Remote Control: How to create a remote onboarding experience that works

  • Date 6th October 2021
  • Author Liz Hayes
Remote Control: How to create a remote onboarding experience that works

There’ve been a lot of changes in the recruitment market recently with a shortage of talent and many companies on the lookout for new staff.

Luckily for AFFINITY, we’ve managed to hire a number of new team members (or Bright Sparks as we like to call them) in the past few months. But lockdown has put a bit of a spanner in the works for our usual in-person onboarding process.

However, as a business we’ve managed to adapt, creating an effective onboarding experience while working remotely. As a result, I have a few little tips and insights I thought I’d share to help welcome new team members and make them feel more settled. While we’ve got most of it down to a fine art, there’s still room for improvement. It’s not all gift hampers and zoom trivia!


Have you had any conversations directly with your new hire post-interview, or has it all been via emails/through a recruiter? It’s so important to get a personal connection before they commence work with you so they’re feeling comfortable, reassured and ready to get stuck in! We suggest a few phone calls in the days leading up to commencement to start the dialogue and impart a feeling of trust. I know I said it’s not all about gift hampers, but sending a little welcome token is a nice touch in the days ahead of their start.

Plan the experience

What does your new starter need to know? How are you communicating that info and when? We create an itinerary of their first few weeks with all their onboarding meetings, handovers and social catch-ups pencilled in with brief overviews of who each meeting is with and what they’ll cover. This is sent out the week before the new starter begins so they have time to process and reduce any uncertainty around what’s ahead before they start.

We also schedule quick informal video meetings with someone in each team across the agency to deliver a better understanding of what each team does, who does what and how we all work together.

Get organised

A computer and all relevant log-ins should be set up and received before their start date. You want to make the best possible impression on your new team member and getting everything set up correctly and sent so they can log in and get started with no fuss is essential. I’ve heard a few nightmares about people starting at new companies and not being sent computers or gaining access to the company systems until a few days into their new role. This will only compound any stress they’re inevitably feeling about starting a new role remotely. While you can’t control everything that happens at the moment, this is one big pitfall that you can avoid with a little careful planning.

Set clear expectations and give purpose

A key factor in employee satisfaction (and retention), is having clear expectations set around not just personal day-to-day performance, but knowing their purpose/role in the greater whole. Having a clear brand and company purpose is critical to galvanising a happy team. It provides a clear and unambiguous framework to guide decision making and behaviours for everyone, including new starters.

As David Ulrich, professor of business at the University of Michigan discussed in a Forbes interview, “There is an old fable of the three bricklayers all working on the same wall. Someone asked the bricklayers, “What you are doing?” The first said “I am laying bricks”; the second bricklayer replied, “I am building a wall”; and the third answered, “I am building a great cathedral for God.” The third had a vision of how the daily tasks of laying bricks fit into a broader, more meaningful purpose. Likewise, employees who envision the outcomes of their daily routines find more meaning from doing them.

On a new starter’s first day, we schedule an intro to role meeting with their Line Manager so they can discuss their job description, any set deliverables, ask any questions and set them up for success. After all, how can anyone perform well if they don’t know what they’re expected to be doing?

Look after wellbeing

There’s a lot of talk around mental health at the moment, and for good reason. According to a recent ABS Survey, one in five Australians are reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, with young people, women and those living with a disability the most affected by poor mental health. 

Empathy is crucial right now.  Put yourself in your new hires’ shoes – how would you be feeling starting a brand new job, meeting new faces, learning new tools, new clients, new everything, and having to do it all remotely?

We make mental health a big focus during remote onboarding, which can be mentally exhausting with a lot of information to absorb. Here are a few things we believe:

  • We don’t expect Bright Sparks to pick everything up right away, it’s ok to say that they don’t understand or ask for help.
  • Ensure that time to think is built into calendars. We try not to book back-to-back meetings. Everyone needs downtime to process information and get a little break from their screens. We also encourage getting outside during the day to get some fresh air and soak up some vitamin D.
  • We trust our team to do their jobs and schedule their days appropriately. Some people like to start early and finish early, some start late and some like a big break in the middle of the day – that’s all ok. We only ask the team not to send emails outside of working hours – no one wants to get work emails at 9pm at night!

Check in regularly

It’s important to check in with your new team members regularly. Ask if they need support. Do they understand everything they’ve been tasked with? Are they feeling ok or overwhelmed? We schedule People and Culture and Line Manager check-ins several times over the first few weeks, but this isn’t a set-and-forget process. Regular check-ins should continue over the course of employment to ensure an ongoing sense of fulfilment, and to enable growth and learning. We hold monthly Personal Progress Meetings (or PPMs) to discuss the month that’s just passed, talk about any issues, and check in on goals and professional development. This helps ensure our team members have a good line communication with their Line Managers from day one.

Of course, all of this is a learning experience for everyone. Expect to evolve and iterate to find what’s right for you and your team. And while I’m sure everyone is looking forward to getting back to the office and seeing each other face to face, know that it is possible to create an onboarding experience that works well remotely without losing too much of the impact of an in-person approach. AFFINITY has worked with numerous clients on their Employee Experience (EX). If you’d like to reach out for a conversation about yours, feel free to drop us a line at

Better input always leads to greater outcomes

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