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Remote Onboarding and Training: Things You Must Know cover

Remote Onboarding and Training: Things You Must Know

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The landscape of work is rapidly changing. Remote work has become a fixture for many businesses over the past few years, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As companies embrace location-agnostic work models, effective remote onboarding and training programs have become critical for empowering distributed teams and nurturing talent from afar.

This blog post will explore the foundations of successful remote onboarding, best practices for training remote employees, and how to adapt your programs to suit different roles and needs. With the right strategies, remote onboarding and training can be an enriching experience that sets employees up for productivity and growth. When done right, these programs can instill new hires with your company's vision and values, foster connections, and equip them with the skills to thrive in a remote setting.

Foundational Practices for Remote Onboarding

For onboarding to be successful in a remote environment, managers need to lay the proper groundwork from day one. This involves establishing clear communication expectations and leveraging collaboration technologies to bridge the physical distance.

Clear Communication Channels

When new hires start remotely, face-to-face interactions are limited. This makes proactive communication even more essential. To avoid confusion and frustration, managers should take time to explain the preferred channels new employees should use to get in touch with key contacts.

Provide new remote workers with the following:

  • Email addresses and phone numbers for their manager, direct teammates, IT support, HR representative, and other critical contacts.
  • Guidelines on response times – for example, "Your manager will respond to Slack messages within 24 hours" or "Urgent support tickets will receive a response within 4 hours."
  • Expectations around meeting cadences, such as weekly 1:1s or daily standups.
  • Recommended communication tools, like Slack for questions and Microsoft Teams for video calls.

Setting clear policies around response times and communication methods provides clarity for the employee while establishing helpful guardrails as the manager balances multiple priorities and people.

Technology Enables Remote Onboarding Processes

It can seem impossible to onboard an employee when you’re not working in an office. However, the abundance of virtual collaboration tools available today enables teams to onboard new employees effectively, even from afar. For example, solutions like Zoom, Slack, and Asana are essential for replicating the meetings, conversations, and teamwork that naturally occur in an office.

Furthermore, video conferencing facilitates activities like 1:1 video calls that establish working relationships. Tech also allows distributed teams to hold virtual all-hands meetings and team events. With tools like Zoom and Google Meet, and recording software like Loom and Wink by Scale, it’s easier to enable screen sharing during software demos/training.

Another thing that makes remote onboarding smoother is having a centralized place for team messages. Apps like Slack, for instance, foster seamless communication through company-wide announcements, quick conversations and questions, and searchable message histories.

Using project management platforms like Asana also streamline onboarding tasks. With a productivity app like this, your team can create checklists with deadlines, monitor paperwork and documentation, and make cross-functional coordination easier.

The right mix of technologies empowers managers to digitally recreate helpful onboarding interactions, nurture relationships, and foster collaboration despite the remote environment.

Remote Onboarding Best Practices

Crafting a thoughtful remote onboarding plan is key for setting new hires up for success. This involves mapping out activities in advance, fostering connections, and gathering input through check-ins.

Have a Step-by-Step Onboarding Plan

A comprehensive written onboarding plan provides helpful structure and consistency for bringing remote employees on board. Include the following steps:

  1. Before Day 1: Send a welcome email and package introducing the team and company culture. Provide logins and access to key tools.
  2. Day 1: Schedule a round of 1:1 video calls with the new hire's manager, direct teammates, and a company executive to welcome them personally.
  3. Week 1: Arrange 1:1 training sessions to review company policies, internal systems, and key initiatives.
  4. Weeks 2-4: Outline shadowing sessions, self-paced training modules, and initial projects the new hire will tackle to ramp up.
  5. Weeks 5-8: Schedule check-ins on progress and collect feedback on the onboarding experience so far. Identify any gaps and provide additional resources needed.
  6. Months 2-3: Hold 30/60/90-day reviews to touch base on performance, offer formal feedback, and discuss career growth opportunities.

This detailed plan guides managers while giving new hires a sense of structure and support.

Fostering Belonging

In addition to scheduled training and meetings, managers should incorporate activities focused on relationship-building. This helps cultivate a sense of belonging, even remotely.

For example, you can assign the new hire a peer buddy or mentor outside their core team so they can gain additional perspective on the company or organization. You might also facilitate virtual watercooler conversations so the new employee can get to know their colleagues.

It would also be helpful to send handwritten cards, company swag, or gift cards for coffee, in order to make the new hire feel welcome. Finally, invite the new hire to join relevant Slack channels, Asana projects, and email lists so they can tap into ongoing dialogues and get a feel for company culture.

Fitting into an established team is always challenging. However, it doesn’t have to be awkward. With these human touches, you can make new team members feel valued and included.

Check-ins and Feedback

Don't just do one post-onboarding survey. You should create ongoing touchpoints to gather feedback and assess the remote employee's progress and emotional well-being. In particular, managers must initiate meetings, chats, or surveys to track employee integration. The following are some recommended mechanisms for check-ins and feedback.

  • Regular 1:1 meetings: Managers must hold weekly or bi-weekly 30-minute 1:1s to ask new hires about their experience, challenges, and any roadblocks.
  • Pulse surveys: New employees must complete these during their first month; these surveys focus on new hire satisfaction ratings regarding their onboarding.
  • Informal chats: Instead of only getting to know colleagues through meetings, encourage new hires to participate in informal Slack chats or calls to help them gel with the team.

Bringing a person onto a team doesn’t stop with introducing them on the first day. Instead, you should be checking in with them for the next couple months or so, and evaluating how they integrate into the team. Doing this lets you provide support quickly and fine-tune onboarding over time.

Beyond Remote Onboarding: Training Programs

Training employees remotely introduces unique challenges. Managers must leverage a mix of delivery methods, engagement tactics, and innovative formats to ensure programs are impactful in a virtual setting.

Types of Training Programs

Remote teams benefit from blended training programs. Training that combines synchronous with asynchronous learning works best.

Synchronous Learning

Synchronous learning refers to a mode of education where students and instructors engage in real-time interaction, typically through virtual platforms or in-person sessions. In this approach, students participate in activities, discussions, and lectures simultaneously with their peers under the guidance of an instructor. Synchronous learning facilitates immediate feedback, collaboration, and a sense of community among learners. It often involves scheduled classes or meetings where students and instructors come together at predetermined times to engage in learning activities.

In a professional setting, you can have synchronous remote learning through instructor-led sessions via video conference where employees attend live online. You can also allow employees to view webinars and presentations together and participate in them through features like polls and chat. Finally, having live Q&A sessions will be helpful for employees and allow them to ask experts questions directly.

Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous learning is an educational method where students engage with course materials, complete assignments, and participate in discussions at their own pace and on their own schedule. Unlike synchronous learning, there is no requirement for simultaneous participation with instructors or peers. Instead, learners have the flexibility to access learning materials and interact with content when it's most convenient for them.

Workplaces or organizations can facilitate asynchronous learning through pre-recorded online seminars and videos that employees view independently. It’ll also be beneficial for teams to have access to online learning portals with self-paced content like articles, podcasts, and downloadable worksheets. Finally, apps with on-demand microlearning activities like quizzes, audiobook summaries, and flash cards can be helpful.

Blending interactive live training with flexible on-demand resources caters to different learning preferences and schedules.

Creating Engaging Training Content

Any teacher will tell you that holding students’ attention for more than a few minutes at a time can be tough. However, it’s certainly possible to maximize engagement during virtual sessions. Make learning easier by incorporating some of the techniques below.

  • Conduct short bursts of synchronous training of 40 minutes or less to maintain participants’ energy levels.
  • If training periods need to be longer, allow for 10-minute wellness breaks.
  • Use creative content formats, including demos, mini-documentaries, animation, etc.
  • Provide opportunities for input through live polls, whiteboard activities, and group chat.
  • Explore gamification through points, leaderboards, trivia, and friendly competition.

These interactive elements promote active participation and relationship building.

Addressing Challenges in Remote Onboarding and Training

Common remote training challenges and mitigation tactics include:

  • Limited Face Time: Incorporate small group breakouts, 1:1 mentoring, and optional video for human connection.
  • Spotty Participation: Make lessons mobile-friendly, allow catch-up reviews, and use online badges to track progress.
  • Difficult Concepts: Offer simulations, role play, and practice scenarios for hands-on learning.
  • Lackluster Materials: Send kits with props and examples in advance to boost engagement.

Managers get the most out of virtual training by embracing creativity, personalization, and varied formats.

Remote Training Resources and Support

To enrich training initiatives, ensure remote teams have access to helpful learning resources, mentors, and opportunities to expand their skills over time.

Online Tools and Platforms

Digital solutions that enable impactful learning experiences for distributed teams include:

Learning management systems (LMS) like Cornerstone and Skillsoft:

  • Centralize training content like video courses, PDFs, and SCORM packages.
  • Track course completions and skills gained.
  • Offer forums for peer discussion.
  • Provide dashboards to monitor employee progress.

Virtual classrooms like Adobe Connect and Zoom:

  • Enable live video sessions with interactive features like screen sharing and whiteboards.
  • Allow breakout rooms for small group discussions and activities.
  • Record sessions that can be accessed later.

Together, LMS and virtual classrooms provide a robust infrastructure for blended learning.

Mentorship and Peer Networks

Access to human support systems enhances remote training through:

  • Formal 1:1 mentor relationships for ongoing guidance as employees apply new skills.
  • Informal peer communities via messaging platforms like Slack to quickly get questions answered.
  • Remote book clubs, buddy systems, and learning groups to discuss challenges.
  • Virtual coaching sessions and office hours with subject matter experts.

These human connections supplement instructional content with practical wisdom.

Ongoing Learning

To build skills continually, provide remote employees with:

  • Time for self-directed learning activities each week during work hours.
  • Funding for individual conferences, courses, and certifications.
  • A digital library of microlearning resources to tap into as needed.
  • Job rotation opportunities to develop new capabilities.

With abundant resources and experiential development opportunities, remote employees can truly own their learning journey.

Adapting Remote Onboarding and Training for Different Roles

While some onboarding and training best practices apply universally across an organization, it’s important to tailor parts of the experience for specific roles. Each function will have unique priorities, challenges, and development needs.

Remote Onboarding for Customer Support Representatives

To streamline the remote onboarding process for customer support representatives, managers can implement several key strategies. Firstly, they can offer comprehensive product and brand training sessions, enabling CSRs to develop a thorough understanding of the products they will support and the brand they represent.

Additionally, establishing a "buddy system" pairing new representatives with seasoned ones fosters a supportive environment where day-to-day questions can be addressed promptly. Incorporating mock customer calls provides valuable hands-on experience for new reps, allowing them to navigate fictional issues and receive constructive feedback.

Moreover, dedicating time to review the utilization of essential support tools such as chat platforms, knowledge bases, and customer service software ensures that new hires are equipped with the necessary skills to effectively handle daily tasks. These strategies collectively enhance the onboarding experience, promoting the proficiency and confidence of customer support representatives in their roles.

Remote Training for Customer Support Personnel

Elevating remote training for customer support personnel necessitates structured and insightful sessions. To begin, managers can conduct workshops enhancing soft skills such as active listening, empathy, patience, and clear communication. All of these are fundamental attributes crucial for delivering exceptional customer service experiences.

Additionally, companies can introduce advanced courses focused on conflict resolution methodologies, de-escalation techniques, and adept management of challenging customer interactions. Managers can also invite guest speakers from various departments, including billing, technical troubleshooting, and sales, to provide comprehensive insights into how these domains intersect with the realm of customer support.

Through these formalized training endeavors, our customer support professionals will emerge equipped with the expertise and acumen to address diverse scenarios with poise and proficiency.

Software Developers’ Remote Onboarding

Getting talented developers up to speed requires a walkthrough of the organization’s system architecture, code bases, software frameworks, and development practices. Doing this ensures every developer feels right at home in the digital ecosystem.

Developers should also get access to mechanical engineering teams, allowing them to dive deep into products and truly understand them inside and out. A gradual ramp-up approach works best. Most managers start devs with fixing bugs, before moving them on to diving into existing code, and eventually empowering developers to build new features independently.

Throughout the onboarding process developers may engage in pair programming sessions with seasoned seniors who provide invaluable coaching and mentorship along the way.

Training for Remote Software Developers

Continuous learning is key to staying ahead in the tech world. That's why managers should offer hands-on workshops covering everything from new languages and required dev tools to mobile OS SDKs and other technical skills. And for those who thrive under pressure, coding challenges and hackathons provide opportunities for putting skills to the test in a fun and competitive environment.

But it's not all about the code – organizations must nurture well-rounded developers. That's why developers should attend conferences and meetups focused on relevant programming languages and frameworks. Doing so keeps them connected to the latest industry trends and innovations.

Last but certainly not least is developing soft skills. Building great software is as much about people as it is about code. So, companies must provide coaching to improve devs’ collaboration, communication, and persuasion skills.

Remote Onboarding for Other Roles

It’s crucial to evaluate each role holistically to shape onboarding and training experiences that best develop the capabilities each function requires to excel. Here are some additional examples of roles that may require tailored onboarding and training approaches:

Sales Professionals

  • Product immersion and roleplaying sales scenarios
  • Shadowing top performers and managers
  • Customized CRM and sales tools training
  • Workshops on sales techniques and objection handling

Marketing Specialists

  • Hands-on brand style guide and creative asset training
  • Collaborating on campaigns with senior marketers
  • Using marketing automation and analytics tools
  • Workshops on social media, SEO/SEM, email marketing

Project Managers

  • Learning the organization's PM methodologies and tools
  • Certification training on project management best practices
  • Leading a small-scale project with mentor oversight
  • Interdepartmental training to understand function intricacies

HR Professionals

  • Customized training on core HR systems and workflows
  • Roleplaying difficult conversations and scenarios
  • Training on company policies, regulations, and ethics
  • Crucial soft skills like conflict resolution and influencing


  • Coaching on leadership style, strategic planning, and culture setting
  • 360-reviews to gather peer feedback early on
  • Deep dives on company finances, operations, and initiatives
  • Media coaching and public speaking practice

The key is to analyze the core knowledge and competencies vital for excellence in each role and then tailor onboarding and training accordingly.

Make Remote Onboarding a Breeze

Remote work is here to stay, which means organizations must embrace flexibility and iteration to perfect their virtual onboarding processes. By focusing on adaptability, individualization, and continuous improvement, companies can make onboarding smooth and enjoyable for distributed teams.

Emphasize Flexibility

What works well for one remote employee may not work for another. Encourage managers to:

  • Build autonomy into the onboarding plan by giving employees choices in communication channels, learning formats, and work modalities.
  • Be open to adjustments in trainings, check-ins, and assignments based on new hire feedback and work styles.
  • Offer an array of resources and optional initiatives new hires can take advantage of rather than rigid requirements.
  • Structure asynchronous onboarding elements that employees can complete at their own pace.
  • Accommodate needs like adjusted hours, workspaces, and collaboration formats.

Adaptable onboarding demonstrates that the company values the individual.

Consider Diverse Needs

Remote workers have unique needs and circumstances that impact the onboarding experience, including:

  • Learning styles: Does the employee prefer reading, listening, observing, or actively practicing new skills?
  • Work environment: Do they need any equipment or office setup accommodations?
  • Communication: What methods and cadence work best for them?
  • Work schedule: Do they need flexibility in hours? What are their core focus times?

Get to know new hires to tailor onboarding accordingly.

Continuously Improve

The remote environment is constantly evolving. Gather ongoing feedback through:

  • Pulses surveys every few months to benchmark new hire satisfaction.
  • Regular 1:1s and skip level meetings to hear about challenges.
  • Debriefs after major onboarding milestones to identify areas for improvement.

With ample flexibility, personalization, and iteration, remote onboarding can be an exciting experience for new employees. They will feel valued, prepared, and enthusiastic about the company's future.

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