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How to Onboard Remote Employees

The trend of remote work in the electronics and high-tech arena has been on the rise post COVID and is heightened by a shortage of talented workers. In order to identify and retain employees, businesses must use company culture, salary and benefits packages as a method to attract and retain their greatest assets - people, with flexible working being a top priority for most job seekers.

For businesses hoping to win the war for talent, they must also consider hiring remote workers. Yet it’s all too easy to lose remote employees soon after hiring them if they are not onboarded correctly–and it’s easy to get it wrong when a company does not understand what makes remote onboarding different.

It can be more difficult to create and deliver effective onboarding for virtual / remote employees. These challenges can include:

  • Geographical location, which affects communication and relationship building
  • Cultural differences, which may isolate remote workers from teams
  • Motivation, which can be more difficult for those who work alone

What is onboarding?

The onboarding process involves familiarising new hires with the company and culture, establishing expectations, and equipping them with the required tools and resources to excel in their position.  For remote employees, this process is typically online. A thorough onboarding of remote employees is crucial for their smooth integration and for fostering productive connections with their colleagues. Here are five steps to ensure a successful remote onboarding process:

1. First contact

HR professionals recognise that the recruitment stage is pivotal to the success of onboarding. During the first encounter, the aim is to ensure candidates comprehend the role, what the company seeks and the mission, values, and culture of the organisation. For remote employees, HR professionals should be even more thorough with candidate background checks to ensure a level of trust.

It is essential to that the candidate has complete clarity regarding each stage of the onboarding process. This is even more important when it comes to remote employees as they are unlikely to be physically present in the office and reaching out to them to make them feel included and welcomed is of utmost importance. Transparency is key.

2. From offer to start date

Once the offer has been accepted and signed, it's time to officially initiate the onboarding procedure. The interim period between offer signing and the start date is a great chance to engage any new hire, but for a remote employee, it’s also an opportunity to start getting them up to speed with the practical side of their job. 

Some ways to engage new employees and ease their transition into the new role may include:

  • Identify, appoint, and communicate a dedicated onboarding liaison.
  • Send IT instructions and any hardware, such as a laptop, keyboard, office furniture if needed. They should also be connected to the IT team and have a point of contact for any issues they face while setting up the new equipment.
  • Ensure they have successfully completed HR paperwork. It’s better to get it out of the way beforehand if possible. For example, remote employees may not have a printer or scanner, so an e-signature tool can be used.
  • Introduce them to the company culture by sharing a digital copy of the employee handbook, some info on the company values, and maybe pictures or videos of the team. Since remote employees will only be able to experience the company’s culture from afar and will likely have a greater difficulty building interpersonal relationships, their managers should try to make the process as smooth as possible by taking extra care to make them feel included. It’s best to be proactive and set up a mix of formal and informal one-on-one interactions between the new hire and other individuals.
  • Get them up to speed on all the communication tools used and contact methods for team members. Make sure that security protocols and configurations are in place, company email and other digital accounts are set up. 
  • Consider pairing them with a peer mentor at this stage. While many employers wait until the first day, a mentor can also guide them through these initial steps. Remote work can be lonely at times and having a peer mentor may allow them to feel more welcome.

3. The first day

It is well known that first impressions are the most lasting. For office based and hybrid employees, the first day of employment is essential in order to create an atmosphere of comfort, and acceptance. Thus, providing a personalised experience is the ideal method. This is just as true while onboarding remote personnel. 

To combat the lack of spontaneous opportunities for small talk and other relationship building that would typically happen in an office, encourage your new hire and colleagues to set up a mix of formal conversations to cover responsibilities, business objectives, and shorter, informal interactions over coffee, lunch or debriefing on recent meetings.

As with an onsite employee, even if there isn’t a formal mentoring arrangement in place, a manager can make sure someone is responsible for showing the new employee around, this could be done through a virtual office tour. The company can also make them feel like a part of the team by sending a welcome package with company promotional items and a note from the team lead or CEO. Buying them a takeaway in lieu of lunch with the team is also a step in the right direction. It is also imperative that they get to meet the team virtually–including their colleagues, manager, direct reports, and anyone else they’ll work closely with–if not on their first day, then during their first few days.

4. The first weeks

The initial few weeks of a newly hired employee are significant as they involve the "firsts": first day, first meeting, first week. This period is also integral to the onboarding process, as the individual starts making plans, envisioning future roles and becoming enthusiastic about their progress within the company. It is an ideal time for looking forward, while at the same time anticipating the journey within the organisation.

For remote employees, this is the time to have them settle into their working practices and ensure that they connect to the broader organisational mission, vision, and goals. This can be achieved by developing and sharing a task calendar, a project plan, or automating workflows. Remote employees shouldn’t have to wait until their manager is online to find out what to do next. They should have defined short-term and long-term goals, along with scheduled weekly 1:1s to discuss projects and resolve any issues.

5. Building relationships

The final part of the onboarding process is focused on creating connections. The objective is to give new hires the chance to network and forge important relationships. It is vital to guide them and help them identify the roles of each department in the structure of the organisation.

Interaction is the best way to make remote employees feel like they are a part of the company culture. While the mentor should be their first port of call, managers should always try to ‘over-communicate’ during remote onboarding, setting up lots of online meetings and chats with everyone in the team. 

The onboarding program should just be the beginning of an ongoing developmental foundation that continues to strengthen an employees’ cultural alignment, performance in their role and their relationships across the business.

Mistakes to avoid:

While the process seems simple, it only takes a small mistake to alienate employees and risk losing out on a great asset. Here are some mistakes to avoid during the onboarding period:

  • Infodumping. Providing too much information to a new staff member too quickly and without properly guiding them so they do not feel overwhelmed.
  • Not customising the onboarding experience. People want a sense they are wanted, not just a number on a page. A business should do its best to make each employee feel special.
  • Try to reduce “Videoconference fatigue”. Remote employees often find themselves tangled between the constant notifications, emails, and video calls, and setting the right boundaries for interaction and work time can be difficult.
  • Assuming they understand the organisation and its structure and regulations. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ can be a very real problem when an employee is not on site. It can be easy to assume that the new employee has understood everything shared with them during onboarding. Although that may not be the case. So, hiring managers should make the effort to explain everything in detail, several times and create the space for your new colleagues to ask about the way things are done.
  • Ending training too soon. Sometimes, companies end training before the new hire is actually up-to-speed. A mistake like that can cause confusion among both parties and hold back the employee from reaching their full potential.

Onboarding remote hires can be a challenge, but by following these steps, businesses can create a successful onboarding experience for their new hires. Doing so can help improve employee retention, boost employee productivity, and provide a positive experience for new hires. Companies that invest in their workforces and onboard remote hires the right way will be the ones that come out on top in today’s competitive labour market.
Why not download our ‘Onboarding’ toolkit? It'll help you keep your top talent and cut the time that you spend in recruiting mode.

If you would like advice, tips, inspiration or a knowledge-led approach to recruitment from the UK’s most trusted Electronics and High Technology recruitment specialist, contact us on 01582 450054 or send us an email on for more information.


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