Remote employees become a significant part of the workforce. The number of people working remotely has increased by 159% since 2005. In addition, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced the majority of businesses to let their staff work remotely wherever it was possible. This shift to a remote workforce also changes the way companies onboard new employees.
Onboarding is a vital part of getting new hires more engaged from the start, productive more quickly, and increases the chance of retention. Starting at a remote job can be intimidating because there’s no one at the desk next to you to walk you through things. Therefore it’s crucial to have a remote onboarding process in place.
We’ve gathered 8 best practices of remote onboarding programs from different companies to learn some tricks of the trade. Let’s see how LinkedIn, HP, Dell, and others onboard their new employees remotely.
Adeva: Start early with onboarding
Similar to physical onboarding, many companies agree on starting the onboarding process as early as possible. By providing information during pre-boarding, the period between accepting the job offer and the first day of work, new hires can prepare for their new job without feeling overwhelmed.
At the on-demand developers’ network Adeva, new hires start their onboarding three weeks before the actual start date to ‘ease into’ their new jobs. Tosho Trajanov, VP of engineering, says:
“Three weeks before they arrive we send a few emails that bring our company culture closer to the new employee and inspire them to find purpose in what they will be doing. Then follows a personal introduction on Slack with some juicy details about the new team member. After that, we assign them an onboarding buddy who is a go-to person for the new employee and, according to our team, this is the most helpful part of the process. It’s especially important if you have an introverted person who is afraid to speak up or ask questions.”
Also read our blog: 7 things you can do to make your remote onboarding personal
Dribbble: Assign a virtual buddy
Dribbble, a social network platform for digital designers and creatives with a remote team, also implemented a buddy program.
“When we started growing our team, we quickly found that new hires felt confused about where to find information, and who to ask about what. To make sure new Dribbblers had a support system to help them navigate our culture and find helpful information, we created an onboarding buddy system,” explains Chloe Oddleifson, Director of People Operations at Dribbble.
The moment a new ‘Dribbbler’ accepts the job offer, they get introduced to their onboarding buddy. The buddy is often someone from outside the new hire’s team, therefore helping the newcomer build a network within the company, killing two birds with one stone.
“The buddy schedules weekly 30-minute meetings with the new hire for their first month. Onboarding buddies help disseminate information and are an extra go-to for answering questions, alongside managers and peers.”
HP: Involve the manager
At HP, managers are a catalyst for onboarding new hires. This goes back to HP’s 80 year history when their founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard had started the company and it was much smaller. As a way to connect to their employees, Hewlett and Packard managed employees by walking around on the floor and talking to all of the employees about what they were working on. As HP grew, they couldn’t be at all places at the same time. So they tasked the hiring manager to do this for them and that has become the HP way of managing and culture.
Now HP’s employees are located all around the globe, they recently created a full experience called HP Wayfinder. It provides managers with a transparent process of what to do at each stage of the onboarding experience, setting new employees up for long term success, making them feel welcome, confident and prepared.
Do you want to learn more about HP's onboarding experience? Rewatch their talk at the onboarding conference Virtual Onboard.London here.
Besides an onboarding buddy program, welcome kits and virtual orientation, HP enriched the onboarding experience with technology for both new hires as managers. They developed onboarding tools and resources, such as a hiring manager website, an interactive roadmap to help understand each step in the onboarding journey, 90 days onboarding template, and infographics in one place.
They also use the HP Wayfinder mobile app (developed by Appical) that provides employees and managers with checklists. The onboarding app enables managers to monitor new hire’s progress in their onboarding journey at HP.
LinkedIn: Kickstart your hire’s first week with a full program
A typical on-site onboarding process allows companies to send new hires into an office where new colleagues will welcome them and make them feel at home. But when starting from home, this is not the case.
As a result of the pandemic, LinkedIn asked its Bay Area workforce to start working from home. Kelly Chuck, responsible for LinkedIn’s onboarding program, suddenly needed a virtual onboarding program to welcome remote new hires who would join LinkedIn.
Chuck turned LinkedIn’s on-site one-day program and spread it out over a week. The virtual five-day program contains interactive activities and sessions so that new hires can build relationships with people within the company. They also focus on getting new hires acquainted with the company’s culture and values, and plan regular check-ins to make sure no new hire feels forgotten or overlooked. Here’s an example of LinkedIn’s five-day employee onboarding program:
Dell: Digitalize your onboarding materials
Dell has systemized the onboarding of employees from all around the globe. “We have all of our onboarding materials in a digital format, including a website, documentation, and video. We also have a Day 1 success team that is dedicated to providing support via chat/IM, email, and calls during the early part of onboarding. The feedback from our new employees has improved significantly as a result of this approach.”
Digitizing onboarding materials gives new hires easy access to all the essential information they need (and keeps it easier to update your program).
Vidyard: Create onboarding videos
Delivering information to your new hires doesn’t always mean sending them an 80-pages long employee handbook in PDF form. Video content is an excellent method too.
Vidyard, an online video platform for business, uses videos in their onboarding hub. For example, Vidyard CEO Michael Litt walks new employees through Vidyard’s origin story, including some fun facts about its early days.
This way, you can involve key people in the onboarding process without letting them (virtually) share information repeatedly. Videos you can reuse, and new hires can watch them at their own pace and revisit later.
Miro: Outline goals for the first 30, 60 and 90 days
At Miro, a provider of visual collaboration software, the remote onboarding program lasts 90 days. Their manager outlines the new hire’s goals for the first three months with a personalized Miro Board that outlines and tracks everything they need to learn.
Miro also added a section detailing what success looks like during their first 90 days. Instead of letting your new hire figure out what to do in the first days, give them the tools to be successful right from the start.
Look for a ‘quick win’, an easy assignment within your new hire’s skillset. If completed successfully within the first few weeks, it helps them build confidence in their new role and contribute to the team.
Hotjar: Organize virtual team-building exercises
Hotjar, a behavior analytics company, has a fully remote team grown over 100 employees. To replace valuable face-to-face interaction missing from the remote office, they organize virtual team-building exercises.
One of their favorite strategies for creating virtual spaces to socialize is the 30-minute chatroulette. Their Customer Experience department uses a Slack app called Donut, which randomly pairs up two people. When they agree on a time, they plan a coffee-break session via a call on Slack or Zoom.
Virtual team building supports your new hires to get to know their remote co-workers better, which usually happens at the offices’ coffee machine, and enhances their communication and teamwork skills.
Whether fully embraced by your company or introduced as a temporary solution, onboarding your new hire is critical, even without office tours, team meals, and on-site introductions.
For the new employee, it’s an entirely different experience when you start the first day of work from home, rather than stepping physically into the office or workspace. What we’ve learned from these remote working companies is to start early with onboarding. Before day one, you can already introduce remote new hires to the company culture, (un)written rules, and new colleagues.
Digitizing your onboarding materials provides your new hires with easy access to a well-organized knowledge base. Video is a practical and personal way to deliver information and introduce them to key people within the company.
You can keep your remote new hires engaged by creating a virtual program for the first week and outline the goals for the first three months. This way, you give your remote new employees a clear understanding of what to expect, how to contribute to the company goals, and be successful from day one.
Create a personal and humane remote onboarding program by assigning a virtual buddy, that offers a support network. Organizing virtual team-building exercises stimulates personal connections between the new hires and remote co-workers.
Manager's e-guide to remote onboarding
Do you want to learn more about setting up a remote onboarding program? We created a remote onboarding e-guide for managers to get your remote onboarding program organized and focused. Go through our 6 tips and give your new hires the best remote onboarding experience.
Anderson, Bruce (2020). “7 Steps to Creating a Virtual Employee Onboarding Program”. LinkedIn Talent Blog.
Brown, Lisa (2020). “13 Things We’ve Learned About Onboarding Remote Employees”. Vidyard.
Davies, Nigel (1029). “5 Secrets of onboarding 100% remote workers revealed by hiring experts and leaders”. Forbes.
DePaul, Kristi (2019). “10 Companies Share How They Approach Remote Onboarding”. Remote.co.
Dossetto, Fio (2019). “5 of our favorite virtual team-building activities to grow a strong remote team”. Hotjar.
Heiss, Stacey (2020). “Creating HP’s onboarding experience”. Virtual Onboard.London conference.
Oddleifson, Chloe (2019). “Onboarding best practices for a remote team”. Medium.
Savina, Anna (2020). “The ultimate guide to remote work”. Miro.