How to build a positive remote onboarding strategy

Jason Brennan from employee engagement platform Wrkit outlines the importance of thinking through how to virtually onboard a new member of staff during the pandemic.

Two women doing a video interview on a laptop


The experience an employee has during their onboarding phase is paramount in determining both their success in a role and their commitment to a business in the long term.   

Research has clearly highlighted the benefits to both the business and a new employee when an effective onboarding strategy is in place. A well-constructed onboarding process can instil confidence in an employee who is likely to otherwise be feeling anxious and stressed about succeeding in a new environment. The impact of this can see a new starter making positive contributions faster and is directly linked to their retention, which is becoming increasingly important for businesses as the fight for top talent becomes more competitive.

Successfully onboarding a starter has become even more difficult during the past year as new employees are unlikely to have physically met many of their team members, making it harder for them to forge close and supportive working relationships. This is likely to impact their ability to do their job and their satisfaction in their new role.

Worryingly, a recent survey found that only 33% of businesses had a strategy in place for remote onboarding, which can leave many new employees feeling distanced or disconnected from their new employer.

Virtual onboarding

Despite the challenges remote working poses, companies can update and modernise their working environment in order to promote team building and other working practices that will motivate their employees.

First and foremost, make sure to be empathetic to the unfamiliar and challenging situation of employees starting a new job while they are still sat in their own home. Even the most experienced professionals are unlikely to have started a new role remotely before. This is likely to heighten nerves and stress for a new employee, so it is important to make sure they know you and the rest of the team are approachable and welcoming to any questions they may have.

Furthermore, it will be particularly worthwhile to ask each person that a new starter will be working with to virtually reach out to them, going so far as to explain their role to avoid confusion. If those who already work at an organisation have started the conversation virtually it can feel a lot less daunting for a new employee to reach out to them at a later date.

Don’t forget to provide feedback; reassuring a new hire that they are doing well can improve their confidence in their ability and help them to settle in sooner. Additionally, make sure to publicly recognise any win, no matter how small; it can help to build their credibility among their new team members.

Finally, make sure to include the new hire in everything, it is important to make sure they feel engaged. While this is much easier to facilitate in an office, by making sure they are invited to activities such as team coffee breaks, it can still be achieved remotely. Including a new hire in virtual staff drinks, creative brainstorms and especially any staff group messaging chats can all make them feel a part of the team, which in turn will help them settle and become comfortable within the new working environment.

A well-thought-out and compassionate onboarding strategy can go a long way in helping to place a new starter in the best position to succeed. Although prioritising the wellbeing of all your employees is important during remote working, in order to avoid the pitfalls that an inadequate onboarding process creates, make sure to be plan ahead and be well prepared for bringing on new employees.

*Jason Brennan is Director of Wellness & Leadership at employee engagement platform Wrkit.

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