6-Step Remote Employee Onboarding Checklist • Toggl Hire
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Remote Employee Onboarding Checklist

Post Author - Juste Semetaite Juste Semetaite Last Updated:

Every new employee is different — some take a few weeks to settle in, while others hit the ground running from day one. The difference? It’s usually a personal thing, but a great onboarding process can help any remote employee learn the ropes quickly.

It’s not just about helping them get used to the way things work, either. Having a robust onboarding plan that covers everything from making an offer to completing the probation period can help reduce turnover rate, boost employee engagement, and ultimately make life easier (and more fun!) for everybody.

Ready to revamp your onboarding process? We’ll start by looking at why having a remote onboarding plan is so important before taking you through our six-step onboarding checklist to ensure you tick every box for your new employees.

Keep scrolling to read the full guide, or jump to the section you’re most interested in:

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Why is an onboarding plan so important?

An Indeed study from 2023 showed that 88% of organizations don’t onboard well. This means the vast majority of new remote employees have a poor experience when beginning life at a new company. Here’s why that’s such a big deal:

  • It reduces productivity. A poor onboarding experience lengthens the time it takes for new workers to become effective. Given you have a gap in your team, you need your new employee to start delivering as soon as possible to make that role productive again. Organizations with strong onboarding processes improve productivity by 70%.
  • Generates poor ROI. The longer it takes for a new hire to become productive, the worse your return on investment will be. Given that you’ll be paying a new employee’s wages from day one, a bad experience can directly affect the return your business gets vs the costs you’re paying out.
  • It damages culture. The onboarding process doesn’t just get new remote employees learning the functional aspects of their role, it also enrolls them into the company culture. If new hires aren’t engaged with the mood and values of the company, it can have a negative effect on those around them and start to cause conflicts.
  • It leads to poor retention. The onboarding period is like one big first impression for a new hire. If, during onboarding, they feel isolated, they’ll be more likely to look for a new role within the first six months. You can combat this by improving your onboarding processes, which increase new hire retention by 82%.

So, now that we know what a lousy onboarding experience can do to your business, how does an onboarding plan help you overcome those challenges?

  • It provides a structured approach. Like all plans, a solid onboarding process gives you an organized and systematic route to success. For new team members, this gives them confidence and shows them exactly how they’ll go from being a day one newbie to a rockstar in their new role.
  • It helps boost productivity. A clear roadmap to success helps new hires focus on exactly how they’ll be a productive member of the team. A clear plan boosts productivity in its own right, giving new employees direction, goals, and a sense of belonging within the organization.
  • It helps new hires become a part of the family. Talking of belonging, a great onboarding plan will also include dedicated tasks and activities to ensure new employees quickly feel like part of the team. Especially when managing a remote employee onboarding process, this helps employees overcome the challenge of not being with their new colleagues in person.
  • It ensures consistency. Lastly, an onboarding plan ensures the experience is consistent for all new remote hires. This means whether they join the HR, marketing, or development team, they’ll get the same onboarding structure as everyone else and will reap the benefits listed above. It also makes life easier for whoever’s doing the onboarding, knowing they can lean on other teams for advice or guidance on what’s worked well in the past.

Remote vs. in-office onboarding

Remote employee onboarding comes with a few additional challenges you might not encounter when onboarding in-office employees. Here are three key areas to consider (and how to overcome them) when onboarding remote workers:

  • It’s hard to build relationships. When so much of starting a new role is about getting comfortable with your colleagues, seeing them through a screen makes building relationships a whole lot harder.

    How to fix it: As part of your plan, ensure you dedicate time for new employees to meet their teammates in a relaxed setting with virtual team events such as quizzes, games, and socials.
  • Limited access to information. When you’re in the office, it’s easy to stick your head above the desk and ask a question. When you’re working remotely, the opportunity for a quick face-to-face chat isn’t always there.

    How to fix it: Get your new remote hire instant access to your team’s chat tool (such as Slack) so they can interact with colleagues and ask questions in a non-intrusive way. It’s important to instill a culture where it’s ok to ask questions, either openly to the team or as part of 1-2-1 meetings.
  • Uncertain remote culture. Creating and maintaining a great culture is tricky when working remotely. It’s easy for remote employees to feel isolated and not part of the family when they first join a remote team.

    How to fix it: Get new hires actively involved straight away. Ensure the onboarding plan gets new joiners actively making decisions, organizing team events, and shaping how the team works in the future.  

6-step remote employee onboarding checklist

1. Start planning early

Remote employee onboarding starts from the moment a candidate accepts a job offer. That’s your trigger to get started with your checklist, so don’t waste time waiting!

Start creating your detailed onboarding plan, breaking out all of the different introduction sessions, system accesses, tasks, and social events you need to maximize new starter success.

Stuck for inspiration on how to fill out your plan? The following five checklist items will ensure you cover all the bases for a killer onboarding plan.

2. Set up system access

Before you get your plan into place, it’s important to begin requesting all the right system accesses for your new remote employee. These are essential to ensure they get up and running immediately and avoid wasting valuable onboarding time. 

Especially when working remotely, system access is not only essential for learning about the company but also important so new hires can start communicating with and collaborating with colleagues from every area of the company from day one.

Ensure you give new remote employees access to the following types of systems: 

  • Email/calendars
  • Collaboration systems (IM, project management tools, etc.)
  • Department-specific tools (e.g. design tools, CRM systems, etc.)
  • HR tools (Payroll, holidays, benefits, etc.)
  • Finance tools (invoicing, purchase orders, etc.)
  • Knowledge libraries (wikis, intranets, etc.)

As with department introductions, which we’ll get into below, the systems your new employees need will be specific to your business and the role they’re undertaking.

3. Schedule introduction sessions

Especially when working remotely, the key to onboarding success is to meet all the different people within the company that will help you fulfill your role. To help with this, create a schedule of introduction sessions for your new starter with the following people: 

  • Hiring manager/line manager (start of the first day)
  • Team members (to get to know the team)
  • An assigned buddy (for informal questions)
  • HR (generic company introduction session & orientation)
  • Finance (payroll, benefits & holiday information)
  • Relevant team leads (other teams they may need to work with)
  • Senior leader (introduction to company strategy)

There will likely be some more introductions that are specific to your organization, so add in any additional sessions you think new hires will need accordingly.

Top tips to enlarge those brains Top tip:

At Toggl Hire, we have all new remote employees create a quiz about themselves that they present during a casual “campfire” with the whole team. Existing employees answer the questions before the new hire walks through the answers and reveals a bit about themselves in the process!

4. Create learning pathways

Once you’ve scheduled chats with all the people a new hire needs to meet, you need to start building out learning programs for their initial weeks on the job. These sessions will directly teach the new employee how to do their new role.

These will be different from business-to-business and role-to-role but should include sessions dedicated to learning about processes, administrative tasks, standards, and best practices. 

You’ll then want to pencil in time for new remote employees to reflect, practice what they’ve learned, and receive feedback from their peers. 

For example, here’s how you could build out a learning roadmap for a Communications Manager:

  • Day 1 (5:00 – 16:00): Introduction to Communications Strategy (Session)
  • Day 2 (10:00 – 11:30): Introduction to The Communications Process (Session)
  • Day 2 (14:00 – 15:00): A Day In The Life of a Communications Manager (Session)
  • Day 3 (10:00 – 12:00): Review of Previous Communication Campaign (Task)
  • Day 3 (14:00 – 15:00): Mock Communications Brief Scenario (Task/Assignment)
  • Day 4 (10:00 – 11:00): Review of Mock Brief Scenario (Session)

You can complete this sort of process for each different type of work your new starter will do to ensure they’re up to speed with all of their responsibilities. 

5. Organize fun events

Onboarding new employees into your company’s culture is as important as their functional role, so ensure you put some fun events into your plan too. These sessions also allow new starters to meet other team members informally as they begin to become part of the work family. 

Here are some ideas of alternative sessions you can schedule to help your new starters feel comfortable with the company culture and their new teammates:

  • A new starter lunch
  • A team quiz
  • A virtual office tour
  • A virtual scavenger hunt
  • Ice breaker games
  • Virtual film afternoon
  • Virtual murder mystery

Ultimately, it’s about making sure onboarding isn’t solely focused on formal work items and incorporates some time for building great relationships.

6. Factor in downtinme

Remember that onboarding is a pretty stressful time for new employees — remote or not. While most will be raring to go and want to make a great first impression, you don’t want to create too much stress and risk immediate burnout. 

Ensure that, as part of the onboarding plan, you give new hires some free time to catch up on admin, have casual conversations with new colleagues, and reflect on the barrage of new information heading their way. 

Ultimately, that free time is where everything sinks in and will make the process far more efficient and help them become productive a whole lot faster.  

Start onboarding new remote employees

Nailing the onboarding process is hard enough without the challenge of delivering it remotely. Like all things, getting onboarding right is made so much easier when you have a robust plan in place.

Juste Semetaite

Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.

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