Remote onboarding: Set up success from day one with these 5 best practices

Irwan Shah
Irwan Shah
October 28, 2022

When does an employee become a flight risk? Within the first few weeks of onboarding, in some cases. One study of Singapore’s financial employers reveals that 49% have had a new hire resign during probation, due to poor onboarding processes. 

First impressions matter, and onboarding is your talent’s first look at their working experience with you. Poor onboarding can leave talent feeling disengaged and lacking confidence in their new roles. Conversely, employees who experience great onboarding are 2.6 times more likely to feel “extremely satisfied” with their job – and thus, more likely to stay.

In the age of remote work, onboarding has become even more crucial. A tech talent crunch is driving more employers to go beyond borders to hire remote tech talent, resulting in diverse, regional teams of employees – each bringing their own cultural values and expectations to the table. Hence, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach.

So what can companies do to retain remote talent from day one? Here’s a look at common onboarding pitfalls to avoid, followed by five best practices for onboarding success in remote teams.

The pitfalls of poor remote onboarding

Done right, onboarding lays the groundwork for everything your talent needs to excel – building relationships, understanding company culture, clarifying big-picture goals, and more. Without it, new hires may struggle to grasp your company’s expectations and perform up to par.

When B2B procurement startup Eezee began hiring its first employees, the founders had no proper onboarding process.

“We didn’t think we needed to spend a lot of time on onboarding,” shares CEO and co-founder Logan Tan. “We didn’t take time to document processes and clarify our expectations, and explain what they should or shouldn’t do.”

But this hasty onboarding soon led to cultural problems. 

“We want that hustle mentality in our hires, that mindset of overcoming individualism and helping one another,” Logan explains. “But since our cultural foundation wasn’t clear during onboarding, everyone would fill in the gap with their own cultural values.” 

Unfortunately, this often meant falling short of the expected work ethic. On the flipside, information overload isn’t always ideal either. At Glints, one common employee complaint received by our talent management experts is that a company’s remote onboarding was “boring”. 

“It’s overwhelming to get so much new information at once,” explains Erlangga Maulana, Talent Success Associate at Glints Indonesia. “And it’s worse when remote hires aren’t given someone to turn to and guide them step-by-step.”

Though your talent might eventually figure it out on their own, the damage to employee retention is done. 

“Some new hires might be able to process information and adapt on their own, but many others just end up thinking about resigning soon,” says Erlangga. “Proper onboarding is the best tool to retain talent and help new hires adjust quickly.”

Related: Inside the minds of tech talent: What startups need to know about hiring and retaining in 2022

How to create an effective remote onboarding process

To set up your new remote talent for success from day one, here are five steps to creating an effective remote onboarding process.

1. Set clear onboarding goals

Effective onboarding starts with a clear roadmap of what you want to achieve. To set your talent up for long-term success, you’ll first need to develop a set of goals covering three broad areas: responsibilities, connections, and culture.

  • Responsibilities revolve around your new hire’s job scope. Beyond basic training on tools and work processes, you should also help talent understand how their role fits into the bigger picture. Post-onboarding, will employees know how their work drives the company’s overall growth, and understand how to prioritize tasks?
  • Connections involve the people that your talent will need to thrive in their role. By the end of the onboarding, will new hires have built relationships with their teammates, leaders, and other departments? Will they feel comfortable reaching out to others for questions and collaboration?
  • Culture is intangible and easy to overlook – it’s about adapting to your company’s shared values, attitudes, and behaviors. Does your talent know what behaviors are expected of them? Do they feel connected to your team’s values?

Needless to say, you don’t need to achieve all these within the first month – a typical onboarding process lasts three months. Break down these big goals into bite-sized stages that you can review after each month of onboarding.

2. Establish communication flows early on

For new in-office hires, they can easily ask questions by stepping over to their teammate’s desk. For remote talent, reaching out can be more challenging. It is not only harder to pick up how the team interacts virtually, but also cross-border talent lack an easy understanding of a shared cultural background to fall back on. 

You can establish who your talent should communicate with and how they should do so early on to overcome these challenges. Leaders can set up small-group introductory calls with the core people that new employees will be working with. These measures ensure that your new hire is briefed on their roles, areas of expertise, and even their communication styles.

Next, it’s important to be explicit about how the team uses communication channels. When is it best to private message someone or ping the group chat? In what situations should you email vs. propose a call? At the same time, do leave room for your new hire’s communication preferences. Get their feedback on what communication channel works best for them, and give them the flexibility to use it where possible.  

Erlangga also recommends leaders to set up a buddy system. “We often get feedback from our Hubbers [remote talent that Glints manages for employers] that they would like a senior to guide them,” he shares. 

This senior doesn’t need to be a direct manager. It could be a more experienced peer – preferably from the same cultural background – assigned to be the new hire’s first line of support. 

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3. Communicate culture intentionally

In remote teams, setting cultural expectations can be more challenging. Onboarding is essential to get everyone on the same page, and neglecting this will impact your team’s productivity down the road.

Company culture can be hard to specify, but don’t make the mistake of not articulating it at all. In a diverse team, making company culture explicit is key to overcoming cultural differences in behavior and values. 

The first step is a culture handbook that lays out your team’s vision, ethos, and values. Don’t be afraid to spell out the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of employee etiquette either. Without the benefit of in-person social cues, more transparency is always better in a virtual setting.

Documentation isn’t enough. Of course, your talent will only truly absorb culture from the people around them. “Culture happens through daily communication at work,” says Thuy Dang, People Operations at Glints Vietnam. “Employees must be able to feel their teammates’ culture through their attitude and the way they approach tasks.”

To help your new talent connect with the team’s culture, have them sit in on a variety of meetings – even those that aren’t directly relevant to their work. This enables them to immerse themselves in the group dynamics and model teammates’ behavior.

Related: Forget culture fit: Why hiring for culture add is key to business success

4. Schedule progressive check-ins

Onboarding is a months-long affair, so regular check-ins are essential to keep new hires on track. One productive approach is to schedule conversations on Day 7, Week 6, and Week 11 of a new hire’s three-month probation, as recommended by Wendy He — Human Resources Manager at Glints Taiwan.

“For each stage, we’ve created questions to find out how they’re progressing and what issues they’ve faced. We want to identify problems in advance, leading up to the end of their probation,” explains Wendy.

Some effective questions to ask include:

  • Day 7: Are you getting used to our company’s working style? Is there anything you’re unclear about regarding company culture and policies? What do you like about your team so far?

  • Week 6: Do you have too much, too little, or just enough time to complete your work? What practical difficulties or communication challenges have you faced? So far, has this job experience been different from what you expected at the start?

  • Week 11: Do you see yourself staying on and growing with this company? What’s your career plan for the next three years? What are your expectations for career development? How do you think we can improve our onboarding program?

Related: The demand for Southeast Asian tech talent is intensifying. Here’s how this Hong Kong startup raced ahead of the pack

5. Make face-to-face connection a priority

Ultimately, even with the most comprehensive virtual onboarding process, it’s hard to beat the benefits of in-person connection. 

“You can build very robust documentation, but I think there’s no substitute for going face-to-face,” says Logan. “You can have a 100-line document on your cultural values, but a lot of nuances can only be picked up by working side-by-side.”

His Singapore-based startup Eezee began hiring their first remote talent in Indonesia through Glints, and he has established a hybrid process for onboarding them. For the first two weeks, he flies them over to Singapore to focus on building bonds and aligning cultural expectations.

The next two weeks then act as a ‘test’ period for remote work, where leaders observe their new hires’ working styles and how they gel with the rest of the team. 

This is when you build trust and see how things work out,” Logan explains. “Even after the initial onboarding, I make it a point to fly over whenever I can and have 1-to-1 sessions with our talent.”

Onboarding for success with Glints

Great onboarding lays the groundwork for stronger connections and smoother communication, helping you overcome cross-cultural differences within your local and remote teams. When your new hires feel supported and connected, better talent retention will follow. 

At the same time, proper onboarding can be resource-intensive. If you’re a startup or small business, you might be hard-pressed to find the time and resources to conduct regular check-ins, address cultural barriers, and even organize face-to-face meetings. 

Glints can help you manage onboarding for your remote talent, from payroll, compliance to engagement, training and beyond. Schedule a free consultation with our experts today to learn more about how we can support you on your remote hiring and onboarding journey.

Build your workforce from anywhere. Start your remote hiring journey with Glints.

This article is brought to you by Glints TalentHub. Leading companies are actively building their borderless teams in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and beyond. However, the prospect of going borderless can be daunting due to complex regulations and cultural ambiguities. With Glints TalentHub, you’ll have a dedicated team of in-market legal, HR, and talent experts by your side at every step of the way.

Glints TalentHub offers an end-to-end, tech-enabled talent solution that encompasses talent acquisition, EOR, and talent development. We empower businesses to leverage the strengths of regional talent efficiently to build high-performing, cost-efficient teams.

Schedule a no-obligation consultation with our experts to receive a tailored proposal today. 


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