human resources

Onboarding remote employees

7 min read Joana Fonseca, Head of Marketing & Inbound Sales

Employee onboarding is supposed to accomplish several goals: welcome the new team member, set them up for success, connect with the team and help them feel part of the family. In an office, the physical presence plays a big part of this integration. However, when onboarding a remote employee, you may need to adjust your onboarding process to fully accomplish these goals. 

With the help of a digital employee academy, you’ll be able to provide all the training your new employees need. Although this is also valid for employees that will be working at the office, for hybrid or full remote personnel, it’s crucial to have the training technology to make it happen. If you don’t have one yet, here are 12 tips to choose the right training platform.

Tips to onboard employees that work remotely

Start with a plan

This may seem a bit obvious and is probably part of all the research you’ve done so far in this topic, but that just shows how important it is. With a good plan, and a well-defined onboarding structure, you’ll be able to be more efficient and prepare the resources you’ll need to put it in place. 

Make sure you include your goals for the onboarding both from your point of view as responsible for the onboarding of a new employee, but also from the new employee’s point of view: what exactly do you want them to know or achieve once the process is completed. 

This plan is not just about the training, it will help you and your team immensely if it includes every step of the process, from the welcome emails to steps you or the new employee need to take such as creating their intranet login or any other operational steps.

Timing is also important. When building the process, identify realistic time frames for completion of the different steps or courses.

Define personalised learning paths

Although there is a lot of information that will be the same for all employees, each one will have different needs depending on the team they are joining, their seniority, their role, sometimes also their region. 

You can work together with each department’s head to define what’s important to include in their team members’ onboarding training. For example, if you are onboarding sales reps, you may need to include training on sales processes, on how to use the CRM, and so on. 

Creating learning paths will allow you to control the order in which each team member will take the courses, as they will only be able to move on to the next course once they have completed the previous one. Another advantage is that the new employees will be able to see their own progress and the courses that are coming up next.

Make it personal

One of the misconceptions about online training is that it’s less personal or less “human”. This only depends on how you do it. Here’s how you can make your digital onboarding feel more human and personal: 

Use video and team members
Video allows you to have presenters that are part of the team. This means your new hire will be able to create a sense of familiarity with the other team members, and it’s the team itself that is introducing them to the company. So, whether it’s a welcome message from the CEO, or other colleagues sharing tips for the first few days, video is the way to go.
Video is also a great format for all the training you want to offer, as it’s different possibilities allow you to meet any training you have, from screen-casting to show how to use a software, to role-playing for skills training.

Enable different languages
One of the great advantages of remote work is that you can have talent from all over the world. To help them feel more comfortable, you can choose a training platform that’s available in multiple languages – so they can select their native language. Also, you can create the different courses and training content in different languages or have subtitles available in different languages.

Continue the conversation on the side
Schedule emails or notifications to send throughout the process, along the different stages. This will allow you to save time and still keep a high level of interaction and conversation throughout. Make sure to personalise the emails and that the sender’s email is monitored so there’s a two-way conversation.

Pre-onboard new hires

One of the advantages of digital training is that you can invite your new employees to start the onboarding process before their first day on the job. This has many benefits, as it reduces onboarding time, it helps make the new team members more comfortable as they can start to feel part of team and get familiarised with your organisation and what’s to come. It will also help reduce the time it takes the new employees to show results as on day #1 they will already have many of tools they need to be successful.

Make the process interactive

It’s important to interact and engage with your learners before, during and after training. The right interactions, at the right time are key to successful training because they keep engagement high, help knowledge retention and evaluation, and allow your employees to offer their feedback. 

You can use quizzes between course chapters, create challenges to invite your employees to share their experiences and thoughts, have a Q&A area available so they can ask any questions that may come up, and maybe even a connect tool to share news, milestones, events, celebrations, or any other information that will help your new hires feel part of the team.


What to include in your employee onboarding training programme

If you want to go for a comprehensive onboarding experience, in this block you have the different areas to approach and some suggestion of the topics to talk about in each. Of course, each company is different, and both the topics and the mood of the training programme should reflect that. For example, if you have an informal work environment make sure it shines through in the content you’re sharing.

Another important note that is valid for all areas, and training in general, is to make sure you divide each topic into small chunks or chapters. On one hand, it’s more engaging and easier for the learner to manage and retain, and on the other hand it will be easier for you to update a short specific chapter if anything changes, than an entire hour-long video.

Start with a warm welcome

Get off to a great start with a welcome message from the CEO. This message can be used for all new hires, and you can add welcome messages from other members of the leadership team. You can decide to include only those that are involved directly with the new hire, such as the head of HR, and the head of the department the employee is joining. 

Present the organisation

After a warm welcome from the leadership team, it’s time to present the company, the culture, and what it’s about. To create a sense of belonging, it’s key to learn about what you belong to, and create a sense of pride to be a part of the family. 

The company’s history, its organisational structure, its values and mission, the culture code, its brand(s) and product(s), how it’s like to work in your company (invite some employees to share their thoughts and what they like about working there, for example), the intranet and / or employee platform, and so on. 

This is also a good time to share information about company benefits and how they work, especially regarding benefits there are equal to all employees, for example: extra days off, wellness allowance, paid expenses, etc. 

Compliance and safety

In any company, there are rules and policies that all employees need to know about and comply with. This is especially important in industries that are highly regulated. However, topics like cybersecurity and GDPR, for example, are very important to include in this type of training.

Your employee academy

Show off your employee academy where all team members can find training beyond onboarding, that is always available, and maybe even includes some work-life balance or wellness courses, and skills courses to help their development and career growth. Also, showcasing the importance of training will encourage lifelong learning among your employees.

The team

From this point on, your learning paths will differ a lot more depending on the employee that’s travelling in this onboarding journey. 

As each employee will be part of a specific team, you can now move to specific information about the team they are joining. It’s leaders, its structure, even its processes, its specificities. It’s important to work together with the head of each team, and even the other team members to make sure the new team members gets all the relevant information they need. 

About your product(s)

Different roles will need different levels of product knowledge, but as the main asset(s) of the company it’s key to offer everyone great product training. Remember every employee is an ambassador of your products and brand so knowing the product well is crucial. 

Introduce the tools

In any company, there are different tools each employee will use and it will help productivity and efficiency if the employees are familiar with them. Some tools will be the same for all, for example your employee platform, or other communication and collaboration tools such as Zoom or Slack. Other tools will be different depending on specific roles. They may need to know how to use the CRM, the marketing automation platform, the accounting software and so on.

In this type of training, it’s important to explain more than just how to use the software itself. Make sure to include company or team specific usage and rules into consideration, for example: how it’s organised, the nomenclatures, etc.

Assess retention

As in any training, it’s important to understand if your learners retained the knowledge you shared. You can do this by adding assessment quizzes after specific chapters or courses, or by creating an overall assessment at the end of the process. This is especially important for your onboarding courses about compliance, processes, operations, and product.

Get immediate feedback

At the end, make sure to get the newly onboarded employees’ feedback on the process. This is a great way to show that you care about what they have to say, it’s a great way to get a first contribution from them, and you can take that feedback and make adjustments to improve the process. 

Continuously analyse training data

Analysing training data is key to understand if your training efforts are being effective so avoid the the biggest training data pitfall of all: not doing it. Make sure you choose a training platform that offers detailed reporting on the training itself and on the learners.

Add a bit of fun to your employee onboarding

A new employee is joining an already existing team, with its relationships, private jokes, specific lingo, and more. So, what better way to help a new team member feel included than to share some of the informal knowledge and experiences that make up a team? 

This may seem like a crazy suggestion, but if you think about it, it offers the new team members some great conversation starters, and they won’t feel confused or excluded in a situation that may need that knowledge to be fully understood.

How to do this? You probably already know a few of these things, especially the company-wide ones, but you can also ask the different teams for these kind of information. Also, ask the team to present these stories in fun videos to add to the onboarding process.

To finish this article, let me share a story that fits right into this topic and that, until now, was only known to members of the bugle team. A few years ago, our CTO responded to a request with a joke. Instead of saying “It’s a bug”, he said “It’s a “bode”” (in Portuguese, the name for a male goat is “bode”). Everybody laughed and it took off. We all adopted this new animal reference, and to this day, the entire bugle team still refers to bugs as “bodes”. It’s probably funnier in Portuguese, but even our international colleagues get a kick out of calling them “bodes”.
As you belong to the bugle community, now you know too. 😉 

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You may also find interesting:
How to create a communication plan for your academy (guide)
How to implement a learning culture in your company (article)
How to identify knowledge gaps in your team (article)
How to make knowledge sharing effective and scalable in your company (article)

How to get your team onboard with training without making it mandatory  (article)
12 tips to choose the right training platform (article)

Do you want to learn more about how bugle can help you with employee training? Let's talk!

Tags: human resources, employee training


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