conversation starters to waive off any first day awkwardness!

Using tools like Slack and Teams helps to efficiently deliver all the content in a timely, and a structured manner. They are easily accessible and scalable, while making it possible for you to track your new hire’s progress. 

Effective ways to deliver company information:

  • Trivias and puzzles
  • Videos using Loom
  • Slack channels
  • 1:1s with managers / buddies

4. Assign onboarding buddies

onboarding buddies

Onboarding remote hires is an exciting and a stressful time for both - the new hire and their manager. While an efficient onboarding practice eases the first day anxiety, it’s always wise to appoint a ‘Buddy’ who can introduce the new hire to your company. 

Knowing they have a personal ally, helps create psychological safety amongst new hires who are working remotely. To further validate this benefit, let’s read Cindy Xinyi Zhang’s personal experience of Pinterest’s onboarding buddy program:

“We held 1:1s every week to discuss project details and Pinterest culture. The Buddy Onboarding Program was planned for 6 weeks, but we decided to keep it going in this new, virtual world. It’s such a relief to know an experienced teammate has my back when I am exploring new territory.”

Some invaluable benefits of having an onboarding buddy:

  • Jumpstarts the networking process
  • Higher retention rate
  • Positive onboarding experience
  • Boosts employee satisfaction and productivity
  • Enhances the knowledge base of buddies 
  • 1:1 assistance for new hires

As important as it is to implement a buddy system, it’s equally crucial to appoint the right buddy. One who strongly understands your organization’s values, and helps instill a sense of pride and loyalty among new hires. 

Download our Onboarding Buddy checklists that help you find the perfect buddy, and design a program that works for you! 

5. Mix things up with blended learning

Blended onboarding

Connecting your people over virtual calls is undeniably hard. But it doesn’t have to be mundane or boring. For this remote onboarding tip, mix up your team calls with fun activities and video conferencing themes like:

  • Live roundtable discussions
  • Show and tell
  • Coffee with colleagues
  • Card games for casual fridays

Using such creative formats fosters a culture of trust, harmony, and transparency in your organization. Especially during remote meetings, when people don’t feel encouraged to take initiatives, or ask questions.

It is always a great way to deepen a new hire’s learning while making it easier to remember. If your employees live in different time zones, it’s better to set a few common windows for real-time communications to avoid any conflicts.

6. Create lasting bonds with virtual events

onboarding event ideas

Employees spend almost 40% of their day working for your organization. This makes  it extremely important for you to create a relaxed working environment – where they can seamlessly collaborate on projects. All the while enjoying what they’re doing. 

Blending virtual events strengthens an employee’s performance, aligns them to your organizational goals, and takes away the anxiety of the new hire. 

Ways to build connection between team members and new hires:

  • Schedule a random 1:1 between a team member and the new hire with lighthearted prompts: What’s your favourite food combination? Which is the most underrated movie? 
  • Arrange 'walk and talk’, coffee rituals, or lunch dates that create a safe space for people to open up. 
  • Host trivia nights, happy hours, Friday after-work games, and more!
“At Humu, we created a Slack channel called #cheersforpeers. Every month, anyone who has been mentioned in the channel or who recognized someone else is eligible for a raffle prize.” Joyce, Head of Content at Humu
Ways to connect remote employees: Coffee dates, firday happy hours, walk and talks, lunch dates, trivia, buddies

This is your space to get creative, drop all the formalities, and create room for fun, casual conversations. Disney, for example, treats new hires as cast members where they engage in fun, trivia games and quizzes to learn more about the company.

Although informal icebreakers like these make a small part of your employee’s routine, they definitely leave a lasting impression. 

7. Collect feedback constantly

Onboarding practices: Collecting feedback

While not solely a best practice for onboarding remote hires, it’s a great way to improvise your existing process. Sometimes, what you may see as the right onboarding practice for your organization, might not translate into the best experience for employees. 

This happens when you fail to communicate and understand the needs of your people. Whether you want to design an effective onboarding program, or improve your current one, always ask questions like:

  • What does an employee’s future look like here?
  • What are their roles/customize and how can you customize it?
  • How is the onboarding content selected?
  • Who will lead the training and for how long?
  • How will the performance be measured?

After you implement your program, the next most important thing you need to do is talk to your new hires. Here are some powerful feedback questions to ask:

  • Was the onboarding process easy to follow?
  • What was the biggest challenge?
  • What can be improved?
  • How was the overall experience?
  • Were you confused at any point? Did it get resolved?
  • Did it clearly communicate role-specific expectations?

Collecting employee feedback will help you give invaluable insights into your existing process and how you can make it better. Send out surveys, schedule automated polls, meeting reminders, and more, to receive feedback. 

8. Create strong product bonds

When onboarding your remote employees, such information easily gets lost in translation. For instance, unstructured processes fail to deliver a complete view of your offering. This leaves your employees to fill in the gaps, and leave a lot on their assumption. To avoid this, you need to keep three best practices in mind

  • Have all product-related information under one platform
  • Assign a manager or a colleague who can solve doubts about your offering
  • Don’t overcomplicate your content

Small steps like these can help your employees in the long run, especially those in the sales department. Some ways to introduce your product to new hires are:

  • Let them experience the product themselves 
  • Have them experience the sales process up-close
  • Organize 1:1s between your new hire and a team member
  • Create a chatbot that can answer product-related FAQs

Creating a strong product bond isn’t a one-time process. With changing markets and customer needs, it’s always necessary to update your employees about any new changes. Have a handbook, a brand guideline, or a manual (where required) to share all your information. The more transparent and consistent it is, the better they will succeed at achieving your goals. 

Deliver a structured and lasting onboarding process with Zavvy

Having a structured onboarding process offers gratification to your employees in terms of job satisfaction, feeling valued, and heard. While it rewards your organization with higher retention rates, a boost in productivity, and growth. 

Using our employee enablement platform helps lay the right foundation amongst your people. With features like customizable templates, automated reminders, and app integrations, we help you deliver a lasting onboarding experience.

  • Your people will get a deeper understanding of your organization
  • They will be closely aligned to your goals
  • Foster a culture of empathy, trust, and well-being
  • Create a continuous cycle of development amongst your people   

Delivering a seamless onboarding process doesn’t have to be complicated or overly planned out in advance. Take a look at the current scenario, see where your best talent emerges and what would be the best way to reach them. 

You can start with creating a skeleton of your onboarding practices and continue to improvise it with changing times. We’re always here to assist you during every step of this process:

  • Defining the message
  • Delivering to the right people, in a timely manner
  • Bringing them together under one virtual roof

Approached the right way, hybrid models can help you scale your organization without scaling your cost. All the while strengthening your work culture and connection amongst employees. If you’re not sure where to begin with your onboarding practices, below are case studies of companies that have nailed the process. 

Top 3 companies with best hybrid onboarding practices

A company always on the brink of new technology, Hubspot followed the footsteps of Apple, and created its own branded onboarding platform: Foundations. It includes everything that a new hire needs to learn about the company. 

“We quickly pivoted our new hire programming to be more remote inclusive in several ways, including introducing remote work guides for managers and new hires, incorporating new hire case study assessments into our onboarding experience, and tracking live participation via completion data in our education operating system, Learn@HubSpot.” 

Participants of remote onboarding are also encouraged to have their Zoom camera “on” to foster active participation and engagement.

Online streaming website Netflix has a strong cultural and leadership-driven onboarding program. It received a lot of recognition in a recent Quora answer by Poorna Udupi, an engineer at Netflix: 

A netflix engineer about onboarding at his company

Here’s what they get it right:

  • Advanced technology stack and ever-helpful coworkers 
  • Direct introduction to company’s executives in the first quarter
  • Clear communication of Netflix’s ethos and aspirations
  • New hires are given significant responsibility from the start

Roadsurfer cas study

Founded in 2016 by 5 friends, Roadsurfer has quickly grown into the largest campervan expert in Europe with a camper fleet of over 2,500 vehicles. And their onboarding program has been nothing short of excellence. 

Here’s what they do it right:

  • New hires get assigned a company-wide journey guiding them through their first days in the job
  • Blend interactive quizzes and other exercises that help retain knowledge
  • Use auto-triggered reminders track new hire’s progress
  • Using a central platform that ensures everyone receives the same information

If you need more ideas, here’s our article on companies' exceptional onboarding practices. Or you can consult with our experts at Zavvy!

Remote onboarding tips


Remote work stats

Best onboarding practices aren’t mastered in a day. They need to be thought through, communicated, and implemented after understanding the needs of both – leaders and employees. Ask them:

  • What will help you to feel socially supported?
  • What new opportunities can we create to build stronger connections?
  • How can we establish better ways of working in a hybrid setup?
  • What is “okay” to do? (For example: Take breaks in-between meetings)
  • How can we ensure teammates who are working from home still have a voice?

Communicating with your team/colleagues will provide you insights into best ways to re-onboard your people. This will help your managers to boost team cohesion, performance, and well-being.

If you have decided to implement your remote onboarding program using the above-mentioned practices, we’d love to hear what you come up with! Speak to our onboarding experts for any assistance, at any time!


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