How to Onboard Remote Employees

Lestraundra Alfred
Lestraundra Alfred


Successfully onboarding new employees is critical for any employer looking to retain talented team members long-term. Turnover is costly and disruptive, and nearly 20% of employee turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment. With this in mind, a robust onboarding program is one of the most worthwhile investments you can make in building an effective sales team.

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Now that many companies are making the shift to remote work, the ability to onboard new becomes even more challenging because it presents greater barriers to communication and trust-building. When new employees are physically distant from their team, you want them to feel included and empowered to do their job to the best of their ability.

According to Sales Benchmark Index, the top five mistakes companies make when it comes to new hire sales training are:

  • A lackluster first day — Over two-thirds of employees surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with their first day on the job because they felt their managers were preoccupied and disengaged.
  • Not having a detailed onboarding plan — Employees who know what to expect during their first few months on the job felt more empowered in their role.
  • Not enough mentorship or support — New team members can often feel passed around when colleagues and managers are too busy to help get them up to speed.
  • No structure or milestones set — New hires who have a structured onboarding plan with set milestones and accountability are often able to ramp up faster than those who don’t.
  • Facilitating training that is too complex — The most effective new hire orientation programs are those that are easy to follow, and that builds over time as the employee’s familiarity with the role grows.

Thankfully, these mistakes are easy to avoid with a thoughtful approach to ramping up new team members. Here are some of our top tips for avoiding these mistakes and successfully onboarding remote employees.

1. Prepare the rest of your team for the new employee’s arrival.

Though your new team member may not be working directly alongside your other employees, you want them to feel included and like they are a part of the team. Creating this dynamic starts before the employee’s arrival.

When you decide to make a new remote hire and have a start date set, communicate the necessary details to the rest of your team. Tell them about their new colleague, what their statement of work will be, and share their start date. Assign a current member of your team to be their buddy or mentor who can serve as their go-to for questions and support so they don’t feel lost or unsure where to go for guidance.

Make sure your current team members know to make themselves available to support your new hire as needed so your new employee feels empowered to ask questions and get the help they need.

2. Have their tech equipment ready ahead of time.

In addition to getting your current team ready to support your new employee, make sure any tools or tech equipment they need to successfully do their job are ready upon their arrival. Having IT issues when working remotely can be challenging, so mitigating these issues for new employees supports a smooth transition.

For remote workers, having the right equipment and system access in order is very important for productivity especially when you don’t have on-site tech support like many office workers do.

Depending on what resources you have available, arrange to have the necessary equipment delivered to your new hire before their first day so they can hit the ground running. Additionally, if your new hire needs access to any special systems, have the steps they need to take to gain access documented so the employee can immediately begin requesting the access they need to do their role.

3. Have digital onboarding and company culture documents ready.

At HubSpot, managers create a 100-days plan that serves as an onboarding roadmap for new employees. Depending on the employee’s statement of work, the 100-days plan can consist of key training, statement of work documentation, and important milestones new employees need to complete during their first 100 days on the job.

While you don’t have to create a 100-days plan, having a plan that clearly documents what the new hire can expect as they get up to speed is incredibly helpful for those working in a remote setting.

For your organization, this could mean having documented 30, 60, and 90-day milestones for your employee, or a robust custom onboarding plan that is updated for each employee.

Regardless of which approach you take, mapping out what the first few months on the job will look like for your new employees is a best practice that can set them up for success in your organization.

4. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings.

As your new employee is transitioning into their role, schedule regular one-on-one meetings with them to stay in communication and offer support as needed. While having one-on-one meetings is standard practice for most managers with all of their employees, you may want to consider having more frequent check-ins with your new employees who are working remotely.

For employees who are still getting settled in their role, having a structured document where they can share questions or talking points they would like to cover during their one-on-one meetings can be helpful for keeping conversations on track.

You can use your initial one-on-one meetings to check in on major milestones in your employee’s onboarding plan and offer a safe space for any questions or support they may have. Engaging in regular conversations with your new hires is an effective way to begin building trust.

5. Setup welcome video conference meetings with your team.

According to the 2019 HubSpot Remote Work Report, 35% of remote workers report feeling lonely two to three days per week. For those who are adjusting to a new work environment, these feelings could be amplified. An effective way to support new remote employees is to set up introductory meetings with the other members of your team.

These meetings may not need to occur on a weekly basis, however, within the first few weeks of joining your organization, your new hire should have time allocated to have face-to-face meetings with their new colleagues through a video conferencing platform.

Much like the manager one-on-one meetings, these initial conversations are helpful for building trust between your new hire and current employees. Additionally, these meetings give your new hire a chance to feel included and provides a comfortable environment for your employees to get to know one another.

6. Set clear expectations and working norms.

Clearly communicating expectations around your new team member’s statement of work is especially important for those working remotely. While some employees thrive off of working independently, others may need external accountability to stay motivated.

Setting clear expectations around your new hire’s roles and responsibilities is essential when they begin working in your organization. This can look like clearly stating what their key functions and deliverables are, ensuring they know when to attend key meetings, and sharing any working norms your team has established.

For example, if your team typically communicates non-emergency out-of-office time 48 hours in advance and adds those dates to a team calendar, make sure your new team members are aware of this practice.

Another helpful practice used at HubSpot is the “how to work with me” document. Each employee has the option to document how they work best to communicate their working style. Check out this post for more examples of what to “how to work with me” document, and advice on setting expectations with a remote workforce.

7. Encourage over-communication.

When working with remote employees, regular communication is essential. As an employee who was ramped up remotely, having my manager emphasize over-communication was a huge help in my transition as a new employee.

Now when I say over-communication, I don’t mean going overboard and sharing what could be considered TMI. For remote teams, over-communicating can mean providing status on deliverables even when it isn’t asked for, keeping your Slack or instant-messaging system updated with your whereabouts, and confirming receipt and understanding of messages that are shared electronically.

Essentially, because you can’t rely on in-person communication or body language to ensure understanding or accountability, keeping an open channel of communication (especially with new employees who are getting acclimated with remote work) creates a more positive work experience for everyone involved.

Onboarding salespeople is a big undertaking, and doing so remotely presents its own set of challenges. However, the return on investment for properly training new sales employees is well worth the effort. Head to this post for more valuable advice on new hire training for salespeople.

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Topics: Remote Working

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