With an increasing number of fully remote workforces due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects around the world, there are many unprecedented challenges for companies that once operated fully in person. Learning leaders and employers from these companies may be wondering how they can:

  • Successfully train new team members if they are not in the same office as you?
  • Onboard new team members if they are in a different time zone or country?
  • Scale and manage a growing team that is fully remote?

At Postaga, we’ve been a fully remote team since day one. And since we’ve started, we’ve worked with team members located around the world, working in different countries and time zones. In this article, we’ll examine some of the best practices and actionable tips to onboarding new employees remotely in your organization and walk you through the process of remote onboarding.

The Remote Work and Onboarding Landscape

Remote work is the new normal. While remote work had been steadily increasing prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic accelerated the existing trend. Though the pandemic initially forced many companies into remote work, as restrictions have eased and companies have returned to their physical offices, many businesses have realized that having the flexibility to work from home or fully remote is possible.

A remote work model allows employers to find job candidates located anywhere in the world with an internet connection. This can create more opportunities for talent, but also a more competitive edge for employers open to hiring remote employees.

However, with these opportunities, businesses need to be able to figure out how they can best onboard their remote employees with the right processes, systems and culture to ensure that they can succeed in their roles. When onboarding new hires to the company, there are several considerations you want to have for them and their new role. Let’s take a look at what some of those considerations are.

Getting Started Before Day 1

Onboarding does not start on your new hire’s first day. Onboarding starts the second you’re ready to make them a job offer. Here are a few things you can do before your remote new hires first day:

  • Send and sign an employment contract.
  • Get the new hire on to your payroll.
  • Equipment setup.
  • Meet with the team.
  • Train for their role to be able to work independently.
  • Evaluation and reviews.

And remember: Employee onboarding is not the same thing as employee orientation. An effective onboarding experience can increase engagement and help the new hire feel acclimated to the company culture and their role in the organization. Whereas signing documents and filling out benefit forms are necessary, onboarding should include opportunities to build connections and learn more about the company. This process can be most effective when started prior to a new hire’s first day.

Steps to Remote Onboarding

Let’s start from the beginning. You are ready to make a job offer to your new hire.

Now what?

Sign them on with an e-signature agreement

Every new hire should have an employment agreement to sign. This agreement should include:

1) Their employment status within your organization.

2) A confidentiality and/or non-disclosure agreement.

3) Assignment of any intellectual property they create for your company.

But, since they are remote, you can’t exactly do that in person.

The easiest thing to do is to have an employment contract template that you can use for all employees. Keep it in e-signature software, and when you have a new employee, you can send them the document for their signature.

Outline their start date and get them any equipment they will need

When is their first day going to be? What time do they start? (This is important in particular if your team is across many time zones).

Once the new hire e-signs the agreement, you can clearly set their start date. If your company is going to provide them with a laptop or phone, find out where you will need to send it to so they can have it ready on their first day.

Have a company handbook

What are your company policies around time off, sick days and holidays? You should have a company handbook that you can share with new hires that covers frequently asked questions (FAQs),and outlines your company policies. Here are some suggestions on what to include:

  • Pay periods — how often and when will they get paid.
  • Paid holiday dates.
  • Paid time off and how to request time off.
  • Work hours.
  • Confidentiality (to reiterate from their employment agreement what expectations are for confidentiality).
  • Policies against harassment and discrimination.
  • Employee reviews.
  • Legal and regulatory compliance.

Before your new hire starts, you will need to be sure they can legally work for you. If they are a W-2 hire and you are based in the U.S., you will need certain documentation that proves their employment eligibility (e.g. I-9, W-4 forms).

If they are not based in the U.S. but you are, you will still need to ensure that you are compliant with any legal requirements. For example, if they are going to be classified as an employee and not a contractor, you may need to either register your organization in their country or use a third-party service as employer of record.

And, if they are being hired as an independent contractor, you will still need to ensure that you have any compliance forms you need (e.g. W-9 or W-8EN). And beyond these legal compliance requirements for getting started, you may have other compliance training required for your new hire depending on the role.

Payroll

Ahead of the new employee’s first day, you will want to onboard them to your payroll system. Using a web-based payroll provider, you can collect all the information you need from the new hire so you can direct deposit their payroll for each pay period.

One benefit of some payroll providers is that they can also handle compliance documentation and e-signatures. Instead of needing many different solutions for employment agreements, compliance and payroll, these platforms can do it all in one.

“Your first day” guide

Ahead of the new employee’s first day, it can be helpful to share useful resources for working with your company. This can be as simple as a PDF document that you share that lays things out like:

  • Company overview.
  • Org chart.
  • Information about their colleagues and supervisor.
  • Software they will use in their job.
  • Next steps for them.
  • Setting up their payroll if they have not yet.
  • Installing certain apps on their workstation.
  • Anything else to have ready for their first day.
  • Setting expectations.

For a remote team, it is important that you set expectations for your new employees, such as:

  • How are they going to be evaluated?
  • What is expected of them?
  • How can they succeed in their role?

Without this, you can end up with miscommunication or performance issues. For example, if your employees have set work hours, what are your expectations for responding to internal messages on the company’s collaboration tool?

With all of these key things in mind, you’re ready to onboard your new hire. In “How to Onboard New Employees Remotely in 2022: Part 2” we’ll explore more best practices for remote onboarding and how to train your new hires for their role and responsibilities.

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