Will your workforce continue to work remotely—part-time or even full-time—for the rest of 2020 and into the future? According to studies, for most employers, the answer is yes:

Employers expect 19% of their workforce to be full-time employees working from home post-COVID-19, which is roughly half of current levels (44%) but almost three times last year’s figure (7%). (Willis Towers Watson)

For those companies who will continue to work remotely, hiring and virtually onboarding new employees will need to become part of their HR toolkit. Here are steps businesses can follow, in a punch list form, to make sure onboarding for remote employees is a smooth, successful process.

The Employer’s Virtual Onboarding Punch List

Part 1: Virtual Interviewing

Source candidates. (This step probably won’t change much from how you were sourcing pre-COVID-19).

Set up your virtual interview.

  • Determine what tool you will use to “meet” the candidate virtually.
  • Set up a time, and be sure to clarify what time zone you’re in if the position isn’t bound to a geographic area.⃞
  • Tell the candidate what to expect. Who will they meet with? What information do they need to know before the interview? Consider sharing a simple agenda with the candidate if they will be interviewing with multiple people.
  • Be prompt to the meeting.
  • Test your equipment ahead of your meeting time. Make sure your speakers, headphones, and video are working properly. Pay attention to your remote office, as well. Is there anything distracting in your background? Are you dressed professionally?
  • Proceed with the interview. At the end of the call, provide information about next steps, noting any follow-up information you need from the candidate.
  • Make your determination about who’s the best fit for the job, and notify candidates who have not been selected. We suggest waiting no longer than a few days before notifying a candidate about whether or not they will move to the next phase of the interview process. You want to get them engaged.
  • Offer the job to the chosen candidate. We recommend doing this in a video meeting. After the meeting, send any contracts or other documents immediately. You can use services like DocuSign, which allows your new hire to sign virtually without needing to mail, fax, or scan any documents.

Do you have a work-from-home policy to give all new hires on day one? Get a sample policy—plus two free templates to help you in this free guide.

Part 2: Virtual Onboarding

Best Practices For Virtual Onboarding

  • Communication is crucial to compensate for the lack of physicality that’s normally present in an office setting. They can’t see what’s on your desk, you can’t flip through a handbook with them, etc.
  • Send out documentation when a job offer is accepted, so it can be reviewed prior to the first day.
  • Send all documentation as secure files via email.
  • Postpone sending personal information or trade secrets to new hires via email.
  • Have an organization-wide policy for background and dress when working remotely. Professional standards for video appearances will vary by company, but all employees should remember to be cognizant about what they’re wearing, what’s in their background, and whether or not they always need to have their cameras on (or if audio-only calls are acceptable).
  • Make sure all documentation is prepared in PDF form and easy to email.
  • Make sure your IT team is notified about the new hire. Important aspects to cover for IT include the new hire’s email address, how they will receive access to network databases, whether they’re getting a remote desktop or laptop, and what other tech they need. IT should also help with improving their home network and connectivity if necessary. As part of this conversation, you may need to discuss whether the new hire’s internet connection requires purchasing a more robust internet package—this can be a business expense if it is required to fulfill the new hire’s role.
  • Send new hire documentation. You can choose to send out documentation on their first day, or when they accept your job offer. Don’t email confidential documentation before the first day—only general, generic information, including benefits paperwork, handbooks, policies, team organizational charts, contact information, email and phone lists, etc.
  • Schedule new-hire orientations and one-on-one meetings.
  • Virtually view and confirm the new hire’s authorization to work in the United States. It is legally acceptable to do this through Zoom or Slack; the new hire can simply hold their ID up to camera. (Previously, this was required to be done in-person, but visual digital confirmation is now acceptable.)
  • Discuss expectations regarding work hours. Does your organization require employees to be available from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then limit hours after that time? Are you more flexible with when your employees can meet? You need to have this conversation immediately with the new hire, and make it clear when and how they should be available. Also clarify how frequently the new hire needs to be in-person at the office (if at all); and how they should handle out of office hours, break periods, and time off. Be very specific; this may be an employee’s first time working remotely.
  • Discuss communication expectations for working remotely. Especially in the world of remote work, it is crucial to be as detailed and specific as possible—employees need to know exactly what is expected of themselves and their team members. The best way to do this is by creating a work-from-home policy template that all employees agree to.
  • Set up one to two meetings per day for the new hire’s first week or two. These meetings can be orientations, training meetings, or just shadowing/get-to-know-you type meetings. Limit them to a reasonable timeframe. (No four-hour meetings in the first week.)
  • Assign the new hire tasks within the first week to help them feel productive. Give them small things to get started, and then evaluate their participation and execution of the tasks.
  • Have the new hire’s manager create a weekly (or more frequent) standing 30-minute call for their team (if they’re not already doing so). This will not only help the new hire become acclimated to the job; your entire team will benefit from consistent contact.
  • Assign a “go-to” person to the new hire. This is especially helpful in remote settings—your new hire will never wonder who to contact if they need to ask a question.
  • Follow up with the new hire weekly for the first month, and then every few weeks. You should also check in with their manager to make sure there are no problems or questions.
  • If any issues arise in regard to performance, availability, or anything else, immediately open a conversation to address it. Do a Zoom call to make sure they understand their role and expectations. If disciplinary action is necessary, make sure you’re having on-video, verbal conversations, and follow your documentation process as identified in your handbook.

If you’re looking for more help with virtual onboarding (or onboarding in general), you may find our Checklist for Onboarding New Employees helpful. It details exactly what you need to do when onboarding new hires, and helps you learn industry best practices for integrating new employees to your organization in their first days on the job. And when (or if) you decide to go back to the office, be sure to check out Return To Work Planning: A Guide For Businesses.