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onboarding remote employees: challenges and best practices.

Rachel Doyle
Head of Marketing

Ready to master the art of onboarding remote employees? This article contains fantastic tips for all UK HR recruiters, to help you create a seamless onboarding process that will have your new hires feeling welcomed and supported right from the start. Employee retention starts from the minute to make that offer, so our article is aimed at helping you to keep those new hires feeling all warm and fuzzy. Together, we'll make sure you craft an engaging, efficient, and scalable process that leaves everyone smiling. Let's dive into the wonderful world of onboarding at

introduction to onboarding.

Onboarding remote employees can sometimes be tricky. But not to worry, we've got some tips for you to build a slick onboarding process that engages your new hires and makes them feel welcomed and supported from the get-go.

It's important to start the onboarding process early, and by this we mean communicating with them and preparing them for their first day as soon as they accept the job offer, so that you can ensure that they feel like they're a valued member of the team and a part of something bigger, even before they join your organisation. You want your new hire to be excited about joining your team! In this article, we’ll take you through the best ways to achieve engagement through delivering a great onboarding process.

the importance of effective onboarding for remote employees.

Developing an effective onboarding process for remote employees can seem overwhelming, but don't worry - it's worth the time, effort and investment, especially if you want to improve your new hire’s engagement, boost employee retention and productivity.

In the UK, although usually one month, it can take anywhere up to three months (and sometimes even six) from accepting an offer to starting a new job. During this time, it's essential to keep your new hires engaged and excited about joining your team. After all, you don't want to lose out on top talent to a counteroffer from their current employer or for them to lose interest. Go quiet and your quality hire may just go cold.  

start your onboarding strong; set the tone for their future with you.

Imagine this: You want your new hires to feel like rockstars even before they step foot into the virtual office. That's why it's crucial to kickstart the onboarding process as soon as they accept the job offer. By proactively communicating and preparing them for their first day, you're laying the foundation for a seamless transition. Let's keep that excitement brewing and show them why joining your team and your organisation is the best decision they've made! You need to ensure your new hires feel welcomed and valued, and that they have all the resources they need to hit the ground running.

why is this so important, particularly for remote employees?

Remote employees can often feel disconnected from their colleagues, especially if they're working from home or in a different country from the rest of the team. This is why effective onboarding is critical in creating a sense of community and connection from the moment they accept your offer. Remote workers need to feel connected to the company and their colleagues to be productive and engaged. By providing regular check-ins and a well thought out virtual onboarding plan, you can build an effective and repeatable onboarding strategy for any remote employee. Remember to introduce them to the team early on, so that you can help them feel like they're part of something bigger as opposed to being a spare part, or just ticking a box. Share that you’re excited that they’re going to be joining your company and that you can’t wait to have them onboard.

keeping the onboarding momentum to cultivate success.

The remote onboarding process sets the tone for the rest of their employment, and a poor experience can lead to disengagement or even resignation. Remember that onboarding isn't a one-and-done event - it's an ongoing process that lasts for the first few months of employment. Staying in touch with your new remote hires and providing them with the necessary support, catch ups and feedback sessions will make them feel valued and engaged right from the beginning. By doing this, you can help create a positive employer brand experience and keep them committed to your company for the long run.

challenges and best practices with an effective onboarding strategy for remote employees.

One of the biggest challenges of onboarding remote employees is getting them up to speed on the company culture, values, and expectations. But by providing clear communication and regular feedback, you can ensure they understand what's expected of them and feel confident in their role. Assigning them a buddy or mentor can also help them get the support they need to succeed. You want to consider the three main areas for a successful onboarding strategy: preboarding, onboarding, and training.

First and foremost, it's essential to establish clear communication from the start. Remote employees can often feel isolated and disconnected, so it's important to make them feel like they're part of the team from day one rather than isolated on their own island. This means providing them with a thorough introduction to the company culture, values, and expectations. You might consider hosting virtual team-building activities, sharing success stories, or assigning them a buddy or mentor who can answer their questions and provide guidance. You’ll want to plan in some regular meetings to ensure that they can have their questions answered and know that they are on the right track.  

Remember, effective onboarding isn't just about ticking boxes – it's about creating a sense of belonging and setting your remote employees up for success in relation to your workplace culture. Help them to adapt and adopt your culture and company values whilst ultimately welcoming them into the business. By following these best practices, you can ensure your new hires feel valued, supported, and ready to make a positive impact to your organisation's bottom line. 🚀

But don't stop there! To make sure your onboarding process is working and a worthy repeatable one, you should ask recent employees who have gone through the process for any suggestions they may have, or feedback on what did (or didn’t) work well.  

Finally, you should continue to maintain engagement and communication with your remote employees even after the initial onboarding period. Consider scheduling regular check-ins and one-on-one meetings to discuss progress, provide feedback, and address any concerns that any of you may have. By showing that you're invested in their success and well-being, you're building a strong foundation for a long and productive working relationship.

how do I build an effective remote onboarding process?

You’re aiming to deliver a seamless remote onboarding experience that mimics being in the office and meets the same onboarding experience of your in-office colleagues. The most important thing to do is to communicate regularly with your new hire from the moment they accept the role, but don’t overwhelm them! If you send them too many messages or invitations to online meetings and events, they may feel under pressure before they have even joined. Leave them in the dark about the team they are joining (or managing) and they may feel like you’re not excited to have them join you. The most successful onboarding strategies always cover off the following six areas:  


It’s important to maintain engagement and communication with remote employees throughout the onboarding process. Regular check-ins and virtual town halls can help keep them connected and informed, while using collaboration tools can ensure they're able to work effectively with their team. By making them feel included and valued, you can help build their loyalty and commitment to the company. Ensure you have a welcome strategy for new joiners that enables them to be featured on your internal communications board, perhaps a little intro to them, their new role and their background and experience and to help them to be recognised by colleagues across your organisation.

virtual meetings.

Video introductions and virtual meetings are a great start for your hire to be able to get some face-time with the team and start to learn more about the different functions, how they work and what the typical culture is like.  

virtual orientation.

Office walk throughs such as a video of the office space, meeting rooms, key areas, and floors. Have some colleagues say a few words on the video and make it interesting for them to watch and even engage with. Let your remote colleagues see what the office is like, even if they aren’t often visiting, if at all!

buddies & mentors.

This is a vital step in the onboarding process. You want to partner your new remote employee with another team member. This gives them a point of contact that they can connect with to show the ropes, ask questions and get the best out of their first few weeks in the organisation.  

virtual training and resource bank.

You want to get your remote hire to be able to access remote training modules to get them up to speed with various training sessions that are essential for their function and role. Give them access to an online learning system so that they can learn on demand and at their own speed. Set realistic deadlines to take training courses by, don’t expect them only to be working on training. Similarly, important documents, assets and other company information should be easily accessible in a central location, portal or online folders.  

social networking.

Encourage your team to use social messaging boards to engage with new members. Keep a team chat group on that board and encourage people to post about team relevant conversations. Host a team building event that includes social events that can be carried out remotely – get all of your team to join from their own remote settings. There are lots of providers that create fun team building events for remote and hybrid teams. Examples include virtual murder mystery games, escape rooms and treasure hunts.  

remote induction plan.

Plan out an effective onboarding strategy with a clear communication plan and ensure that they have a focused induction process over their first few weeks. Give them the opportunity to ask any questions and time to absorb what they have learnt.

challenge 1: building connection and culture.

the challenge.

Whilst remote work has become increasingly popular, it presents unique challenges in terms of building a cohesive team culture. Remote employees can find it difficult to connect with their colleagues especially if they’re not onboarded. With remote work becoming more common, it's becoming increasingly tricky to build a team culture that's cohesive and inclusive. When employees are working remotely, it can be tough for them to feel connected to their colleagues. Developing a shared culture that makes everyone feel valued and included is important, but it's not always easy.

New remote employees often find it challenging to get a handle on the company's culture, particularly if you have a hybrid team, or one that spans countries, your remote employees are at risk of feeling lost and disconnected. However, building a shared culture that works for everyone can be tough, especially when some team members are working remotely while others are in the office. It can be hard to understand an organisation. Some might encourage you to find your own feet and network independently to find connections that will support you across the business, others are more welcoming and proactively help you to settle into the business. Whatever your culture is, you should explain this to your remote employees for the highest chance of success. Don’t pretend to be a business that’s different to what you are. So, if your organisation’s values don’t match the actual culture of the business, you need to share that with your new joiner, or you’ll find that they easily become confused and most likely will become disengaged or frustrated by the lack of transparency.  

So, how can you tackle the challenge of building a shared culture among remote employees? The key is to be creative and flexible. Each company is different, and what works for one may not work for another. To create a sense of belonging and promote a shared culture, your organisation needs to be proactive, and focused. You want your new employees to feel like they're a part of the team from the get-go.  

best practices.

Send them a welcome message, a video from their manager or team introducing themselves for a great personal touch.

When it comes to remote work, building a cohesive team culture can be tricky. It's important to establish best practices for making remote employees feel like they belong. You want your new hires to feel like they are part of the team as well as being set up for success. It's important to make an effort to create a sense of belonging and shared culture, even when employees are working from different locations.

There are various ways you can achieve this by helping to break down barriers and encourage team bonding.

virtual icebreakers and team-building activities.

Teams can work well together whether in person or remotely, but it’s important to introduce the team as soon as possible and involve them in regular meetings and check-ins. Create an environment where your new hires feel comfortable asking questions, sharing their opinions, and to feel heard.

buddies & mentors.

Having someone to turn to for guidance and support can make all the difference for new remote employees. This will work well to provide new employees with a support system that mimics being in person, as well as providing them with someone to turn to if they have any questions or concerns.

encouraging participation in virtual meetings and events.

Hosting a series of virtual meetings where new employees can ask questions of the team in place and be introduced to other areas of the company will help them to adapt to the new culture. And crucially encourage everyone to engage with their camera on. It makes for a more engaged environment and enables people to read and react to facial cues and body language.

creating a virtual onboarding experience that mimics in-person interactions.

It's crucial to create a virtual onboarding experience that mimics in-person interactions (as closely as possible). This means using various forms of media, such as videos and presentations, to share information with your new hires. You can also encourage them to connect with other new hires to foster a peer network. A great way to kickstart this is to host an induction with all new hires, where they can interact and learn about each other's backgrounds and the areas they will be working in, as well as having talks from members of the new team or departments that they will be joining.

virtual orientation.

Design an engaging virtual orientation program to introduce your company culture, values, and goals. Use video conferencing, interactive presentations, and virtual tours to make it fun and immersive. Encourage interaction and provide opportunities for new hires to ask questions and connect with their future teammates.

challenge 2: establishing expectations and goals.

the challenge.

Virtual onboarding for remote employees can be tricky, particularly if they’re the only ones who are remote, or the rest of the team are able to access an office. It’s vital that your new hires fully understand their roles, responsibilities, and goals. They need to understand where their role fits into the team and department as well as the overall business strategy. When your new hires are working remotely, communication is even more critical, and setting clear expectations from the start can go a long way. To help your new employees feel confident in their roles, it's essential to provide regular feedback and create an onboarding plan that outlines their goals, milestones, and timelines.

Set clear objectives and expectations. What do you expect them to do by the end of month six? Is there something that they need to achieve? How can you support them to get there? If you aren’t going to provide them with the ability to achieve their goals, then you’ll have an unhappy employee at best, or a completely confused and disengaged one at worst. By scheduling regular check-ins and conversations, you can ensure that your new hires are on track and have a clear understanding of what's expected of them. Not only will this help them feel more comfortable in their new role, but it will also make them more productive and motivated to succeed. So, take the time to develop a comprehensive onboarding plan that provides your new remote hires with all the information they need to succeed. It will pay off in the long run, both for your quality hires, your employer brand, employee engagement and your company performance.

best practices.

In a remote environment, communication is key, so it's important to set clear expectations from the start and provide regular feedback. This will help your new hires feel supported and valued.

Best practice starts with the creation of an onboarding plan that outlines the new employee's goals, milestones, and timelines. This plan will provide structure and help new hires understand what they need to do to succeed. Plus, it gives them a roadmap for their first few weeks and months on the job. You can share this with them either before they join the business, or on their first day. Take some time to go through this plan with the new hire, so that they have the opportunity to ask questions.

Give them a clear plan of who they need to be meeting to ensure they are building the essential relationships that are integral to their role. If you are a smaller organisation, it might be that they need to meet one to two people from your various business functions.  

To make sure your new hires are set up for success, you can also provide access to virtual training and resources. This will help them feel more confident in their role and give them the tools they need to do their job well. Remember to cover off:  

  • Setting clear expectations
  • Providing regular feedback and communication
  • Creating an onboarding plan that outlines roles, responsibilities, and goals
  • Providing access to virtual training and resources

Book in those regular milestone check points, to identify that they are working towards successful completion of the probationary period. If there are any concerns these should be addressed immediately to try and correct any issues and to help your hire to achieve their goals. After all you have spent all of that time finding your ideal hire, you want to help them to embed into your business as soon as possible as well as to be successful in their new role.  

challenge 3: ensuring access to resources and support.

the challenge.

When you hire remote employees, it's essential to ensure they have access to the same tools, resources, and support as their office-based counterparts. However, this can be a challenging task when everyone is working from different locations. You don't want your new hires to feel like they are on their own, and that's why it's important to think ahead and create a detailed onboarding document that outlines all the necessary tools and technology for remote onboarding.

Another challenge is providing remote employees with the tools and resources they need to do their job effectively. This can include providing them with the necessary technology and equipment, offering virtual training sessions, and making sure they have access to all the resources they need to succeed. By taking care of these details, you can set them up for success and help them hit the ground running.

preparation for onboarding remote employees.

Starting a new job can be overwhelming, and you don't want your new hires to feel lost and unsupported. Therefore, don't leave them to figure everything out themselves. Instead, explain to them the company culture and how things are done, so they know what to expect and can adapt to it in the best possible way. With these best practices in place, you can help your remote employees feel included, supported, and set up for success.

As a remote employee, there's nothing worse than feeling forgotten about or lost, with no clear instructions on where to find things or what they should be using. To ensure a smooth onboarding and transition on day 1, you should ensure that your new hires have access to everything they need to do their job effectively.  

Ask the hiring manager to allocate and spend time on a preboarding checklist to ensure everything is in place in advance of the remote hire’s start date. This includes setting up their email, arranging access to all systems before they start on day 1 and sending their laptop to them on the morning of their first day, or arranging for them to visit the office to collect it on their first day.  Make sure to create a list of systems, email groups, and recurring meetings, and share this with your new starter. Help them to set up short cuts, if they don’t already exist in their tool bars. Ensure that you arrange for system super users to meet with your new remote hires to guide them through access, common challenges, and how they can ask questions or get help if needed with systems or processes. As a remote business, it is hoped that all processes are documented in a central location.

role expectations.

It's crucial to explain to your remote employees what their role entails, how to log in and access necessary resources, and provide them with adequate time to learn about the various systems they'll need to use to be successful in their new role.

Apart from providing the necessary technology and equipment, including laptops, software, and communication tools, offering virtual training sessions and assigning a buddy or mentor can also help new hires get up to speed and feel supported. By taking these steps, you can ensure your remote employees have what they need to succeed and feel like they're part of the team, no matter where they are in the world.

  • Best practices for addressing this challenge, such as providing technology and equipment, offering virtual training, and assigning a buddy or mentor. When it comes to remote employees, it can be challenging to provide them with the same level of support and resources as those who work in the office. But it's crucial to ensure that they have everything they need to perform their job effectively wherever they are required to perform their role.
  • One of the key aspects of supporting remote employees is providing them with the necessary technology and equipment. This includes laptops, software, and communication tools, among others. It's important to ensure that they have access to all the systems and resources they'll need to do their job effectively, and that they're set up and tested before they start working. This can be done through HR systems that indicate when new starters are due to be joining, so relevant teams can prepare in advance.  
  • In addition to providing technology and equipment, offering virtual training sessions can also help new remote employees get up to speed and feel supported. These sessions can cover the various systems and tools they'll need to use, as well as company policies and procedures. This can help them feel more comfortable and confident in their role, and also prevent any unnecessary confusion or mistakes.
  • Assigning a buddy or mentor to provide support and answer questions can also be a valuable asset for new remote employees. This person can act as a point of contact for any queries or concerns, and help them navigate the company culture and processes. It can also help to foster a sense of belonging and community, even when working from a distance.
  • Another important aspect of supporting remote employees is ensuring that they have access to all necessary resources and support systems. This includes email groups, recurring meetings, and any other tools or systems they'll need to access. It's crucial to provide them with clear guidance on how to access these resources and who to contact if they have any issues.

challenge 4: maintaining engagement and communication.

the challenge.

Maintaining engagement and communication with remote employees is essential, especially during the onboarding process.

Remote employees can easily feel isolated and disconnected, making it challenging to keep them engaged and motivated. You should encourage employees to remember and observe public holidays in whichever country the team are working in. The same goes for working hours and cultural differences.  

By taking these steps, companies can overcome the challenge of maintaining engagement and communication with remote employees, particularly during the onboarding process. By ensuring that remote employees feel supported, valued, and connected to the wider team, companies can foster a positive and inclusive company culture that benefits everyone.

You need to ensure that your remote team building process drives engagement between remote joiners and the existing team, wherever they are based. Ensure that any office-based employees remember to engage on the messaging channels that you use internally, to ensure that team conversations take place on remote tools, like Microsoft Teams or Slack, rather than just at the desks in the office. Remind them that their team now involves remote employees as it works well to build engagement if activities can take place online.

Host some remote events that everyone can participate in, to help with team building and encouraging team.

best practices.

To address the challenge of remote working and remote or hybrid teams, companies can take several steps. Firstly, regular check-ins with new hires can help them feel supported and connected to the team. Managers or team leaders should schedule one-to-one catch-ups with new hires during their first few weeks to see how they're settling in and offer guidance and support where necessary. These should continue at a lesser frequency for much of their first year.  

Secondly, virtual town halls and team meetings can help remote employees feel like they're part of the wider team and involved in company-wide decisions. Using video conferencing tools, can help bring remote employees into the conversation and make them feel more connected to the company culture (cameras on!).

Finally, collaboration tools and messaging platforms can help maintain communication lines and keep remote employees engaged. By using these tools, teams can share information, ask questions, and collaborate on projects in real-time, regardless of their location. This can help remote employees feel like they're part of a team and have access to the resources they need to do their job effectively.  

If you have work social channels, share when new joiners start in the business. Encourage people to comment and welcome these new joiners into the business. The more people use these platforms, the more people will get out of them. If engagement is strong, new employees will see how engaged employees across the business are.  

Ask your new hires for feedback. Don’t assume that you’re getting everything right. This is a great way to find out what’s happening when new people join your business and how your quality hires adapt to your culture and start to engage with their peers, colleagues and teams.  

improve your onboarding process today.

recap of the challenges and best practices discussed in the article.

Maintaining engagement and communication with remote employees is crucial during the onboarding process, as they can feel isolated and disconnected from the team. It's important to ensure that new hires understand their roles and responsibilities, have access to necessary tools and resources, and feel like they belong. To achieve this, companies can use best practices such as assigning a buddy or mentor, providing virtual training, setting clear expectations, offering regular feedback, and creating an onboarding plan. Communication is key in all of this, so it's essential to provide remote employees with a platform to share their opinions and ask questions.

Additionally, companies should schedule regular check-ins and use collaboration tools to keep communication lines open. By making remote employees feel connected to the team and the company culture, they'll be more engaged and motivated to contribute to the company's success. And it's not just HR's job; or the hiring managers. Everyone should get involved in welcoming new hires to the business! By prioritising communication and providing the necessary support, companies can successfully onboard remote employees and create a positive and inclusive work environment.

final thoughts.

Effective onboarding is critical for remote employees' success, and companies that invest in it are more likely to retain their new hires. By creating a sense of belonging, ensuring understanding of roles and responsibilities, providing access to tools and resources, and maintaining engagement and communication, companies can set their remote employees up for success and impact the organisation’s bottom line!

additional resources.

When onboarding remote employees, it's important to make use of the right tools and resources to ensure a smooth and efficient process. Some essential tools and technology for remote onboarding to consider are: Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), messaging platforms, and video conferencing tools.

ATS platforms allow HR professionals to track and manage the entire recruitment process, from job postings to CV screening to job offers, onboarding and data analysis. Your ATS can also be used to set up automated communications with new hires, providing them with updates and important information throughout the onboarding process.  

With the right ATS, you can create a customised onboarding experience that’s efficient and user-friendly, allowing new hires to get up to speed quickly and smoothly. With hireful’s ATS, you have access to your own onboarding portal which enables you to quickly sets up new hires, giving them a seamless onboarding experience and streamlining the process for you. The onboarding portal can enable you to send email reminders, share paperwork for electronic signatures and other useful company information, policies, and training materials. Overall, using an ATS for onboarding can help boost employee engagement and productivity, while saving time and resources for your company  

Messaging platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams can help facilitate communication between remote employees, teams and managers. With these tools, remote workers can easily communicate with one another, collaborate on projects, and keep up-to-date with important company news and updates. This helps them to feel part of a purpose and team, and to interact via video tools within these functions.  

You can also use these platforms to host regular video conferencing calls. From team virtual meetings, interviews, and presentations, ensuring that remote employees can feel connected and engaged with the business. By using video conferencing tools, you can create a more personal connection with remote employees, which can help to boost morale and build stronger relationships; whilst being able to engage with some virtual cues.

By making use of the right tools and resources as part of the onboarding of remote employees, you can help to create a positive and productive onboarding experience for those employees, setting them up for success in their new roles.

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