Twelve Tips To Effectively Onboard, Train, & Develop Employees In Remote Workplaces

Twelve Tips To Effectively Onboard, Train, & Develop Employees In Remote Workplaces

by Brett Farmiloe

How can HR effectively onboard, train, and develop employees in remote workplaces? 

To help organizations effectively set new hires up for success, we asked HR professionals and business leaders for their best onboarding and training pieces of advice. From establishing communication touch points to developing an in-house university, there are a wide range of tips that can be applied in remote, hybrid, and in-person workplaces.

Here are twelve tips to help with onboarding, training, and development: 

  • Going back to the basics to develop an innovation mindset
  • Develop an In-House University
  • Consider Adding Microsoft Teams
  • Focus on the “Who”
  • 90 day integration plan
  • Pair Training Sessions With an Online Platform
  • Establish Communication Touchpoints
  • 1-on-1 Software is My Silver Bullet
  • Create a master document
  • Automate as much as you can
  • Be Organized & Plan
  • Sometimes It’s Not Perfect

Going back to the basics to develop an innovation mindset
When my team went remote overnight, I quickly noticed the struggle to transition to remote services. Basic tasks, from signing a document to online meetings and collaboration, presented frustration and challenges. The challenge became an opportunity to go back to the basics of training needs analysis to help train and develop the staff on basic technologies that were readily available that we had not needed to use in the past, or because we were doing what we had always done without that external level to force us to think differently. Once the acceptance and comfort levels in using these technologies and staff realized the efficiencies gained, we saw a new innovation mindset that has helped rethink and redesign existing processes for increased effectiveness and efficiencies. 

Patty Hickok, Sr. Director Employee Relations, HRIS & HR Operations, NANA Regional Corporation

Develop an In-House University
We’ve identified that to continue excelling in our mission to end poverty in Chicagoland, we need to invest in our managers. So, we’re creating a unique management training program called “CEDA University.” The curriculum involves a leadership track, where new managers learn about leadership skills, communication practices, and motivational techniques. We’ve also incorporated Predictive Index training into our culture. We feel PI is a difference making tool to help our managers develop a higher level of understanding for what drives their behavior and the behavior of their team. Couple all this with hard skill necessities like FMLA and workers comp training, we feel our in-house university will prime us to take our organization to a higher plane!

Paul LaLonde, Vice President of People & Culture, CEDA of Cook County, Inc.

Consider Adding Microsoft Teams
Training and development have been on the backburner for many companies during the pandemic. My company added Microsoft Teams early last year and has been very helpful for office staff on a departmental level. It is a quick and effective way to have meetings and share your screen with coworkers. We really like how user friendly the software is.

Paula Harvey, VP of HR, Schulte Building Systems

Introduce new teammates by focusing on ‘WHO’ not ‘WHAT’
Imagine joining a new company and NEVER meeting any of your teammates in-person. This is the reality for millions of people in today’s environment. Traditional onboarding programs emphasize things like company mission, vision, values, benefits, IT systems, and a host of other important logistical items. While all of this is important, it ignores a massive opportunity to help new team members accelerate their sense of connection and belonging with their new teammates. Consider introducing new hires to their new teammates by using one of the oldest forms of communication – storytelling. Through a unique combination of significant life moments and inspirational media, like music and movies, new teammates can share more about ‘who they are’, not just ‘what they do’. As a result, the existing team can find powerful commonalities and other authentic points of connection they have with the new team members – it’s win-win scenario.

Brian Mohr, Co-Founder, anthym 

90 day integration plan
It can be difficult for remote employees to make lasting personal connections in the workplace. Give them a head start by facilitating early introductions during the onboarding phase. Introductions can be as simple as a “Get to Know You” email with fun facts about the new employee or as personal as a one-on-one lunch with a manager. The more face time (via video) a new employee gets with their teammates early on, the better. Consider using a 90 day integration plan that outlines a schedule of important people to meet, functions to understand, and processes to learn. Use it as a roadmap for success for your new team member.

Cassie Whitlock, Director of HR, BambooHR

Related Article: How to Create an Effective Onboarding Program 

Pair Training Sessions With an Online Platform
Following a 1:1 coaching or group workshop, it’s often a challenge to keep educational content relevant and actionable ongoing. It’s almost like a box has already been checked, and it’s time to move onto whatever is next. I’ve found that lasting behavior change becomes much more likely when an in-person or virtual training session is paired with an online platform that reinforces learning for months to come. After initially being brought to life by an effective facilitator, content can become that much more compelling when teams see how it remains applicable in their daily work.

Erich Kurschat, Owner, Harmony Insights LLC

Establish Communication Touchpoints
Communication is often the thing that suffers most in a remote environment, which can make employees feel disconnected and unsupported. It’s important for leadership to set up communication touchpoints so employees feel supported, informed, and engaged.

Miranda Nicholson, SVP of Human Resources, Formstack

1-on-1 Software is My Silver Bullet
Since starting my new role 12 months ago I’ve been using our 1-on-1 software and it has been a game changer. One of the main benefits is that I’m held accountable for keeping my 1-on-1s and making sure I’m spending time with my team. I make sure there’s time to check in personally so I know they’re doing well outside of the office. They get to contribute to the agenda so they’re heard and involved rather than just being talked to. It helps us set priorities and personal growth objectives. Having 1-on-1s managed in a software rather than a Google doc is a game changer.

Logan Mallory, Vice President of Marketing, Motivosity

Create a master document
To streamline the remote onboarding process, create a sharable “table of contents.” Using a format such as a Wiki or Google Doc, collect links to forms, programs, tutorials and how-to-guides, training videos, organizational maps, contact lists, and company resources. A single centralized directory of new hire tools streamlines the orientation process, and saves time during the first days. Not to mention, new team members can refer back to the guide throughout their first weeks instead of waiting for an available colleague to answer questions.

Michael Alexis, CEO, TeamBuilding

Automate as much as you can
New employee onboarding can be an organizational struggle when everyone’s under the same roof, but remote workers present a new set of challenges. Everything from getting paperwork signed to making sure your new hire feels like part of the team can require extra effort. However, it’s getting easier to automate at least some of the process. For example, some payroll and HR software companies offer onboarding tools that manage and store all the paperwork online, assign different onboarding duties, and even manage IT setup.

Elliott Brown, Director of Marketing, OnPay

Be Organized & Plan
To effectively onboard employees in a remote workplace, an organization must be well organized. The organization will need to think of every step in the onboarding process and plan accordingly. A detailed onboarding document needs to be created to outline the first week for the new employee. This will include meetings with team members, trainings, IT set up, orientation information, and more. Communication with the new employee prior to starting will also be critical. Onboarding remotely is a daunting task, but if the new employee is aware of what the process will be like, their expectations will be aligned accordingly.

Bryan Adelson, Consultant, Red Clover

Sometimes It’s Not Perfect
We have just launched several development projects using Vidyard, or other screen capture technology. With these tools, we can capture ad-hoc needs for skills training, real-time situational leadership development, technical training updates, and even 1:1 coaching follow-ups. The training is not going to be perfectly produced, however, that is exactly what makes it more approachable. The back-end technology also tracks consumption and length of watch time. This way we can be responsive to edit content if we are “losing the audience” and update training more effectively. Gone are the days we need to solely rely on purchased or expensively produced modules to level up development within teams.

Stacie Mallen, VP, HR Centers of Excellence, Universal Technical Institute



Written by Brett Farmiloe. Brett Farmiloe is the Founder and CEO – and currently CHRO – of a digital marketing company that ranks really well on Google. Search “digital marketing company,” and you’ll see Markitors. Brett has also been a keynote speaker at several state SHRM conferences around the topic of employee engagement.

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