10 key considerations for remote onboarding and how to make it work

By Adam Dale, Commercial Director of SourceBreaker

Every business wants to be good at onboarding, whatever the situation.

After all, ensuring new hires adjust to the social and professional expectations of their new work environment will allow both the wider business, as well as the new hire, to work as productively as possible, as quickly as possible.

But when this needs to become remote, the usual tried-and-tested onboarding processes can often become redundant. And unless you’ve made an international hire before, remote onboarding may be a brand-new and absolutely necessary challenge over the next few months. 

At SourceBreaker, remote onboarding is a practice we recently successfully carried out to bring on our new account manager, Harry. Located in Australia during the interview process, and with a first day once much of the nation had begun working from home, onboarding Harry has been remote in just about every way it could be. 

Whilst this process has certainly required us to adapt to some extent, we knew from the outset that it was a challenge that would allow us to keep progressing during this period, all while adapting and picking up new skills and procedures. 

Now that Harry is comfortably settling into the ins and outs of the business, we wanted to share our key remote onboarding tips on just how we have managed to not just make do, but actually make progress. 

1. First impressions count 

We all know that first impressions are everything. What we are able to do to build engagement and excitement before a hire even starts, as well as recreating that first-day experience, are both absolutely crucial. 

At many businesses, considerable time and effort are put into first impressions, and first-day desk setups are frequently shared across social media. This doesn’t need to be any different when it comes to remote onboarding. 

Are there relevant reading items we can send the new starter before they officially start? I always send sales hires a copy of my favourite sales book, Snap Selling. 

Is there information about your business that can get them pumped, and bridge the gap between offer and start date? 

And when it comes to the first day, have we thought about the setup they will need? We were able to post all tech items, such as his laptop and headset, directly to Harry’s home, ready for his first day.

What about culture items?  – We also made sure we included a SourceBreaker hoodie in his start up pack to ensure the experience was as close to being in the office as we possibly could.

2. Instil culture 

For many businesses – and certainly at SourceBreaker – culture is a huge part of who we are as a business. Working virtually, it can be easy to lose that. 

Culture is just as important as day-to-day responsibilities. As a company expands and starts to hire remote employees, they can often find their culture is unable to evolve in the process. Onboarding remote employees in terms of culture can be done through coaching, mentoring, and using a buddy system. Who better to instil the culture than your biggest culture advocates? We, therefore, ensured that Harry was paired with someone who we see as a great representation of our culture.

3. Face-to-face welcome 

Meeting in person is often the easiest way to build a relationship, but when that’s not an option, it’s a good idea to make the most of the next best thing with a video call. Not only do both hiring managers and hires get to know each other more easily, but so too does a video call communicate more availability and investment from team members.

4. Introduce them to the team 

Looking back on any new job, first-day memories are often made up of the people. With remote onboarding, we try to make this no different. In the office, SourceBreaker runs ‘coffee and catch-ups’, an opportunity for every new employee to catch up with every member of the senior leadership team, meaning no one is a stranger regardless of what team you’re in. With remote onboarding, this should be no different, scheduling in video calls to allow new team members to get to know the team. 

At SourceBreaker whole-team lunches are also put in place on every new employee’s first day in the office,  and with the power of video conferencing, these again can be recreated. Not only do these give the new hire more of a sense of the team dynamic, but it also helps keep the team in the loop. The key to a successful work environment is allowing new hires to “experience the office” regardless of where they are located. 

5. Set expectations

Another significant part of a first day in the office is laying out clear expectations of the role, from work hours, any perimeters around routine, and how you would expect to be updated or monitor output. With remote onboarding, this is perhaps even more important with the added freedom of a home office. 

There is no longer that judging when to finish on your first day by seeing when the majority of the office leaves – no one wants to be first to leave on their first day. Having a clear set time to start and finish, as well as an understanding of what output is expected during that is therefore more important than ever. 

6. Initiate professional development 

As with expectations, training is just as – if not significantly more – important when away from the office. According to a TalentLMS survey, while 87% of remote workers receive training, 67% say they still need more. 

This is particularly important when you remember how much of the way your business works, how your product is presented and the dynamics of your people can be absorbed just by being in the office. Being away from the office means none of that should be taken for granted; every conversation matters. 

I call this “training by osmosis”, as employees get to know your company’s language and the way you do things just by being physically present. With this element of “training” lost, do you need to revisit your training programmes and make sure that more of this is included? 

7. Provide a handbook, communicate culture 

The great thing about remote onboarding is that any onboarding collateral your business has spent the time to compile will become more valuable than ever. Ensuring you have digitised all existing employee documentation, handbooks and information on company culture is particularly important. At SourceBreaker, making sure new hires know the story of the business from inception is really valuable in giving the team a true sense of not only the culture, but the core purpose of the product itself. 

8. Encourage collaboration 

Working in a group on any kind of project introduces team members, cross-trains teams and ultimately, forges bonds. This can be an extremely valuable tool in not just situating a new employee in the business in terms of culture, but can also be an extremely valuable tool when it comes to training. For Harry, we have ensured he has had involvement with all areas of the commercial team in his first couple of weeks. 

9. Extra organisation 

Any hiring process requires you to be organised. Remote hiring requires it tenfold. When onboarding a virtual team member, it can be easy to lose track of what’s yet to be done. At SourceBreaker, it’s been incredibly valuable to keep detailed outlines of everything needed from new employees on a shared document, so we can keep track of the process together.

How many times have we all hired people and only realised it’s their first day on the Monday or Sunday night? The “shadow-me-for-a-day approach” doesn’t work remotely, of course, so every hour of the first week needs careful planning and fitting into everyone’s schedules.

10. How do they ask for help?

My final point, and one which I think is key to consider, is the new employee’s ability to ask questions – and this isn’t only to their manager. 

The first few weeks are always a huge learning curve, with a million pieces of information being thrown at a new starter. Their ability to ask the person next to them when they’ve forgotten how something works on the CRM, or simply confirm what they are doing is correct, has been taken away from them. On top of that, new hires don’t always want to be asking their manager something they feel they should have already been shown.

To combat this. ensure new hires have access to people across all the relevant departments who are always happy to help. Giving them access to these members of the team is when your culture really shines. And on top of that, you will be none the wiser to the fact something might not always be going perfectly behind the scenes, and most importantly, you never need to know.

To conclude here are the key areas to consider:

  • Exposure to culture
  • Training by osmosis is lost
  • They have less ability to ask questions
  • Be more organised than ever
  • Make them feel part of the “team”

I hope this has proved interesting and useful reading and really encourage any clients to share these tips with their clients. The landscape we are navigating right now is unprecedented, but I believe the businesses that come out of this stronger will be those who think differently and add additional value where they can.