How to Onboard New Employees Remotely

Switching from in-office onboarding to remote onboarding can be a challenge, but by setting expectations and changing some tools in your box, it is doable.


At Respondent, we onboard new employees remotely all the time. However, as a fully distributed team, remote is our normal. Switching from in-office onboarding to remote onboarding can be a challenge, but by setting expectations and changing some tools in your box, it is infinitely doable.

We think about onboarding in three categories:

  1. Company onboarding
  2. Role/department onboarding
  3. Relationship building
 
Ideal home office set up (Cat too!)

Company Onboarding

How we work remotely

The first meeting that new employees attend covers what working remotely looks like at Respondent. This allows new employees to understand how we work and communicate, especially important if they are switching from in-office to remote work.

 

Internet — You might not be thinking about how fast your internet is as a new employee, but as a fully distributed team we need everyone to have 50 mbps or more to ensure their video connection works well. A speed test will help you determine how fast your internet is.

Office set-up — We send all new employees a home office set-up. If you are working remotely temporarily, it might not make sense to do this for all employees. We would, however, recommend having new employees try to carve out a place that is conducive to working: not on a bed, not on a couch, and not at the kitchen table. If possible, consider sending chairs and desks from the office home to employees.

Video — At Respondent, we always use video calls in order to mimic in-person communication. On a new employee’s first day, we outline video call etiquette so that meetings are as effective and productive as possible.

Communication channels

In that same first meeting on what working remotely looks like, we also go through the communication channels that we use across the company and what we use them for.

For example:

  • Slack: quick communication that is 5 lines or less; company announcements
  • Asana: project management
  • Zoom: all meetings, no phone
  • Lattice: 1:1 agendas, end of week updates, OKR setting and tracking
  • Google Drive: collaborating through Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, etc.
  • Google Calendar: source of truth for everyone; direct booking
  • Slab: information library where everyone can pull information such as KPIs, meeting notes, values — you name it!

While this may seem like a lot of tools to use across the company, using them consistently and outlining their use-cases and purpose explicitly helps new-hires acclimate smoothly. Once new employees have an understanding of the tools we use, we provide them with checklists in Asana to set themselves up properly in each app:

 

A new employee’s first two weeks are full of getting to know team members through 1:1s, company video teaching sessions, and some self-paced assignments to get even more familiar with how we work. All of these are booked in advance so they’re never left wondering what to do next.

Company teaching sessions are all done over video and are hosted by a current Respondent employee. We use Zoom because it allows you to share your screen, do breakout groups, and chat.

Sessions include::

  • Our vision and mission overview
  • Our values overview
  • How each department works
  • How to respond to customers
  • A day to answer customer inquiries

Self-paced assignments include:

  • Watching videos on our industry (qualitative research)
  • Watching videos on how we conduct meetings
  • Posting your own project to our platform

Department and Role Onboarding

The manager plays a critical role in ensuring that new hires are up to speed. First, all hiring managers complete an Onboarding Guide outlining what that employee is responsible for, the department’s mission, a ramp plan, and more.

 

Relationship Building

It’s important to us that new employees begin building relationships right when they start. To enable this, we set up 1:1s with the team for meet-and-greets so that people get to know each other on a social level.

For fun, we also ask new employees to play Two Truths and a Lie using a poll in Slack.

 

We incorporate new hires into other fun activities as soon as possible:

  • We do “monthly lunches” where small groups get together for lunch over video
  • We use donut to randomly pair groups of three together to connect over video
  • We have several social slack channels: #social_pets, #social_general, #social_cooking
 
Orange Almond Thumbprint Cookies in #social_cooking

Final Thoughts

Onboarding employees remotely is very doable! Of course, there are challenges and it requires some changes in expectations and tools. But with the right adjustments, your new hires will be up and running in no time.

Have other useful ways to onboard employees remotely? Add a comment here! We’d love to hear how other people are doing this.

Have questions? Feel free to message me directly. I’d love to chat with you about how to set up your team for success.

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