How to Successfully Onboard Remote Employees

Jill Phillips | October 18, 2016

A formal onboarding program gets every new employee acclimated to their new work environment, no matter whether they work on-site or remotely.  The number of companies that choose to hire virtual workers is increasing but many of them struggle to integrate remote workers with their traditional on-site workforce.

The process of onboarding new hires is very important as it improves employee retention and satisfaction. Without a successful onboarding program, companies risk struggling to keep their off-site employees motivated and engaged. Accountability also concerns firms that hire remote workers, because managers want to ensure that their new hires perform well at all times. Good communication practices and technology can make the process of bringing new workers on board easier and more efficient.


Why Onboarding is Important

The onboarding process aims to integrate workers with the existing staff and the work environment.

During onboarding, workers meet their team members and learn about the internal business processes that affect their job.  Employees are introduced to their performance requirements and guided through the course of completing their documentation and initial training.

A successful onboarding strategy results in the establishment of good rapport between new employees, managers, and associates. It also reinforces company culture and help remotes workers adjust to the social aspect of their job.

Companies that don’t properly onboard their new remote workers set the stage for failure. Without a proper introduction to their coworkers and job requirements, remote workers can become disengaged and directionless.


Onboarding Remote Employees

Traditionally, companies welcome their new hires in person and give them a tour of the facility and introduce them to supervisors and coworkers. Nonverbal cues can help managers detect when a new employee doesn’t understand something or has a question. With virtual employees, the process becomes more difficult.

Remote workers often live far away and can even reside in different time zones. Managers with poor communication skills and a lack of familiarity with technology and the new remote employment model often ignore their responsibility to onboard their new team members.

Because of their physical absence, remote workers aren’t able to quickly assess their work environment and adapt to company culture. They also often don’t get to see the people with whom they work. Remote workers can quickly develop the concept of company culture that differs from that of on-site workers.

Careful planning can help you design an onboarding program based on the role of your new employees and their responsibilities within the organization. You can customize the process for each of your new hires using the following best practices.


Set Clear Expectations

Setting expectations clearly from the start will help get your new hires on boarded. Make sure that they understand proper procedures and requirements of the company’s telecommuting policy. Whenever possible get relevant information to your new hires before their first day of work, so they can jump in and feel like part of the team.

Remote workers need to know their responsibilities and have achievable goals for future advancement. Your company must communicate organizational values as well as goals for teams and their projects. Employees must know when they will have their first performance appraisal and understand the basis for their evaluation.

As a manager or business owner, you should clearly let your workers know what they can expect from you. Present yourself as a team member and a facilitator, not as a taskmaster, and you will have better relationships that result in a more profitable operation.


Connect Face-to-Face

Physical interactions can get a relationship off to a good start. If possible, have your new remote workers come to your company office to meet you and your team. If your remote employees aren’t able to come to meetings in person, use video conferencing to have a face-to-face meeting.

Using technology can eliminate the need for travel, reducing stress and cost. Conferencing accessories such as screen sharing can make such meetings more like a one-on-one encounter in the office. Using the capability of video conferencing will enable you to evaluate eye contact and body language, just as you would for people in your office.

Whenever you have meetings with your on-site employees, make sure you invite your remote workers to participate using a video conferencing app. This will help them feel more included in the company culture. Make your new employees feel safe about asking questions and sharing some personal details.


Make Them Feel Welcome

Working from a remote location requires adjustments from workers and employers. You need to go the extra mile to make your virtual employees feel welcome. Inspire your team to embrace the coworkers they don’t see in person and include them in brainstorming and collaboration. Encourage your team members to chat and share their work-related and personal experiences.

Connecting to the culture will make all your employees more loyal and motivated. Make sure everyone in your firm feels important and needed. Communicate with your staff so they have a sense that they are making a positive contribution to the business. Remote workers can feel isolated and neglected, so you have to make a proactive effort to keep them connected.

Assign your new employees to an experienced team member who will have the exclusive responsibility of guiding them through their first few weeks. Such a move will help your new workers form a close relationship that will make them feel more attached and fulfilled. The senior worker can guide the new remote employee through the nuances of organizational culture and workflow.

Don’t hesitate to think outside the box for your onboarding program. Get a wireless mobile camera that will let you give virtual tours of your office in real time. Show your remote workers how work flows through your company and introduce them to their coworkers in their natural context. Make sure your traditional workers understand the importance of bonding with their virtual counterparts and involving them in daily activities.


Evaluate and Refine the Process

Spend time evaluating the success of your onboarding process. Solicit input from your on-site and remote employees and encourage them to share suggestions and feedback. Keep an open mind as you assess the process and carefully consider every new idea.

As a result of your periodic evaluation of your onboarding process, you can correct mistakes and find ways to provide a better experience for everyone involved. If possible, discuss your experiences with onboarding remote workers with colleagues who have had more experience than you. Learning from the mistakes of others can help you quickly develop better practices. You should do everything possible to give every new hire a positive and pleasant experience with your company.


Final Word

You can successfully onboard your remote employees by establishing open communication channels and practices. Whenever possible, have your workers spend time at your office learning their job. Always use tools such as video conferencing to make the work experience more personal and engaging. Encourage team cooperation and do your best to make the new hires feel welcome. Following the above tips will help your remote team stay happy and satisfied for a long time.

About The Author

Jill Phillips is a freelance writer and content manager at from Buffalo, NY. She is an aspiring entrepreneur and tech enthusiast, who loves to share her insight on various topics. When she is not writing, Jill enjoys taking photos and hiking with her dog.


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