Onboarding tips for hybrid and remote companies: how to set up your remote team for success

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We don’t talk about it enough, but the way in which we onboard new employees can have a huge impact on our companies – for better or worse. And the onboarding process is even more important to get right when your team works remotely.

When done well, the onboarding process can set us and our companies up for success. Indeed, research by the Brandon Hall Group has found that organisations with a strong onboarding process improve employee engagement and reduce staff turnover rates; in fact, it boosts new hire retention by 82% and productivity by well over 70%.

Unfortunately, though, Gallup has found that only a paltry 12% of employees polled strongly agree their organisation does a great job of onboarding new employees. 

Think about that figure for a moment, because it means that an overwhelming 88% of employees don’t believe their organisations do a great job of onboarding. Which, considering the aforementioned impact it can have on retention, engagement, and turnover, is no small issue.

“Onboarding is a crucial part of any employee lifecycle either remote workers or not,” agrees Morgane Conrad, Talent Manager at folk

“It's the first impression you'll be able to give of not just your team, but the organisation, so it's super important – especially for those remote workers who don’t get to have that in-person contact straight away. Your company will need to create a strong sense of belonging and inclusion right from their very first day – and that's what probably makes onboarding for remote workers more challenging.”

So, what’s the best way to onboard a new remote team member? We asked Morgane to share her tried and tested onboarding tips with us – and it made for an eye-opening interview.

Get all the paperwork sorted in advance

You don’t want a remote employee to spend the majority of their first day filling out forms and paperwork, says Morgane, so try to have the contract and all other legal documents sent off and squared away well before their start date.

Make sure they have all their equipment

From laptops to screens, desk chairs to keyboards, you want to make sure you’ve couriered over everything your new starter needs to get to work on their first day.

Send over a company handbook

On that same note, it’s a good idea to write up a company handbook to help them familiarise themselves with your way of working, as well as a document with all the processes, programmes, passwords and permissions they’ll need, too.

“Basically, they need a light version of your internal documentation so they have everything they need to know in one single place,” says Morgane.

Book in lots of touchpoints

It’s a good idea to make sure people feel as if they are a part of the team from the very get-go, so Morgane suggests booking in a few one-to-one meetings for new starters ahead of their first day.

“We usually find ways to keep in touch with newcomers in the time between the day they sign their contract and their first day,” she explains. 

“It varies from simple text messages to invite for lunch with the team if we get a chance. We even had the opportunity to pre-welcome two newcomers during one of our offsites a couple of weeks before their first day, and that was the best!”

Set clear expectations 

First-day nerves are inevitable, but you can help to alleviate them by giving your new starter an idea of what to expect.

“Write up and send over an onboarding plan ahead of the first day so they know what to expect,” says Morgane.

On this same note, Morgane adds that it’s a good idea to also send over some onboarding objectives – to ensure that “what's expected of the newcomer during their first 30, 60, and 90 days is crystal clear”.

“I would also send over a calendar schedule of regular 1:1 meetings, as well as progress meetings for their 60th and 90th days.”

Recognise the importance of the 30-60-90 day plan

A 30-60-90 day plan lays out a clear course of action for a new employee during the first 30, 60, and 90 days of their new job, explains Morgane.

“This reassures the new starter as to what they should be focused and reflecting upon.”

Speaking of the process behind the 30-60-90 day plan at folk, Morgane shares that they draw up a unique one each time with the new starter’s direct manager and team.

“This helps us set up a customised onboarding program, with adequate sessions planned in for the new starter to meet key teammates,” she says.

“So far we have only had great feedback about the 30-60-90 day plan, and we're looking to improve our follow-up process on those objectives to make the overall process even more impactful.”

Help them to make an impactful first impression

“You should try to introduce newcomers to the team right away,” says Morgane. “Ideally during their first hour within the company, even if it’s just a welcome message on Slack, or a coffee and a chat on Microsoft Teams.

“I like to ask newcomers to fill in a short personal presentation and share fun facts about themselves with the rest of the team. We then share this presentation through a welcome message on Slack to help get the conversation started.”

Implement a buddy system

“It’s a good idea to pair new starters with a buddy,” says Morgane. “This won’t just help them to get acquainted with another teammate; it will also facilitate their inclusion to the team, give them someone to show them around, and provides them with a go-to-person if needed.”

Morgane adds: “At folk, the buddy is included in the email loop as soon as we start planning the onboarding with the newcomer. This usually takes place around a month before their first day.”

Keep checking in

“Every new starter gets a dedicated onboarding program,” says Morgane. “This means setting up onboarding sessions, meetings and simple coffee chats with various team members during their first week.”

Book in some discovery sessions

“One of our rituals is to book our new starters into a series of ‘discovery sessions’ with a couple of their teammates from across the company,” says Morgane.

“This helps them to understand the team dynamic better – and how other departments work, such as customer research, product design, and so on.

“These sessions can take the form of informal coffee breaks; it doesn’t have to be formal!”

Ask for feedback

It’s not just about offering feedback to your new starters; you need to ask them how they found the onboarding process, too, so that you can improve it for next time.

“We always have a session booked in for the third week,” says Morgane. “It’s here that we ask newcomers to share some feedback about how they feel their onboarding experience went.”

She adds: “I know when it’s been a successful onboarding process if I’m reading through a newcomer's feedback and notice they’ve described it as ‘streamlined’. The aim is for them to feel as if they have been part of the team for months already.”

Never replicate an in-office onboarding process

“The best piece of onboarding advice I ever received was back at my previous company, shortly after we transitioned to a fully remote dynamic,” recalls Morgane.

“I was advised to never try and replicate the in-house onboarding process, nor to try and make every newcomer come by the office for their onboarding. 

“If you're a fully remote organisation, your onboarding process needs to be as well.”

Whether your team is hybrid, in-person or remote, follow our expert's tips and don't underestimate the power of first impressions.