Virtual Onboarding for Distributed Teams

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No longer are remote employees the exception to most businesses' workforce. In fact, since 2005, the number of people actively working remotely has increased by more than 159%. With so many people now working remotely, there's been a change in how new workers are onboarded with virtual onboarding taking center stage. 

It's been proving time and time again that using the right onboarding process will help improve retention, which means you must get it right. If you need help with virtual onboarding for remote workers, you're in the right place. Here you can learn more about virtual onboarding challenges, as well as the benefits of virtual onboarding. 

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Pre-Boarding Is a Must 

The first step of any process that involves virtual onboarding for remote workers is pre-boarding. This is true for any new workers – both remote and on-site. Instead of having the first day of work to fill out paperwork, take care of this ahead of time. 

Instead, let the newly hired employee spend time getting to know their new team on the first day. You can even set up virtual onboarding games, such as the virtual name game or a virtual scavenger hunt, which encourage social interaction. The sooner you can help a new employee feel welcome and acclimated to the team, the faster they will be up to speed and be able to begin contributing to the workflow. 

Recreate In-Office Experiences Online or Virtually

When it comes to virtual onboarding vs. in-person onboarding, you may think there's not much you can do to give remote workers the same experience. This isn't always the case.

Consider the small, personal touches that workers would experience in the office, making this possible virtually. You can set up virtual meet-and-greets, announce the new workers to the organization, or have staff members get in touch through video calls. It's also smart to provide new remote workers a peer mentor or buddy from day one. This is going to improve the virtual onboarding experience significantly.  

Virtual Onboarding Tools

For some employees working on remote teams currently, it may be their first time working from home. Taking time to ensure they can be productive from home is a must. To do this, you need to make sure they understand the virtual onboarding software/tools being used and ensure they are engaged throughout the process. 

Ensure Your Remote Workers Are Comfortable

If you have remote workers who are in the same area as your office, it may be possible to lend them desks, chairs, and other equipment necessary to handle their job duties. When this is not possible, you may want to consider offering stipends for the best home office equipment to help ensure they are comfortable and productive. 

Virtual Onboarding Best Practices

You must check in often with new remote workers, which should be part of your virtual onboarding best practices. Some leaders take for granted that everyone is adjusted to working from home. Take some time to fully understand your new worker's office situation and if other people in the home may be distracted. 


If you have new workers with children at home, it's best to provide flexible scheduling and the needed resources. Each new employee will have unique challenges when they work remotely. For younger employees, loneliness and isolation may be especially challenging to overcome. For older workers, issues related to health problems and childcare may be their focus. During the remote onboarding process, take some time to understand better and address every worker's unique needs and take steps to ensure they are set up for success. 

Provide a Digital Handbook and Overview of Company Culture 

Take time to digitize all current employee documentation and information related to company culture or stores about your company's beginnings. This is an important part of virtual onboarding and team engagement, so make sure you don't skip or overlook it. 

Make a "Getting Started" Checklist 

You can lighten your load by enabling your new remote workers to take over the onboarding process. One of the best ways to do this is by creating a "getting started" checklist they can work from. 

Some things to include on this list are:

  • Tools to download
  • Slack channels to join
  • Documents to sign
  • Meetings to schedule 

When you create a list of tasks they can do on their own, you give them more control over the process and reduce the work you have to take on. 

Stay Organized 

Create a set schedule for the initial days or weeks of your new remote hire's training. The more detailed you can be, and the more prepared you are for a new hire, the smoother the onboarding process will go. 

Help Remote Workers Establish Connections 

It's important to go beyond the basic "onboarding" process, which is really just getting all the needed tech setup and handling the administrative side of things. It's a good idea to consider an integration process. 

With this type of program, you can help your new hires get accustomed to the work culture while building strong relationships with important stakeholders. This is especially important in a remote environment. It's necessary to remain deliberate about creating new hire opportunities and helping them build their connections while communicating with colleagues. 

Make Expectations Clear 

If you want to ensure your new remote workers are set up for success, you must define the path to help them get there. One of the most common challenges faced by new hires is a lack of expectations and clarity. If your new hires feel this, there is a good chance other people in the organization do. 

By setting clear expectations, your new team members know what to do and what is expected. Creating these goals for remote onboarding establishes what outcomes matter and what your new hires need to focus on. 

The goals should also be your guide for one-on-one meetings and performance reviews through your worker's time with your company. You can maximize remote workers' potential for success if they can understand and visualize what they should achieve and where they stand for important work. 

Ensure Personal Growth and Professional Development Opportunities 

It's estimated that up to 67% of remote workers are interested in additional work-related training. Ensure you provide opportunities for your new hires to take online courses during or after the orientation process. You should also provide a stipend for professional and personal development that they choose themselves. 

Have Some Fun

Be sure to engage in interactive and live virtual onboarding. This can include things like telling stories, playing games, and mixing informal and formal chats. The initial 90 days are an important part of a new hire's experience. You need to ensure the onboarding process at this time is not robotic. You also need to provide plenty of time for learning and socializing. This can help bridge the game between assimilation and engagement. 

Encourage Collaborative Learning

When your new hires must work in a group to complete a project or case study during the onboarding process, it helps introduce them to one another and form a bond. It can also be the chance for you to cross-train some of your teams. Consider having your new sales representative work with a marketer and someone to support through the orientation, so they have connections and contacts in other departments. 

Use Videos to Introduce Important Procedures 

Video and visual introductions can be extremely effective, and something companies should consider implementing in their onboarding process no matter if they are going totally remote or not. There's something unique and welcoming about watching and listening to other team members performing a task. This is a great way to train and onboard new hires. You get bonus points if you can use several employees for recording videos to introduce more about your company. 

Cater to All Types of Learning 

Everyone learns uniquely. Some will learn by hearing, others by seeing, and some by doing. It doesn't matter how you onboard someone; you need to ensure that the process caters to each learning type. When you do this, you can feel confident that your message reaches all your new hires and help them feel welcomed and included in your company culture. 

Getting the Onboarding Process Right for Remote Hires 

As you can see, there are more than a few tips you can use to effectively onboard your remote workers. Implementing the tips here will help ensure new workers feel welcome and that they get a good start with your business. Also, the right onboarding process will improve employee retention, which is more important today than ever before. Be sure to take your time to ensure that the process you use is successful and that your new team members feel welcome and ready to get started, even when they are working remotely. This will pay off in the long run and help ensure the success of your business and employees. Being informed and making sure your remote hires are informed will pay off and set your team members and business up for long-term success.