Sneh is an engineer turned content marketer and loves tech startups that get marketing. She is a Content Marketing Manager at Animalz, moonlights as a content marketer and strategist, and hosts a podcast - Bet On People. When she’s not online, she can be found reading books, petting her dogs, or vibing to music.
The Only Remote Employee Onboarding Checklist You Will Ever Need
An effective onboarding is the best possible start you can give to a new hire in your organisation.
While the pandemic has reinvented the way we work, it’s become essential to get your onboarding right in a remote setup.
That’s because 80% of company leaders are willing to permit remote work for sometime after the pandemic.
While remote work boasts several benefits — increased productivity, more autonomy, and better work-life balance, it can be quite a challenge at the same time. Overworking, lack of clarity, and fragmented communication with team members and stakeholders can largely affect an employee’s experience at your company.
And what better way to overcome these challenges than having an effective remote onboarding process!
💻 What is remote onboarding?
Remote onboarding is defined as the process of integrating new employees into your organisations and familiarising them with your company culture, work policies, tech stack, and your teammates. This will help them to effectively start contributing to your business goals using remote technology tools.
Keep in mind that effective onboarding doesn’t only rely on the content of the journey itself, but also on its ease of use. New hires need to be able to digest the materials and navigate the system easily. If it is too complicated or unstructured, it will evade them on finding the "aha!" moment.
What is virtual onboarding? Is it the same as remote onboarding?
The concept of virtual onboarding gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, several video conferencing tools, webinars, and other online resources are being consistently used to create a seamless remote onboarding experience.
For all intents and purposes, it is the same as remote onboarding. So can you boil it all down to a mere checklist? Yes and no.
Remote onboarding is more than setting up email accounts for new employees, and ensuring they have access to the right tools. In fact, this might create a negative experience for them. As this HBR article mentions, there are four components to a successful remote onboarding:
- Welcome new employees with all the necessary tools to foster confidence in them.
- Establish a rapport of valuable relationships within the company.
- Acquaint them to your company culture, and everyday workflow.
- Set well-defined expectations and unify new hires to your company’s goal, mission, and vision.
❗️ Why is remote onboarding so important?
33.37% of new hires leave their new roles in the first 6 months, according to a Bamboo HR report. The overwhelmingly high rate is attributed to one reason — an ineffective onboarding process.
On the contrary, a good onboarding experience can significantly improve the average employee retention rates. Based on a research by Glassdoor, an effective onboarding experience can raise employee retention rates to a whopping 82% and productivity by over 70%.
In short: Proper onboarding makes people feel valued. And it sets the tone for the way things work when it comes to remote work.
📝 10-Point remote onboarding checklist to set employees up for success
1. Send them pre-boarding resources
Make a lasting first impression even before their first day. Familiarise your new hires with your company culture by sending helpful videos, free company swag, and necessary equipment. This will ease their new job jitters, making them feel confident and organised before starting their new role.
Take a look at Hubspot’s onboarding academy - Foundations. It’s remote-inclusive and has been updated to include new guides to navigate remote work.
2. Invite them to a virtual hang
Greet your employees on their first day with an informal introduction meeting. This will give them an opportunity to virtually interact with your people, creating a relaxed work environment. Here’s an example of Disney’s onboarding process that combines creativity and company history delightfully. New hires are treated as cast members where they engage in fun, trivia games and quizzes to learn more about the company.
3. Schedule an orientation call
Arrange a virtual meeting that includes the following:
- Review of the company mission, ethos, and vision
- Onboarding documentations (organisation charts, and contact informations)
- Updated digital employee handbook
- Mentor and orientation-buddy details
- Invitation links to Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams with a brief description on the meeting’s agenda
37% of HR professionals and 56% of employees surveyed by BambooHR advocated for a mentor or buddy program.
Bonus tip: Prepare your mentors beforehand by giving them an agenda and essential talking points for the meeting.
4. Set up a meeting with HR
Introduce new hires to their designated HR from whom they can learn more about company policies and perks, or ask questions on sabbaticals and compensation. It’s good to have tools like HelloSign or DocuSign where all documents can be signed virtually at speed. If you’re not experienced at remote onboarding, set up a structure to collect feedback on your employee’s experience. This will help you to improvise your process for future hires.
The more administration-heavy this step, the more time consuming it will get. Our recommendation is to share only the essential material beforehand. And use this time efficiently in answering questions, and connecting on a human level.
Note: A recent study shows, 28% of employees preferred an HR to show them the ropes, while 33% voted for their manager. The right path should always include both.
5. Arrange a meeting with IT
Depending on the complexity of the role, it’s important to give your employees a walkthrough of the tools they’ll be using. It is also critical to communicate the digital safety protocols regarding software installation to prevent any data breaches or loss. Don't forget to permit them access to your company intranet and other important tools.
6. Host a team orientation
Make your new hires feel a part of the family by sharing annual or quarter-long team goals, KPIs used to measure teams and their performance. Allowing access to important documents, organisation charts, calendars, and contact information, helps create a smoother employee experience.
7. Conduct a product, sales, and support sync
It is imperative to give a clear understanding of what your company does, the product/service, and how Support works. Drift, for example, has a support system where every employee signs up for chat duty. Doing this aligns them closely to your company’s mission, and creates an opportunity to talk to the customer - a crucial step for audience research. Give them access to a demo account or a sandbox so they get firsthand experience with your product or service.
8. Create a 30/60/90 day onboarding plan
According to the HCI, most onboarding processes only last a week. This leaves new hires feeling confused and adrift. Ideally, an effective onboarding plan should last for at least 90 days. It can even extend up to a year, given the current state of work.
Coordinate with your managers to create a 30/60/90 day onboarding plan with regular check-ins over video calls. Since remote onboarding is a new concept, your company should encourage two-way feedback, and share inputs along the way. Qualtrics uses this approach to consistently update its remote onboarding program by collecting data at each touchpoint.
You can benefit from our easy-to-use templates or even customise them so you reach your most important goals, faster. Find advices on 30/60/90 day steps here.
9. Introduce them to the company
Integrating your favourite collaboration tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams will easily create a sense of community amongst your remote employees. Here, they can introduce themselves and connect with other team members at their comfort level.
Onboarding in small groups is an effective way to reduce redundancies and unnecessary efforts of onboarding new employees. Salesforce does this well by creating networking opportunities for new hires to connect with other employees across all regions.
10. Run role-specific training
An estimated $37 billion is spent every year in the US and the UK to retain employees who are incompetent and fail to understand their role. This is a result of inefficient training during the onboarding. Introducing new hires to essential tools, team workflows, and engaging courses will pave a way to effective learning. When you consider the requirements of new hires in the first week, role-specific training sits at the top.
🧠 Best practices for remote onboarding
> Let your employees go through all the pre-onboarding resources at their own pace. Be mindful to maintain the work-life balance, over-sourcing them will only lead to unproductivity and poor outcomes.
> Ensure they are equipped with the right hardware in advance. Netflix ensures all their employees have their work station set up well ahead of their first day.
> Pan out the onboarding over several days instead of cramming it all in one day. According to Sapling, the average onboarding experience requires new hires to complete 54 activities. This can be either taxing or quite engaging - depending on how well-planned your onboarding program is.
> Encourage feedback and questions throughout the onboarding process. Only 12% of employees surveyed by Gallup believe their organisation carries out effective onboarding. Receiving employee feedback is vital to flip those statistics on its head.
> Give new hires enough time to settle in and familiarise themselves with new tools. Ensure they are comfortable with their mentor and orientation buddy. According to HCI, 87% of organisations report that following this step boosts new hire proficiency.
> Ask them how you can contribute to their career growth and customise your onboarding plan accordingly. Work closely together with the hiring manager to receive 1:1 feedback.
➡️ Remote onboarding checklist recap
- Send them pre-onboarding resources
- Invite them for a virtual hang
- Schedule a brief orientation call
- Set up a meeting with HR
- Arrange a session with IT
- Host participative team orientations
- Conduct a product, sales, and support sync
- Create a 30/60/90 day onboarding plan
- Introduce them to your company’s ethos, goals
- Run role-specific training sessions
🔮 The future of remote work and remote onboarding
Remote and hybrid work environments are here to stay. According to Buffer’s report - ‘2021 State of Remote Work’, 55% of people surveyed mentioned that working remotely was a result of the pandemic. And if given a choice, they’d love to continue working remotely, at least for part time.
But they also want to continue working remotely at least for a part of their careers, even after the pandemic - and maintaining a good employee experience is not that easy.
Remote work is here to stay - and to some extent every team is now a remote team. How you adapt your in-person onboarding to fit a hybrid work culture and improve your current remote onboarding comes down to having a robust remote onboarding process.
💪 How can Zavvy help at remote onboarding?
Zavvy’s remote onboarding tool is designed to support you, every step of the way.
With customisable templates and training programs, it’s become easier than ever to automate your entire onboarding plan, resulting in a smoother employee experience, and a higher retention rate.
Here’s an example of Roadsurfer, a power user of Zavvy. They were able to efficiently onboarded 82 colleagues in 3 months across 36 locations with an average user rating of 4.85/5.
Read Roadsurfer’s success in onboarding up to 30 people per month remotely.
The best part about choosing Zavvy is that onboarding is only the beginning of your new hires' journey with your company. With Zavvy's comprehensive People Enablement Platform, you're not just introducing them to the organization – you're setting them up for success at every stage:
- Zavvy empowers new hires with personalized growth plans, AI-driven recommendations, and a wealth of resources for ongoing development.
- Zavvy enables a culture of continuous improvement, from performance reviews guided by insights to dynamic learning experiences.
- The complete suite of Zavvy solutions fosters lifelong growth, nurturing talent, elevating leadership, and driving engagement.
Choosing Zavvy means choosing a partner in growth – from onboarding to leadership development and beyond, Zavvy ensures new hires become integral to your company's success story.
📅 Book a demo to see it all in action.
❓ Frequently Asked Questions about remote onboarding
How do you make remote onboarding fun?
A good way to make it more engaging is to gamify the learning experience, organising virtual hangs and ice-breakers in exchange for prizes.
What are onboarding activities?
All the activities organised during the remote onboarding process, starting from sending new hires resources to creating a 90-day plan — fall under onboarding activities.
What do new hires want from an onboarding program?
A recent survey from BambooHR shows, 75% of new hires require on-the-job training, 73% prefer a review of the company’s policies, 59% want a review of the admin process, and 56% would love to have a buddy or a mentor assigned to them during the first week.
What are the 4 phases of onboarding?
There are 4 steps to onboard your new hires:
- Role Training
- Ongoing Development
Note: You can make your onboarding process as detailed as possible, spanning over several steps under each phase. At the same time, it’s also common to consider the two phases — pre-boarding and onboarding.
How can I onboard employees fast?
First, you’ll want to be well prepared in advance. Organise your remote onboarding templates that are easily accessible by new hires. Next, you can think of how to gamify the experience, set up automated reminders and check-ins. This will save you plenty of time and effort at every step.
How long should employee onboarding take?
While most organisations end the onboarding process after a week, it is recommended to at least have a 90-day onboarding plan while continuing the need-based training. Simplify it in a way your remote employees will love to use. To get a more elaborate answer, read "How long should onboarding take - Best practices and ideal timeline".
How is onboarding a remote employee different from an office employee?
There is a marginal difference between the two. While traditional onboarding is easier to implement, remote onboarding gives you the flexibility and the freedom. Other than that, all the steps followed in conventional onboarding are more or less the same in remote onboarding - except it’s virtual.