Working remotely offers many distinct benefits for both employers and employees, but there are challenges. Engagement and connection are more difficult to instill across the miles. Remote employees can become isolated entities rather than part of a team working towards a common goal.

Helping remote employees engage, focus and connect begins with the onboarding process. Supplement your onboarding software or self-guided training with these strategies for effectively onboarding remote employees.

Be Ahead of the Game

A disorganized onboarding process or missing equipment can put any new employee at loose ends, but there are further consequences with remote employees. If their company laptop doesn’t arrive on time or no one can produce their login for the onboarding software, they can easily feel overlooked and uneasy, not to mention frustrated because they’re not able to hit the ground running. Make sure everything your remote employees need is available on Day 1 or ahead of time.

Make Remote Employees Feel Welcome

A company-branded mug or apparel is a simple way to welcome any new hire. This is especially true for those working remotely. A welcome package, or even just a signed card from teammates, is a thoughtful way to make offsite employees feel included and valued.

Establish Open Communication

Questions are an expected part of the onboarding process. Even the most thorough onboarding software and training tools can’t anticipate all of them. A new onsite employee is likely to have a trainer or supervisor near at hand, or will simply lean across the desk to seek help from a fellow employee.

As these options aren’t available to remote employees, you need alternate solutions. Establish open lines of communication through chat, video chat, phone and/or email. As new employees don’t always know who to contact in different scenarios, provide clear direction to help them feel confident in reaching out.

Schedule regular calls or virtual meetings to check in with remote employees. As with onsite workers, you should tailor the frequency of these check-ins to their role, job duties, personality and individual work style.

Use the Buddy System

There is no better way for a new hire to acquire institutional knowledge than from experienced teammates. Assigning remote employees a mentor or buddy will not only provide them guidance, but will help foster team connection.

Connect Remote Employees to the Team

Part of the first-day ritual at many companies is introducing the new hire as part of the office tour. From there, the new employee begins to develop relationships through team brainstorming sessions, after-work activities, and casual chats around the coffee machine.
Since remote employees don’t have these opportunities, they need other ways to connect. Make it a point to introduce them at an all-team meeting or get-together, either virtually or, if the distance isn’t burdensome, in person. Get creative by taking remote employees on a virtual tour of the office where teammates can say hello…all you need is a smartphone camera!

Include remote employees in all-team meetings and relevant project meetings whenever possible. Communicate clearly that they are expected to participate—advance notice will be needed to accommodate differences in work schedules and time zones.

Video conferencing is preferable to conference calls, so remote employees can communicate “face to face” rather than with disembodied voices. Set up the camera or laptop at eye level with the in-person attendees. That way, remote employees will be part of the conversation rather than floating above it or viewing it from a distance.

Promote Team-Building

If the distance is appropriate, invite remote employees to team lunches, after-work activities and company get-togethers. Even if you’re not sure they can attend, keeping them in the loop is an inclusive gesture that is appreciated.

Annual all-company conferences, team-building activities or retreats are a great way to build a sense of community, especially if you have a large remote workforce.

Provide Opportunities for Professional Development

Opportunities for continued education demonstrate to remote employees that you value their success, and that their contributions are important. There are any number of ways to incorporate professional development into your onboarding process. Online training courses, certifications, tuition reimbursement and conferences are a few options.

Set Your Remote Employees Up to Succeed

Just like your in-house staff, remote employees need to be focused, engaged and connected in order to perform their best and be happy in their jobs. With solid onboarding strategies like these, you can set them up for long-term success.