How to successfully onboard new recruits remotely

New recruits working from home

A good induction experience is important for both the business and new recruits.

It helps the new recruits integrate quickly into the company by learning about the company’s culture and all the processes and procedures within the organisation. It also helps a new employee feel valued and respected and reinforces that they have made the right decision to join your team. The dilemma then is how do you create a great experience when onboarding remotely?

The fundamental principle is that you must have an effective onboarding process in place.

Here are 9 actions to consider.

1. Review your new recruits induction experience

Onboarding new hires is time consuming for any manager. It requires step-by-step instructions across a broad range of topics and is often overwhelming for the employee who will have a lot to remember. Trying to translate an in-person induction to an online process using video, emails, and phone calls is complicated for all parties. Prioritising information and delivering it in easily digestible chunks is essential.

An induction programme can cover many different policies, procedures, and protocols across the business. Preparation and planning are critical regardless of when and how you onboard.

Because induction programmes are not a one size fits all we’ve created an Induction Checklist covering many subjects you can include in your own programme. The checklist will help you determine not only what is important and what should be included for remote onboarding.

2. Make sure the technology is up to the task

Onboarding at any time can work, until the technology doesn’t. There are several things to consider when onboarding remotely, we mention a number in this article. The conversation regarding technology can be broad depending on the size of your business. For small or medium businesses there are a handful of things to consider. We’ve prepared a short cheat sheet for you to view.

3. Make sure your documents are digital

Asking a new employee to print documents, complete and sign them by hand, then scan and email them back is not only time consuming but sometimes impossible. Many people do not have a printer/scanner at home. There are many tools available that make PDFs editable and others that provide digital signatures. Using these alternatives will speed up the signing of forms and contracts and improve the onboarding experience.

4. Provide a communication framework

As individuals we like to communicate in different ways however, it isn’t about how the message is delivered but about matching the right channel with the right context. When onboarding a new recruits provide some guidance on your preferred communication framework. Something that you and other colleagues all agree on. For example:

a. Phone calls – for detailed conversations or answering questions, when emails go back and forth too many times, and a quick resolution can be found if someone just picked up the phone
b. Email – for brief communications including information, instructions, or any initial questions
c. Video – team meetings, collaboration, feedback, planning, or alternatively individual meetings
d. Group messaging – general announcements, informal messages, socialising

5. Set specific goals and expectations

When onboarding onsite you may not get to discussing specific KPI’s or milestones until a couple of weeks in, usually following a full induction programme. When starting virtually you might need to set some intermediary goals as well. Have a schedule of activity or a task calendar prepared that defines some of the short-term expectations. This can include regular meetings with you, (the manager), team meetings (with agenda), and individual meetings with colleagues, stakeholders, customers, or vendors. It should also include any immediate deliverables the new employee must action.

6. Introduce the entire team

Within the first week, preferably the first couple of days, set up a team video call to introduce the new hire to their colleagues or team members. It’s a good time to have everyone briefly introduce themselves, give an overview of their roles and under what circumstances the new hire is likely to engage with them. Perhaps do this meeting as a ‘welcome morning tea’ format, or however you would typically welcome someone into the business and keep this initial introduction informal and welcoming.

7. Set up a buddy system

Setting up a buddy system is a fantastic way to help integrate a new recruits into your team. It can help to save the manager some time in their own busy schedules and will also help build internal relationships. Part of your remote onboarding could be to partner up the new hire with an established employee. The established employee can provide vital support during the remote onboarding but also when everyone gets back to the office. A ‘buddy’ can help to connect the employee with the right people during those first few weeks with the business.

8. Create a social occasion

Onboarding virtually makes it difficult to enjoy a more casual social outing with the team. But setting up a social event is always a good icebreaker, and a great way for everyone to meet in a more relaxed environment. There are many virtual games; bingo, quizzes, and Pictionary are a few that come to mind, that can be coordinated between teams or individuals.

9. Encourage questions

It’s easy to anticipate the most common questions and you may already have an FAQ document prepared for new starts. Remember that remote working doesn’t allow for shoulder tapping, or watercooler conversations so the key is to create an environment where new recruits are comfortable reaching out to anyone when they have questions to ask.

As mentioned earlier, the first few days, and weeks, can be overwhelming. As individuals we often feel we have a honeymoon period when we feel comfortable asking whatever we want, then at some point we think the honeymoon is over and feel stupid for doing so. The consequences being we either don’t learn or we make mistakes. You want your new employee to maintain their curiosity without fear. They’ll learn faster, integrate more quickly, and be productive sooner.

We recognise that some of the activities in this article could take you a while to create and implement. So where do you start? Determine what is important, establish your induction process, start with bite size chunks, delegate when viable, leverage technology, simplify where possible, and communicate often.


This article first appeared in August 2021 under the title, “11 things to consider when onboarding new recruits during lockdown”. We have updated it to better reflect the new hybrid working environment where new recruit inductions are often conducted virtually.

Talk to Eclipse Recruitment

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