9 Virtual Onboarding Tips for Remote Teams
Virtual onboarding is tricky. It can be tough to know how things are going and what kind of support your new team members need remotely.
Onboarding is crucial to helping your teammates have an impact quickly and integrate smoothly—not to mention scaling your remote team culture. So how do you make sure you get it right?
Use these tips to create a remote onboarding experience that gives new hires a sense of belonging, lightweight opportunities to communicate, and easy access to information.
1. Document how you work together with clear internal communication guidelines
Create a short “How we work together” doc to get your new hires familiar with how your org communicates on their first day. We think of this as our remote operating system.
Some of it may seem intuitive or obvious, but it’s incredibly helpful to new hires to see everything spelled out on paper—especially when your team is in periods of fast growth.
Here’s what to include:
- A list of your go-to tools (and their purposes). Write down any tool your teams use day-to-day. Need some inspiration? Think about where your team asks questions, socializes about non-work topics, tracks tasks, and posts updates.
- Response turnaround times. When teams are async, it helps to have rough guidelines for response times. When can teammates expect to hear back from each other?
- Async vs. sync communication. Is your company asynchronous, synchronous, or a mix of both? Flesh out your expectations about working hours and what types of communication makes sense for different types of information here (i.e. do you use meetings to make decisions, or just for brainstorms?)
- How the team makes decisions. Sometimes decision making can be more difficult on a remote team—this is a helpful area of clarity to add to any onboarding resource.
- Communication style. If your company values aggressively authentic communication or prefers a more professional tone, this is the place to identify that.
- Meeting cadence. Make a list of the recurring meetings at your company and the purpose for each meeting, so new teammates know what to expect. We also include a link out to recordings of our All-Hands meetings for new hires to check out.
At Remotion, we use Notion for our guidelines doc. Google Docs is another great option for creating a living document. Check out Oyster’s guidelines to get ideas—but don’t be afraid to start small and build your guidelines over time.
And remember—your guidelines don’t need to be boring. Feel free to use a more informal tone of voice to make the doc (and communication in your org) more approachable to new hires. Keep the doc conversational if that's how you communicate internally.
2. Collaboratively define roles with your new hires (and create 30/60/90’s together)
Cookie-cutter approaches, like inflexible job roles, can get in the way of shaping your best team. Defining job roles collaboratively (even as early as the interview) helps you thoughtfully leverage your team's talents.
Instead of being overly prescriptive with a new hire’s responsibilities, work with them to shape the role (and where they want it to go in the future). This ownership helps boost their confidence because it shows them you believe in their ability to solve the problem at hand.
Sit down with your new hire and identify priorities they should focus on in their first three months. Then, outline small steps they can take to fulfill each focus area in a 30/60/90 plan—this is a plan of action for your new hire’s first 30, 60, and 90 days in their role. After your plan is set up, schedule a weekly check in to chat about how they’re progressing.
A solid 30/60/90 plan looks something like this:
- Days 1-30: Learn about roles, tools, responsibilities, company culture, and policies. Set up 1:1 meetings with key contacts to help your new team member get to know the people they work with.
- Days 31-60: Ramp up the workload according to your new hire’s abilities. This time is one of trial and error where new team members learn about their work.
- Days 61-90: Your new hire should set goals and meet expectations. New team members may not have their skills mastered yet, but they’ll be well on their way.
Check out this article for a deep dive into how to create a 30/60/90 template.
3. Create an onboarding system you can flex based on learning styles and experience level
Each team member you hire processes information differently—some might prefer to have time alone with a resource to digest it and then schedule time to ask questions. Some might prefer an up-front walk through.
Start by asking each new hire how they would prefer to absorb the information, then tailor their experience to get the best results. Over time, you’ll create a go-to mix of onboarding pathways to suit everyone’s learning styles and experience level.
Are they a visual learner? Consider a whiteboard (we like Figjam) session to walk them through the latest strategy.
Are they a reading-based learner? Provide all of their learning docs up front, then have their team lead schedule a Q&A session when they're ready. Reading-based learners find articles and guidebooks useful, as well as transcripts/subtitles for videos.
Are they an auditory learner? Have their team lead share audio recordings of recent meetings throughout the onboarding process.
Do they learn best by doing? At Remotion, we love starting our new team members off with a low-stakes project to complete within their first two weeks. An easy-win project helps team members build momentum and feel like a part of the group right away.
In addition to adding a variety of resources to your knowledge base platform, Remotion is a great addition to your training toolkit for visual and auditory learners.
4. Create a dedicated coworking room for new hires
While 1:1 virtual meetings are great for structured chats, they’re not always the best for new hires to get to know team members. That’s why we recommend setting up a dedicated virtual coworking room for new hires in Remotion.
Coworking rooms give new team members the opportunity to spend casual time working side-by-side in an informal context outside of meetings—something that can be really difficult remotely.
These spaces offer a low-friction alternative for new hires who want to casually enjoy the company of other team members and leadership, just like they would in an office.
We find that it’s an easy way for teammates to integrate with the team, but also help each other get up to speed. On larger teams, it can also be a fun way to help a cohort of new hires casually share space with one another and team leads. Get started free with Remotion to set up a coworking room for your new teammates today.
5. Ask new hires to prep an icebreaker question for their first team meeting
Want a quick way for new hires to get to know their teammates? Ask new hires to share an icebreaker question with their teammates during their first meeting. This activity takes the pressure off of your new teammate and helps them get to know everyone in a fun way.
One of our new hires recently asked everyone to “What was the first time you remember really connecting with a song?” We had a great time listening to each other’s answers (which sprawled from obsessing over everyone from Avril Lavigne to Kanye West).
Another asked what everyone’s party trick was, and we got some lightly embarrassing and fun-to-bond-over answers to that one too.
Before their first day, connect with your new team member and ask them to think of a question they’d like everyone on the team to answer. Set aside a few minutes at the beginning of your new team member’s first team meeting—they can introduce themselves, ask the question, and enjoy the team banter that follows.
6. Hire a freelancer to write team member spotlights
Ditch bland, single-sentence bio statements and opt for deeper, 500 word team member spotlights instead.
Spotlights read like a fun magazine feature, complete with quotes and photos, so your new team member can share their personality with the team right away.
With spotlights, existing team members get an opportunity to learn about new hires before they even work together—leading to chats about common interests and helping newbies feel welcome and known from day one.
Speaking from personal experience, it also kind of makes you feel like a celebrity getting a New Yorker profile.
Before a team member’s first day, we hire a freelancer to write up a 500-750 word spotlight about our new team member, including fun photos and quotes. This is a pretty big investment, but we’ve found it’s worth it. Learn more about how we do that in our guide to building culture in remote teams.
Then, in their first few weeks, we’ll share these spotlights in the general Slack channel and introduce it at standup. We’ll also usually play a fun round of two truths and a lie.
We also recommend having team members link their spotlights on their Slack profiles. This way, everyone can learn more about each other, even if they work async hours.
Feel free to draw inspiration from (or copy!) our list of spotlight questions that our writers use to interview our teammates.
If hiring someone to write these isn’t in the cards, then having your teammate answer these 25 fun questions and sharing their answers on their first day can be a lightweight way to achieve the same effect.
7. Send a welcome package or a handwritten note
A lot of stress comes with the first day at a new job. Make new hires feel like part of the team with a welcome package mailed straight to their front door.
Company swag is always fun to welcome folks remotely, but we also recommend sending a handwritten, personal note welcoming them aboard.
Put together welcome kits for each new hire on your team and ship boxes so they arrive one week before their first day. We’ve used swag.com, but also recommend Bold XChange for curated first-day gift boxes with a collection of products from Black-owned brands.
And while we’re talking mail, here’s another fun idea: send your team a stack of branded postcards and stamps so they can welcome new hires with a fun piece of snail mail. It’s a nice touch to stay connect with mail when you’re working remotely.
8. Make a virtual onboarding Slack channel
Asking for help can be hard when you’re a remote worker. Sometimes new team members aren’t sure where to ask questions or who to send them to—leading them to avoid these conversations altogether.
Create a Slack channel for new hires to post onboarding questions. Over time, this channel will double as a chat room and a great searchable resource for anyone who has the same question later on.
Add a few established team members who are happy to point new hires in the right direction anytime they have questions. Remember to reference this channel in your communication guidelines (see section one).
9. Store onboarding resources in a searchable knowledge base
Make onboarding knowledge accessible to everyone—new hires and current employees—by storing information in a shared knowledge base. With a central source of information, your teams avoid repetitive questions, and your new hires never have to wonder if they’re searching in the right spot.
We recommend using an internal wiki tool like Notion to organize your information into a searchable library. Within your wiki, you can create articles with links to other resources, embedded videos, and onboarding exercise text descriptions.
Use Remotion to help your team build relationships during virtual onboarding
The heart of a good onboarding program lies in creating connections between your team and new hires from their very first day.
Remotion helps build strong connections right away by making room for casual conversations in shared virtual workspaces.
Sign up today and ensure new team members feel supported and fully integrated with your team.
The case for virtual coworking: build a connected remote culture.
Regularly coworking with your hybrid or remote team can help you build the social cohesion that makes work feel less like work.
Here are the biggest reasons we think coworking is an effective way to create a close-knit remote culture:
1. It fosters casual conversations.
Building a connected remote culture is all about fostering 1:1 or small group organic conversations. Virtual coworking makes space for those conversations. When you spend time together outside of agenda-driven meetings, spontaneous chats naturally occur, as they would in an office.
2. It's more inclusive than scheduled social events.
It can be draining for introverts to have to participate in scheduled, purely social conversations. Coworking allows the team to spend time together and occasionally chat without having to constantly be "on," making it more inclusive for introverts and extroverts alike.
3. It's easy to say yes to.
Purely social events are important, but if your team is busy or on a tight deadline, it's tough to find the time for social chats without it feeling like an obligation. Coworking is much easier to get your team onboard with because it doesn't take time away from getting work done.
4. It improves remote collaboration.
Coworking can lead to unblocking and shorter feedback loops. Quick questions get answered easily and in the moment, without a having to schedule a meeting or go back-and-forth in messages.
5. It's scalable.
Coworking works for teams of all sizes and is a great way to scale your remote culture as your team grows. It's helpful to create opportunities for teammates from different functions to get to know one another.
6. It creates shared momentum.
The feeling of togetherness is motivating!
Get started with virtual coworking: choose the type most aligned with your priorities.
It takes intentionality to make virtual coworking feel natural and energizing enough to stick—it's not as simple as leaving a Zoom call open all day.
Here are a few of the ways we've set coworking up for our team. We recommend choosing one to start with. If it works, make it routine and experiment with other types from there.
Try independent coworking.
Try project-based coworking.
Best practices for virtual coworking.
Keep group sizes small.
Limit your coworking sessions to 4-6 people to keep things from getting distracting and help make introverted teammates comfortable chatting.
Signal boost coworking.
Set a norm of letting the entire team know when you're hopping into a coworking room or session.
Make it routine.
Once you've figured out what kind of coworking works for your team, make it a regular, opt-in event. Set up a recurring calendar event to do it at the same time each week to maximize the impact.
Set expectations ahead of time.
When you're first introducing coworking to your team, share what you're imagining in your calendar invite and at the top of each session to get everyone on the same page. For example:
Let's try virtual coworking! We'll work independently on our own projects with our cameras off, but we'll share space and listen to music together — like we might work side-by-side at the office.
Listen to music together.
Play music while you work to create a shared environment and add a little bit of personality to your coworking session.
Set up Coworking Rooms in Remotion.
Most of the above is doable with any video chat app, but much easier with Remotion—which we designed with a lightweight, smooth coworking experience in mind. Easily set up Remotion rooms that your teammates can hop into for different styles of coworking.