While establishing a structured onboarding program can be challenging, creating a remote onboarding plan can be trickier still.

In particular, it can be tough to break through the (boring) monotony of PDF docs and text-based onboarding resources. Ensuring the required tech reaches its owner, the new hire, in time – unscathed – adds to the challenge.

Not to forget, the virtual onboarding experience can feel lonely and isolating. With limited face-to-face interaction, it’s hard to tell if the new person has any questions and whether they’re comfortable in the new place. So how do you create a remote onboarding program that welcomes, engages, and retains new employees? We’ve got you covered with this guide that dives into the A-Z of remote onboarding including the documents you need to make and must-follow best practices.

What is remote onboarding?

Remote onboarding involves introducing a new hire to your company culture, the team, and the tools they’d need to do their job to help them understand their role, your company, and the people they’ll be working with.

Ideally, onboarding involves showing a new member around the office, taking them out for lunch, and lots of handshakes. With remote onboarding, however, all this is done virtually using video conferencing, videos, interactive exercises and text resources.

Recently, an episode of Vimeo’s masterclass series discussed the ins-and-outs of onboarding with video. Check out a snippet below:

How to onboard remote employees

Explore our 5-step action plan on virtual onboarding new employees:

Step 1: Virtual onboarding pre-work

‘Prework’ ensures everything goes as per schedule. So get to work with the following steps:

  • Get all the hardware and onboarding manuals delivered to the new hire before their joining. Alternatively, transfer a hardware shopping budget to them, giving a deadline for when they should’ve their desk ready.
  • Ask the IT team to help with the new hardware’s setup. Remotely installing VPNs and security software are all tasks for this step.
  • Send over some company swag. Branded mugs, stickers, T-shirts, and socks among other items make new hires feel a part of your team. 
  • Introduce company communication tools and set up the newcomer’s accounts.  
  • Ask for the new person’s information such as their previous job, hobbies, and more. Pass it along to the team so they can welcome them.

Tip: Speed up the paperwork process by getting the hire to fill and sign documents digitally using secure eSignature tools like DocuSign.

Step 2: Remote orientation for new employees

This involves introducing the new hire to key team members. You, as their HR point of contact, their hiring manager (or the direct manager they’ll report to), and the CEO are three faces a new hire should meet on day one.

If the new member hasn’t already met these folks during their hiring interviews, it’s best you do an intro video call. Then leave them to have a one-on-one meeting with the key members.

It’s best to keep introductory calls light and non-work related while discussing expectations from the role, establishing the work process, and defining short- and long-term goals on the side.

Step 3: Set up one-on-one meetings with the people they’ll work with closely

Start with introducing the new person in your company Slack. You can do this yourself or a dedicated person can take on the job.  

Using information about the new face that you shared with the rest of the team in step one, everyone can personalize their welcome message.

Next up, set up meetings for the new hire with their work buddies to help them become acquainted with them. Here at Vimeo, we schedule and mark the newcomer’s first week intro calls on their Google calendar to minimize confusion.

Step 4: Host getting-to-know the business onboarding and training sessions

Since onboarding remote employees involves familiarizing them with your business and its offering, you need to work out the training sessions they’ll need to take.

As part of our remote onboarding, we’ve the following training sessions for all new Vimeans within their first month. Feel free to borrow these session ideas for onboarding new employees:

👉 New hire orientation and Trust and Safety Chat that gives an overview of Vimeo’s mission, vision, and value and details who is who at the company.

👉 New hire orientation, US benefits which covers the benefits and enrollment for US employees.

👉 Product session that explains and trains about our product offerings.

👉 Strategy session which is an in-depth dive into Vimeo’s consumer expectations, strategy, goals, and positioning.

👉 Security session that introduces new Vimeans to our security regulations.

Step 5: Give them a small task to get them into work zone

Once all the meetings and training sessions are out of the way, ask the new hire’s direct manager to assign them a small task. The goal here is to give them an idea of how they’ll work and who they’ll need to coordinate with to get things done.

Make sure the newcomer gets sufficient details and context about the project alongside examples of what needs to be done. Include point(s) of contact too.

How to create onboarding videos

Videos show how things are done instead of simply narrating the steps, making them a great tool for onboarding new employees. For instance, you can have an employee onboarding video that welcomes them and walks them through their first 30 days. Similarly, a training tutorial can help explain how your product works.

Note that two types of onboarding videos help – standard videos and video walkthroughs. For the former, you can use video templates for quickly putting them together.

Here’s an example welcome video template:

And here’s an example in action:

On the other side of things, video walkthroughs are screen recordings that feature your screen (and your camera if you so choose) as you demonstrate how to use your product, for example. Vimeo’s screen recorder gives you the option to share your screen, camera, or both as you walk through your topic.

Our customers love Vimeo record with one of them sharing:

“Internally, we’re a distributed team across 10+ hours of time zone and have very limited windows where we’re all online together. Being able to use this tool for asynchronous collaboration gives us back all of our precious time that we’re all online to focus on richer topics!”
HIlah Stahl, Founder of Spoak Décor

Vimeo Record is a simple, effective way to pass along information to new employees as they learn about your business’s systems and practices.

Making a new employee orientation welcome video

This process shouldn’t take you long. Follow these tips:

  • Keep the video short – 5-10 minutes are ideal. To do so, create a small video on a specific topic such as one explaining the business’s history, another talking about the company values, and so on.
  • Get the executive and direct managers to welcome the new member.
  • Get creative to make the new teammate feel at home. For instance, in an employee welcome video, we shared the new hire’s interests outside the office.

Remote onboarding best practices: 5 tips for success

Before we wrap this up, let’s give you five must-follow remote onboarding best practices:

1. Create and share a checklist of all action items a new hire should complete.

First days are always nerve-racking. The unease and I’m-new-here-feeling only aggravate if the newbie doesn’t know what to do. The solution? A checklist enlisting their tasks for day one.

For new Vimeans, for instance, we’ve a G-doc checklist of Things to Do First. It helps give them a direction, therefore, helping push nervous jitters to the background.

2. Pair new hires with a buddy who can navigate them through your company culture.

Have people at the office who are particularly great at warmly welcoming newcomers? Great. Assign them as a go-to buddy for the new hire.

At Vimeo, we assign every new employee a Hire Buddy who guides the newcomer through our work culture and environment while offering guidance and support throughout the first month.

Similarly, Buffer assigns two buddies to the new hire – a role buddy who is from their team, answering any task or role related questions and a culture buddy who is the new member’s company culture guide.

3. Check-in regularly.

By checking with the new member regularly – inquiring about things and asking if you can help them with anything – you establish that they too can reach out to you anytime.

4. Ask for feedback.

Asking all new hires about their onboarding experience is crucial for improving your process according to the feedback you get. At Vimeo, we ask feedback-oriented questions in our 90-day feedback survey.

Some questions you can ask:

👉 What was it that they enjoyed the most?

👉 What could have led to a smoother transition?

👉 Which parts of the onboarding process helped them understand their role and teammates best?

5. Document the entire process

Having it all down on paper makes it easy to remember each step. What’s more, it makes it easy for another hiring manager to onboard employees in case you’re off or moving to a new company. Documenting also makes it simple to assign and explain onboarding tasks to specific people.

Here are some steps to document:

👉 List of key team members the new hire should know.

👉 List of all the hardware and software the new hire will need.

👉 Who will set up the new hire’s logins for tools used at work.

👉 Who is responsible for arranging hardware, how they’ll do so and by when.

👉 Guide or one-sheeter for hire buddy covering ways they can offer help and tips for sharing corrective feedback.

Community onboarding

Vimeo’s onboarding masterclass also dove into the concept of ‘community onboarding’, discussing how to create an inclusive environment – even in a remote world. Take a peek below:

Virtual onboarding FAQs

What are the 4 phases of onboarding?

The four phases of onboarding are orientation (welcoming the new hire), role training (coaching them on their new job), transition (giving them full responsibility of their role), and ongoing development (creating plans for their career growth).

Is onboarding the same as training?

Onboarding and training are separate programs, but they tend to work together. Onboarding involves introducing new hires with your company, culture, and other employees. Whereas, training involves activities to explain the new person how to do their job.

How do you train employees virtually?

Use videos and interactive resources to train employees virtually. A video walkthrough of a specific process, in particular, is a helpful way of showing how to do something instead of merely listing the steps. Hosting content in one place like a video library makes it easier for employees access resources at any time.

How long is the onboarding process?

Generally, an onboarding process is 90 days long starting with introduction calls and welcome messages and ending with a 3-month check-in. The exact duration, however varies from business to business.

Wrapping up

Now that you know what steps to take and checklists to make, put in the legwork to enjoy the sweet fruit of employee retention later. So what are you waiting for? Pull up a doc and start planning.

Ramp up new hires with video