How to onboard and retain remote employees


It’s always stressful starting a new job, and being physically removed from the rest of the team can make that initial stage a little harder—after all, you can’t just turn to the person next to you to ask how to find a certain document, or how to work that tricky internal software. Because of this, it’s worth taking time to ensure your company has plans in place when it comes to onboarding and retaining your remote employees.

And the challenges don’t stop once your new employee is successfully onboarded. Working remotely can sometimes make it more difficult to connect with a company’s culture—which means they’re more likely to jump ship and look for a job elsewhere. In this article, we’ll look at how to onboard and retain remote employees.

Let’s start by looking at your new employee’s first week.

Build a remote-specific onboarding plan

Your company likely already uses an onboarding plan to welcome new employees, but when it comes to remote workers, you’ll need to add in some extra elements to make sure they feel welcomed and comfortable in their new role. Ensure employees get an overview of ‘who’s who’, whether in a list or family tree style. Even better, link photos or the team’s LinkedIn profiles, so they can make a face to the name. This is something that happens naturally when you’re sitting in an office, but for remote workers, it’s easy for Sam to blend into Sara and Sandra. It’s also worth encouraging new employees to set up virtual coffees with each member of their immediate team (and anyone else relevant), so they can start to build those all-important relationships and have people to call on when they need support.

Provide extra support on company processes

When you’re just starting out, all the new business systems and processes can quickly get overwhelming. HR teams can combat this by ensuring they’re providing adequate support at this initial stage. Consider group sessions for new employees taking them through your complicated internal messaging system, and create simple step-by-step videos providing instructions for the trickiest tasks. More than anything, make sure new remote employees know who to ask when they’re stuck, so they never feel too intimidated to reach out for help.

Send a welcome package

Remote employees never want to feel like they’re missing out on the company culture that is a natural part of working from an office alongside your colleagues. A thoughtful welcome package can combat this: consider sending branded stationary alongside a small gift that will make them feel immediately at home. Even a gesture as simple as sending company stickers they can add to their notebooks will make them feel part of the wider company from day one. If possible, provide equipment, or budget for remote employees to buy anything else they need to work optimally from home. Allowances for employees to set up their office are establishing themselves as a new normal in the Netherlands already.

It’s not just the first week that counts—let’s look at what you should be thinking about in the first month and beyond.

Schedule regular check-ins with managers and supporting staff

The first week at a new job is full of excitement and new things, but once that novelty wears off, it’s especially important that new hires feel supported. Managers should schedule regular check-ins, at least on a weekly basis for the first few weeks. This will provide the new employee to share questions and concerns and get feedback on how everything’s going so far. Managers will also be able to pick up on problems early on, meaning they’ll be easier to solve. Beyond their managers, new employees should also have a chance to speak to other employees, whether you implement a buddy system, or have a designated wellness person for them to speak to.

Have projects and tasks ready

There’s nothing more frustrating than starting a new job, raring to go, only to find your new team hasn’t yet decided what exactly they want you to do. This is a fast way for new recruits to feel unfulfilled. Get them involved in engaging tasks and projects ready for them after their onboarding. It’s not about overwhelming them, it’s about making them feel like they’re making a positive contribution to the team. This will help them build confidence within their role, and make them feel more at home, leading to better work. It’s a win for both you and the new employee.

Provide regular internal training

Retaining remote employees for the long run involves ensuring they’re always able to learn and grow within your company. Once they feel like they’ve got nowhere left to go, they’ll start to look for jobs elsewhere. Avoid this by regularly polling employees to see what kinds of training they’d be interested in, and then provide them. Bonus points if it’s related to their skillset, but not directly related to their role. They’ll be especially grateful since it shows that you as an employer care about them growing in their career. From marketing training to public speaking and communication skills, there are endless experts providing dynamic and exciting (online) training. Put on a solid program, and you’ll be sure to keep your best remote employees loyal for the long-term.

At a glance:

  • Build an onboarding plan including a comprehensive overview of colleagues, and departments and encourage virtual coffees
  • Make sure to elaborate on internal processes and communication paths
  • Enable your new employee to set up their home office and have company gifts ready for them
  • Have their manager stay in touch with them
  • Keep them occupied with tasks after their onboarding
  • Inquire about what professional development they are excited about and provide it if possible
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