How to onboard a remote hire
One week before
Send them a personal welcome note
Email your new hire to let them know you’re looking forward to having them join the team! Here’s a sample email:
Hi [name], I’m excited to have you start next week.
On your first day, we’ll be meeting over Zoom for a general catch up and to go through your 60 day plan. You’ll see it on your calendar for 10am. I’ve also organized a virtual team lunch!
Throughout your first few days I’ve arranged for you to meet with several people, including:
- Person 1 [Role][team] at [Mon][2pm]
- Person 2 [Role][team] at [Tue][2pm]
- Person 3 [Role][team] at [Tue][4pm]
- Person 4 [Role][team] at [Wed][10am]
- Person 5 [Role][team] at [Thu][2pm]
We can’t wait for you to start! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Otherwise, we’ll see you on [Monday].
Ensure you have their 60-day onboarding plan completed
You’ve already received a Pyn with information on how to fill out your new hires 60 day onboarding plan. Make sure this plan is ready on their first day!
One of the most important components to include is a clear first project. Include what they are responsible for and the ideal outcome. It should be a project that helps the new hire get acquainted with the company, but also have the feeling of accomplishment at the same time.
Set up two one-on-ones, one on their first day and one later in the week
1st Day One-on-One
Schedule a one-hour meeting with your new hire on their first day. This should be a time to generally catch up and to share their 60-day plan.
Mid Week One-on-One
You probably won’t have time to discuss every little detail of the plan, so make sure you schedule some more time later in the week to continue the conversation.
Schedule a virtual team meal on their 1st day
It’s great to have a virtual meal as a team to welcome your new hire. We’d recommend keeping the group to a maximum of 6, so the conversation can flow easier. If you need to limit the invite, be sure to include the team members this person will work most closely with.
Pick 5-10 people your new hire should meet with and/or find them a buddy
As referenced in your pre-start email to your new hire you’ll need to line up some colleagues for them to meet with. Reach out to 5-10 employees (teammates or cross-department collaborators) your new hire will interact with frequently. Ask them if they would be open to meeting your new hire via video chat in their first few weeks. Make it easy on your new hire by setting up the calendar invites, providing context on each meeting, and even suggesting some topics to cover. You can also assign them an official buddy - someone they can have one-on-one meetings once a week or bi-weekly to ask questions, and get acclimated to the company.
Inform your IT Team
Send an email to IT to confirm your new hire will have access to your team’s systems, software, and mailing lists.
Inform your team and relevant stakeholders
Send an email to your team and relevant stakeholder a few days out with a quick message to inform them of your new hire’s upcoming first day.
I’m excited to have [new starter] start on [day of the week] as our new [Position of new Starter]. Thanks in advance for helping them feel welcome! I’m sure they would appreciate you reaching out in their first week to say hello and share some of your knowledge. Thank you!
Their Week One Checklist
Send a Day 1 Welcome Note
Everyone needs a little encouragement. Imposter syndrome can be in full force at the beginning of a new role, especially when remote. That’s because a remote employee misses the cues and signals that tell them they’re on the right track. Prepare and send a welcome note that includes:
- Why you hired them - this helps them know you believe in them.
- Company and team context - even if you plan to share much of this in person (which you should), documenting this will get you in the habit of writing more, which is a critical skill for remote collaboration. Share or send documents on the history, purpose, values, and vision of the organization and/or team, details on how the team works and meets, any relevant business context (product vision, marketing trends, etc), and upcoming milestones or OKR’s or an overview of current projects and goals. This also gives your new hire a peek into what success looks like on your team and at the company as a whole.
- How you’ll onboard them - share your outstanding list of to-dos for their onboarding. This way they know what is still to be expected. Lack of certainty is dangerous for the brain, especially when undergoing change.
Make sure they have the right access, tools, and set-up
- Provide access to files, information, tasks, deadlines, updates, news and more.
- Make sure they’re equipped with digital communication tools like Slack, Asana, and Trello.
- Ensure they are properly set up for working remotely. For example, confirm that there is a quiet, dedicated space free from distractions and noise. Have a back-up plan for IT interruptions, breakdown, maintenance, and support.
Introduce them to the rest of the team over video conferencing
This could be during a team meeting, stand-up or ad-hoc depending on team size.
Set up a meeting rhythm
- Invite them to and share context about your daily meeting or stand-up: (Example: “stand-ups are a quick, less than 10 minutes just to say hi and feel like you are connecting and to make sure there is nothing blocking each person from achieving their goals”).
- Schedule a weekly 45-minute one-on-one with your employee. These weekly catch-ups are especially important for new hires to give them the support and context they need as they ramp up. Extend them by an extra 15 minutes (to 45) so there’s more time to build connection and rapport.
- Add them into your monthly all-team meetings.
Establish communication norms aka “how we will communicate”
- Establish core hours that all team members will be online and available. For example, “We ask that your working hours overlap with Pacific time, at least 4 hours. If you’re working support, we ask that you’re available from 9am - 5pm ET.”
- Make sure they know who to contact when they have a question and the best way to get in touch. For example, “If you’re going to be 100% unreachable during any point in the day, just give the team a heads up by posting it in your daily check-in, or adding an event in the calendar.”
- Decide and commit to responding to each other within a set period, especially if you have team members on different schedules or in different time zones. Create and share acronyms like “4 Hour Response (4HR)” and “No Need to Respond (NNTR)” to bring predictability and certainty to virtual conversations.
- Clarify which communication methods to use and why (e.g., to use or not use Slack, Google Docs, or Whatsapp groups). Match the message to the medium to avoid miscues and misinterpretation. For example, if there is a complex issue to discuss, do it over a video conference so that you can hear the tone and observe body language. Small, non-urgent requests are best over email, instant messaging, or Slack. Any prolonged conversation on Slack should become a phone call.
Provide an overview of current projects and goals
Context is important, even more so for someone who is new in your team! Make sure you take some time to explain the team and departmental goals and the current projects the team, and you, are working on.
On Friday, catch up for a ‘First Week Recap’
Make sure you find time with them at the end of their first week for check-in. Ask them about their week one experience, if they are clear on expectations for week 2, and any other questions or concerns.
Additional onboarding tips for their first 90 days
The fastest pencil is better than the sharpest memory! Documentation is important because remote employees aren’t able to learn new procedures or processes by watching in person. When in doubt, remind them to write it out. Documenting will also save you time so you don’t need to repeat the process for each person you hire.
Provide visibility and proactively share information and context
According to a study by Zogby Analytics, remote workers reported a lack of information from management (38 percent) and the timeliness of the information (39 percent) as the biggest obstacle of working remotely. Because remote employees miss out on the informal, desk, or watercooler chat, be sure to proactively provide updates or context. When in doubt, over-communicate at first.
A remote employee is often out of sight, out of mind. This affects both information flow and the visibility of their work to the rest of the team and organization. Ensure your remote employee has opportunities to showcase, share, and receive public recognition for their contributions. For example: regularly send emails praising the team and singling out colleagues for a job well done. Or, create or use a shared status update board or system that allows others to give feedback on work and showcase the impact this employee is making.
Find meaningful ways for your team to connect online
Unfortunately, remote employees often feel excluded from company culture. Have everyone watch the same TED talk, read the same book or article, or take the same online learning course, and then discuss it over video conference. Or kick off virtual meetings with an icebreaker question.
Create the water cooler moments your remote employee will likely miss. Create video links between offices, or have specific days that a camera is always on.
Create inclusive celebration rituals: For example, when the office goes out for drinks to celebrate a team win, provide each remote employee with a celebratory budget. Or, try a synchronous pizza party or similar celebration where each person joins from their computer at the same time and gives a toast.
Use video conferencing as much as possible and make all meetings remote-friendly
- If most employees are in the office and a few are remote, once a month or more have each employee video conference from their own computer. This way everyone experiences how it feels to be remote. Do this even if some team members sit right next to each other when dialing in.
- Have a chat room open or slack channel available for team members to leave messages for each other. You can also have a slack channel for non-business related chat.
- Build a culture of adding people on calls: Go out of your way to get the remote person into the meeting. If you would have interrupted someone in the office, then it’s worth bringing them in, or waiting until they’re available.
- Make whiteboarding and ideating remote-friendly: Remote employees are at a clear disadvantage when it comes to sharing and bouncing ideas off their team members. Shift brainstorming of all kinds to being digital.