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Onboarding someone remotely starts the moment the candidate says yes. Good onboarding includes making sure they are set up with the following prior to their first day.
One Week Prior
Send through their contract and role description. Typically you’d do this via Docusign or a similar online tool, since they are not there for you to hand them physical copies.
Share expectations of how to work remotely, and your company culture.
Share any perks like home office expenses, and/or ship equipment like a company laptop or headphones. (It’s important to make sure you’re tracking what is going to whom. Ideally you’re tracking assets for everyone, regardless of where they work.)
Share any documentation that will help them know what to expect on day 1. This can be as little as “no need to prepare anything,” or as thorough as “read the entire company handbook and record any questions you have.”
The Day Before
Enable access to all critical tools to do their job.
Enable their company email and calendar access.
Invite them to all relevant events on their calendar.
Let them know what time they’re expected to log in, or have their first team interaction.
Send them a “who’s who” email: detail every member of their team, who can be contacted with questions, how they relate to the new hire’s role, and what your expectation is for that relationship (for example: a peer, a key stakeholder, someone to be kept lightly informed). As a remote or distributed company, it is wise to create a public org chart that can be accessed by employees at any time.
The First Day
Have a “meet and greet” meeting over video.
Make sure they have what they need for tools and access.
Share their 30-60-90 day plan.
Show them around: point out what tools are used and how, and invite them to relevant interest groups or chat channels. Again, your code of conduct, norms and expectations around tools, as well as where to find relevant information, should be documented in your company handbook—you’re just helping them get a jump-start.
Share an announcement welcoming the new teammate. This might be in Slack, email, or whatever other broad channels make sense for your team and company.
Introduce them to their team. Depending on the size of the team, this may be done in a video conference with everyone, or in a Slack channel. Ideally, the new person has some form of one-on-one video chat with everyone on the team as soon as possible after starting, as this helps establish more direct, personal connections.
The Day One Document is a prime example of our belief in writing everything down. The key to designing a thorough onboarding program that gets new people acquainted quickly is over-documenting everything.Noah Brier, co-founder, Variance*
Here’s an example Day One Schedule from Percolate, a company previously founded by Noah Brier. This level of detail is ideal for remote onboarding.
The primary performance-related goal of onboarding is that after three months, every new hire is a productive member of the team. This is true of any employee, regardless of whether they are remote. But a very clear 30-60-90 day plan, with formal check-in meetings at each mark, plays an especially important role in a remote environment. Such plans support asynchronous practices for managing a new employee’s progress, and enable a remote employee to develop the skills and knowledge they’ll need to work autonomously and productively.
Typically, the first 30 days are about learning, the next 30 are about contributing, and the final 30 are about reaching independence (or leading, depending on the role). An effective written plan states concrete goals for each time phase, and ends with the final goals of the position (which essentially will be to independently execute their job description).
As a manager, you will have a corresponding document with your own goals to support the new hire: for example, finding an appropriate project for them to own at the 30-day mark, or delegating a significant responsibility at the 60-day mark. In a remote context, it’s important for both sides to have a clear expectation of the job, and of what success looks like.
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