Blog·Company Culture

February 24, 2021

Remote Employee Onboarding: 5 Ways to Inspire from Day 1

Employee onboarding in the remote workplace requires some creative thinking. These activities will leave your new hires inspired and engaged from day one

Employee onboarding is an employee’s first impression of your company. As the first step in an employee’s career at your company, it can determine how they work there in the long term.

"Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged," says Amy Hirsh Robinson in an SHRM article. To make the most of this “magic moment”, create an onboarding plan that inspires your new hires.

The goal is to onboard a new hire into the community of your organization. This process is a social one. In the world of remote work, building meaningful and supportive working relationships from day one can be a challenge.

Consequently, human resources must be creative in their approach to employee onboarding. Inspiring new hires and building community in the remote environment is not impossible. We’ve put together some ideas and activities that will get your new hires off to a flying start!

Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged - Amy Hirsh Robinson

How Remote Work Effects Employee Onboarding

What is an employee onboarding process?

Employee onboarding is the process of welcoming a new employee into your company’s culture. New employees are looking with fresh eyes on every aspect of your company – what do you want them to see?

If new hires are met with a disorganized, impersonal or lonely first week, they are unlikely to stick around for long. According to SHRM, employees who went through a structured onboarding system were 58 percent more likely to be with the organization after three years.

Unsurprisingly, HR leaders view onboarding as a priority. A structured program involves a comprehensive training schedule. All new hire paperwork is carefully organized, and new hires have all the information they need to start work. Below, we’ll offer some ways HR can go beyond the transactional to create a fun and engaging remote onboarding program.

What is Employee Onboarding?

What are the challenges of employee onboarding during remote work?

Loneliness is one of the great challenges of the remote workplace. In 2019, Gallup found that a minority of remote workers (21%) experienced loneliness. However, since the pandemic, work from home has become non-voluntary for many, and social interactions outside of work are greatly reduced.

Remote new hires are in an unenviable situation. They have usually never met their co-workers in person. They are anxious to make a good first impression, but may find it difficult to express their personality over Zoom. The usual icebreakers of the office environment just available anymore.

Luckily, HR professionals have worked in inventive ways to build community within the remote work environment. HR and managers must be intentional about creating opportunities for teambuilding – especially for new employees. Below, we have curated some of the best ideas for making your new hires feel extra welcome.

The usual icebreakers of the office environment just aren't available for remote workers

1. Use a buddy system for friendly employee onboarding

A buddy system is the best way to tackle new hire isolation. Ask existing employees to act as ‘buddies’ for new hires, who are there to guide them through the onboarding process.

Hold a training session for buddies, and ensure they are aware of your expectations. How much should they interact with their buddy, and what is the new hire’s schedule? Try to assign buddies before the arrival of new employees – this way they can be in touch prior to their first day. This creates a positive start for the employee, who has a port of call for any questions even before they begin.

On an employee’s first day, schedule in one-on-one time between buddies and new hires. These are a chance for the employee to have a coffee over video call and small talk their first impressions.

Team building activities between buddies and new hires are a great way to set an informal, friendly tone and build a supportive relationship. HR can prepare an icebreaker questionnaire for buddies.

The key is really to carve out time for employee-buddy interactions – the most important thing is for them to ‘be there’ for the ups and downs of the employee’s first week.

Benefits of a buddy system for employee onboarding

2. Send a new hire survival kit to your remote workers

New hire survival kits are one for the more creative in your HR team! They are a fun way to create a friendly first impression. A survival kit contains all the resources that your new hire will need as they start work (plus a few exciting treats!).

Send them before the employee’s start date to get them excited about their new role. You can personalize them by including a handwritten note from their new manager, an HR member or their new team members. recommends the creative idea of inviting everyone in the team to suggest one item each. For example, a colleague might suggest a book on their industry that inspires them, or the brand of coffee that gets them through the day.

Not only is this a thoughtful activity, it’s a great icebreaker as everyone in the team can explain their choice.

Things to Include in New Employee Welcome Kit

  • Copy of Employee Handbook
  • New hire paperwork (also digitized)
  • Training Agenda
  • Organizational chart with names of co-workers
  • Snacks
  • Inspirational quote cards
  • Calming teas
  • Merchandise – mugs and jumpers
  • Personalized business cards

New Hire survival kits for employee onboarding

3. Introduce the new employee in a fun way

In the busy remote workplace, it’s easy for new arrivals to go under the radar. Make sure everyone knows when there is a new employee – an announcement on a Slack channel that everyone can see works well.

Create a profile for new hires on internal social media. Ask them for a photograph and a short bio that outlines their interests and hobbies. This means that even in a large organization, new hires become familiar faces for everyone.

Schedule an icebreaker meeting during the training week, where new hires can introduce themselves. You might organize a virtual group lunch, where employees are given vouchers to order tasty food together.

There is a quicker time-to-productivity when new hires start work in supportive communities. Building team relationships from the first week creates the environment for collaboration and group learning.

There is a quicker time-to-productivity when new hires start work in supportive communities

4. Use games to build teamwork and improve learning

New employees absorb large quantities of information. From the names of their colleagues, to getting to grips with new software, new hires have to act like sponges.

Gamification can offer more interactive ways to present this learning. Online quizzes on company practices can add a bit of healthy competition between new hires.

Games are the perfect way to break the ice. You could even invite an employee to an online game where they can make their own avatar and introduce themselves that way. Finding creative ways to encourage teamwork is crucial in the remote workplace.

Virtual scavenger hunts are a great way to motivate new hires to collect information about the organization. Create a list of questions, such as ‘What are our 3 core values?’ and invite employees to check off the answers as they go. This challenges the employees to gather details from their training week- and makes this process more fun!

Gamification can offer more interactive ways to present onboarding learning

5. Encourage new hires to socialize with each other

Sometimes the best support network for new hires is other new hires! They are going through the same challenges and working through the same learning curves. Create opportunities for new hires to socialize.

A new member virtual break room provides a space for newbies get to know each other. Create a slack channel that includes only new hires, so they can ask each other questions about the process. The working relationships you build in the first week will help create collaborative employees in the long term.

5 ways to inspire new hires through onboarding program

Employee onboarding: the first step to engaged remote workers

There are so many ways to engage your new hires – employee onboarding is an opportunity to get the best out of employees from Week 1. It is however important to find the balance between this and micromanagement.

If you’d like to learn more about remote employee onboarding, why not read our blog post on 10 Hacks to Improve Remote Employee Onboarding?

To find out how PeopleGoal can support your onboarding process, book a demo today.

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