The onboarding process – how to handle that essential extra mile between a prospect and a team member

The onboarding process is the extra mile between an employee and a team member. It can determine your work relationship, its nature, and length. The onboarding process is more delicate when it comes to remote employment, and even more important. You as the leader are the one who needs to direct it. That doesn’t mean you should be the only one involved in it. The onboarding process is a shared experience. You, the newcomer and your existing team all play essential roles. There are a few key elements that need to work together. Once you coordinate them, everything else can be smooth sailing.

Step by step

Starting a new job is as exciting as it is stressful, which always makes it overwhelming. You can’t stuff newcomers with all the information all at once. Step by step will make the transition feel seamless. You need to give your new remote employees time for the data to sink in. Otherwise, it just won’t stick, which will make for more discomfort down the way. Go back to an area you have already covered. This will prevent confusion and will show you aren’t trying to rush the onboarding process.

Start with the big things. Go over the highlights from the job description. This will show the remote employee those were core values rather than jibber-jabber. Emphasize those like bright billboards. They can shine over your remote employees’ path in your company. It will save a lot of hassle and show them you were honest before you even met them. There’s nothing worse than fake job descriptions. Transparency of the onboarding process sets the right tone from the get-go.

Ask questions

Most employees, especially remote and newcomers, might feel shy to ask questions. Or the fear of sounding stupid and making a bad first impression can clinch them into silence. As the leader, you are the one who needs to prevent this from happening. Think of your company as your home, with new hires being first-time guests. What does great hospitality look like? Questions. Better too many, even asked repeatedly, than not enough. Think about when you first started a job. What were you curious about, what was hard to understand, what worried you? Consult with your existing team about their experience. What did they struggle with, was there something you could have done better? By asking the new remote employees questions, they will feel encouraged to do the same. One thing will lead to another, and before you know it, your communication will flow more naturally. Leave formality for the legal stuff. It’s far better for remote workers to learn things by asking questions than through a piece of paper. Real interactions make for real connections which are already hindered in remote employment. In those early stages, you need to make up for this with extra effort.

Don’t overdo the introduction

Nobody likes to be the new kid in high school. You have to make a formal introduction. Don’t make it unnatural though, like forcing a kid to make friends and play with others. You can take different steps to make the onboarding process flow better. Video meetings are a powerful way to bring remote workers together when carried out well. As the leader, you need to take charge and turn them one into a professional, yet pleasant conversation. Take the initiative and start talking first. Encourage your already existing team to follow your example. This way the new employee won’t feel like being questioned. By learning about you and your team, the new hire will feel predisposed to share information as well. The principle is similar to conducting a successful and insightful interview. You need to set a loose but professional tone that allows remote employees to shine.

Have other remote employees send a personal email afterward, not all at the same time. They can mention their position, how long they’ve been with you. Encourage them to share something personal but casual. Anything that adds a personal touch to the interaction relieves the awkwardness. It will reinforce the video meeting and make new hires feel like it was a success.

Have your existing team members outline their roles and specialties and offer help. Create a hierarchy during the onboarding process. Encourage older employees to mentor newcomers without babysitting them. Mentors don’t need to watch new hires every step of the way. Being responsive and having an open-door culture is more than enough. Otherwise, newcomers might feel uncomfortable, like a nuisance, or even not trusted. This approach is something like a more seamless version of the  “buddy system.” The more natural interaction, the less of a nuisance the employee will feel. At the same time, they will also understand who to turn to. This will be motivational boost for mentors as well since it’s a display of your trust. It’s a testament to their excellent work. It will give them hope that one day they can move up and be full-time supervisors. You create a win-win situation for you, your old and new remote employees.

Older remote workers can share their struggles and how was the onboarding experience for them. They can share fun stories and job perks.

You can even allow some leeway for talk behind you behind your back. Nothing negative of course, just a fun story that reveals your laid-back side. Something that shines a different light on you. You can’t just start acting like the “cool boss”. It can look fake, not to mention you might seem too laid-back and undemanding. However, someone else doing a bit of “PR” for you while you still act professionally can do wonders for your image.

This way newcomers won’t feel it was forced, even if they suspect the idea was yours. You need to find the happy medium between a laid-back introduction and an overly formal one.


Don’t set a strict timeline

Every remote employee will be different. Don’t just assume that the onboarding is over after an X amount of time. There has to be a relative timeline, but you need to feel the process out individually. Have your older remote workers share their opinions. Keep asking newcomers questions. Observe their work from close for a while even after you think they are ready. If you overlook something small in the beginning, it can become big in the future. A repeated mistake, later on, might cause embarrassment that could have been avoided.

Be yourself

As cliché as it sounds, be yourself throughout and after the onboarding process. It doesn’t hurt to be a bit more accommodating and polite in the beginning than usually. But straying too far away from yourself and your company’s values is harmful. You will create a false impression that doesn’t align with your style and requirements. Don’t be more too laid-back if you know you are strict. Don’t allow certain things you are against in general. This will cause problems sooner or later. Being yourself will help newcomers adjust to your standards and know what to strive for.

The onboarding process is crucial and delicate, and we’ll guide you through it. Get in touch with DistantJob today!


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Petar Petrov

Petar Petrov

Petar Petrov is a freelance writer who works with DistantJob to research and synthesise the best remote work related content into practical, accurate and actionable guides and articles on how to improve remote leadership and better manage your teams.