Onboarding a remote employee

Q: I am starting a role in August.  The company is working completely remotely and there are no plans for them to renew their office space lease.  I am nervous about joining a new role 100% remotely.  What should I be looking for to ensure that I onboard effectively?  I am afraid that it will be a struggle for me to meet others, understand the culture and get up to speed.

A: It is a challenge to onboard new employees effectively, particularly when working 100% remotely.  Here are some recommendations:

  • Have a plan in place.  Before the new hire starts, develop a schedule.  Ensure that the new employee has a list of resources and tools.
  • Share login information for email, Zoom, Teams and/or Slack.  There may be additional tools that can be used to enhance communication and sharing of important information.  Confirm that the new hire knows how to effectively use these tools.
  • Identify a “go to” person or persons.  Who is available to connect with the new hire to answer questions, explain internal norms, and information that may not be documented but well-known?
  • Hold the hiring manager accountable for effectively onboarding the new employee.  The hiring manager should be checking in with the employee close to daily the first week or so.  Then, it can move to every other day and then weekly.

Kaitlin Urstadt, Accounting Associate, with Juna Financial Solutions explains that she was nervous about accepting a role that was 100% remote.  She started her new role in January, 2021.  Urstadt shares that she had been working in a partially remote role prior to joining Juna.  She credits her new organization with having a firm foundation in strong remote work practices before she joined.  Now she feels like part of the organization and is fully immersed in day-to-day activities and describes Juna as having “an amazing team atmosphere” and when she was onboarding she “never felt alone.”

Conversely, another new hire with an established professional services firm in Boston, shares that for the first few months she felt “out of sight, out of mind.”  This leader recalls that she was given log-ins for email, and other systems, but she felt isolated and sometimes was not invited to important client meetings.  This Vice President said there was no plan and very little contact with her new manager.  One of the positive outcomes in her firm though was they began to realize new hires were struggling.  They began checking in with new hires after the first few months, and many newly hired employees raised concerns that they felt disconnected and not part of the larger organization.  Now, she is sharing sample onboarding templates with her new employer.

Employers need to think about remote onboarding before a new hire joins.  A bumpy onboarding process can contribute to turnover and poor employee engagement.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.