Keep Your Top Talent With These Remote Onboarding Best Practices

The buzz in the air on the day that a new hire starts is magnetic. Finally, all that recruitment effort paid off. Effective teams know that effort shouldn't stop on day one. If anything, it's time to double down and reinforce their choice to join you. Retaining your best employees starts on their first day with onboarding. But how should onboarding change in this world of remote and hybrid work models?

Onboarding is still your opportunity to get new employees caught up and hyped up on the work they're going to be doing, feel welcome and supported, and understand expectations for the role. I'm going to share some ways to improve on onboarding best practices and prove that an effective onboarding process means an effective business too regardless of where your employees work.

4 Basic Onboarding Best Practices

Onboarding best practices: Woman extends hand toward camera with her team behind her

Employee onboarding processes help prepare the new hire for success in their role. The training materials are prepared by learning services or development teams and coordinated with HR and managers. The entire onboarding process should feel supportive and provide new employees with everything that they need to get ramped up in a reasonable timeframe. 

Here are four essential best practices and pro tips to help you go the extra mile in each area.

1. Know Difference Between Orientation and Onboarding

Orientation is part of the onboarding process but it's not the whole process. While it involves giving out important paperwork to get them paid and showing them where to find important company FAQs, it should never be considered a substitute for an onboarding program. 

Where orientation is mostly administrative, onboarding should be skills-related training that is specific to their role at the company. It digs deeper into understanding the core values, company culture, and where they fit in on their team. In a remote first work environment, extra effort is required to new hires' strengths and areas for development to set them up for success and build relationships proactively.

Go the Extra Mile 

Before deciding on onboarding best practices, bring senior team members together to determine how you want the experience to go. 

Ask yourselves:

  • What's the ideal onboarding length? How does it start and how do you know when it's over?
  • What do you want your new hires to think and feel about the work and their role in the company after day one? What steps are you taking to create that experience?
  • How do we make the onboarding experience feel customized to a new hire’s strengths and offer extra support in areas they may need help with?
  • How will you measure the success of the onboarding process? 
  • Who is involved and at what stage between human resources, learning services, and the hiring manager?

2. Start Before Day One

Believe it or not, onboarding starts before the new hire even sets foot in the office. A bare essential first step is to ensure they have all the information about how to connect with their team or manager, who they will be interacting with on their first day, a detailed schedule of standing meetings they will be attending, and contact information for direct managers.

Go the Extra Mile 

If you want to make a lasting first impression, mail them a welcome packet with information on the company history, employee handbook, login credentials for their onboarding portal, and an itinerary for their first day so they know what to look forward to. This can make them feel taken care of and help avoid information overload on day one.

3. Make a Stellar First Impression

Onboarding best practices: Woman smiles while at lunch with co-workers

If you've ever started a new job where they sat you in front of an e-learning module for a week and then seemingly vanished, then you will understand firsthand how ineffective it is for onboarding to feel like an isolated activity.

Building a connection with the team early is one of many known onboarding best practices but can be challenging in a remote or hybrid work environment. Pair your new hire with a mentor who can check in on them consistently and it becomes a far more supportive exercise. The Aberdeen Group reports that successful companies are two and half times more likely to implement mentorship into their onboarding process.

Create some first-day fun by organizing a virtual lunch or coffee, or organizing other bonding activities throughout the week with the larger company. 

Strong social bonds among employees are great for business. Gallup reports that work environments with high levels of employee engagement reap the rewards of increased performance across customer relations (10%), profitability (22%), and productivity (21%). 

Go the Extra Mile 

It can be an incredibly powerful employee experience when their work environment is functional on the first day. The more you can complete logistics ahead of time (e.g. test the hardware before shipping it, provision software accounts, share information), the more time the new hire has to focus on learning the ropes of their role among their teammates.

4. Go Over Goal Posts Early and Often

Top talent will come to your company with impressive skills that will make their direct managers fawn but it doesn't mean they'll always be able to hit the ground running from day one. It'll take some time for them to adapt to the new way of doing things.

With that said, you should be able to outline clear expectations on performance and provide steps on how you plan to get them there. The plan should be explained in plain language (not company-specific terms) to start and include metric goalposts on how they will know if they are succeeding. 

Some examples of goal posts might include:

  • The number of leads generated (sales)
  • New customer conversions (marketing)
  • Revenue growth
  • Customer satisfaction (number of positive product reviews) 
  • Personal productivity goals

Providing metric ranges as examples of what poor, good, and great performance looks like can help new hires self-assess.

Using Searchlight for referencing means that you’ll have robust indicators of their strengths and areas for improvement ahead of time. Searchlight not only creates reference reports, it also packages this information into an Onboarding Guide for managers. Managers can use this information to build on-the-job confidence and tailor training. It’s important to a new employee to know whether they are doing a good job and some may be too timid to directly ask for performance-based feedback early on. 

Go the Extra Mile

Give a bird's eye view of your new hire's onboarding program from the first day, the first week, the first month, and even the first year. 

Examples of onboarding activities may include: 

  • Team welcome virtual lunch or event
  • Technology training and testing
  • Office tour
  • HR Q&A session
  • Team building
  • Shadowing relevant departments
  • Teaching something newly learned to someone else

Clearly define how regularly you will check in and the format of those check-in meetings, whether it’s a phone call daily or a face-to-face check-in once a week. 

Describe what kind of feedback they can expect and what kind of feedback they will be asked to share. Clarify the aspects of their new role that require autonomous decision making and instances where they might loop direct managers in for less guesswork. 

How to Make Onboarding Best Practices Even Better

As the leader of a flourishing company and team, I'm always wondering, "How can we make best practices even better?" When it comes to growing the team, I firmly believe it comes down to the human element. 

Create a welcoming experience for a new hire before they formally start their new job with these additional onboarding best practices:

  • Connect new hires with their teammates in a Slack or Teams channel where they can informally chat a bit and ask any questions leading up to their first day — gifs are pretty much guaranteed to help break the ice.
  • Buddy up your new hire with someone in the company who has had experience doing their role so they can relate to them and address any questions they have as they start out.
  • Send an email with interesting articles related to the company as well as any social media links so that your new hire can get familiar with the company values and voice.
  • Create a fun, informal, 21 questions-style doc that can be shared with their team or the company so that everyone can learn about their new teammate too.
  • Create a safe way for them to express feedback.

Why New Hire Experiences Matter

Person holding paper that says "Welcome aboard!"

New hires will decide if they are going to stay with your company pretty immediately after getting hired. An effective onboarding process can build team morale for both existing and new hires and that translates to reduced turnover, higher profitability, and higher productivity. 

Create a more personalized onboarding experience rooted in the insights of former managers to highlight key coachable areas by incorporating Searchlight referencing during the hiring process

Properly integrating new hires provides them with a clear sense of direction, purpose, and mastery over their role. With your commitment to a higher caliber of onboarding practices, their job satisfaction continues to grow, as does their firm commitment to your company. 

Want to hire more high performers and increase retention?

Serchlight’s Talent Intelligence has got you covered