Think back to your first day at your most recent job. What was the experience like? How were you introduced to your team? What tasks did you start with? Now, put yourself in the shoes of someone starting a new job remotely from their home or from a co-working space. What does that look like? There are no in person meetings, no office tours. They just sit down at a computer and login. How will they begin taking on their new role? Remote onboarding is so new and so different from traditional onboarding that there isn't yet an accepted best practice. Every organization will do this somewhat differently. Yet it's very important to do it well. According to Glassdoor, strong onboarding practices can increase retention by as much as 82 percent. The most effective thing you can do is to give onboarding time, space, and focus. Without the ability to make someone feel welcome through in person meetings, you can demonstrate to them that you value their time by giving them an excellent onboarding experience. Reserve at least the first week, ideally two weeks, simply for your new hire to onboard into their role. Onboarding should focus on three key dimensions: organizational, technical, and social. Organizational knowledge covers logistical questions such as signing up for benefits, but also things like how to seek information, career progression and performance expectations. Technical knowledge includes equipment setup, learning new tools, security and so forth, and social knowledge covers organizational culture, behavioral norms, communication style and team relationships. In remote work, the first day begins with technical setup. If like in lab you'll be issuing a computer or other tools to new hires, the people team must start preparing before the hires first day so that they'll have what they need to begin their job promptly. Standardize this process and work with your IT team to ensure strong security practices from the very beginning. As an example, a new hire may receive an email telling them how to access their work account. Once they activate the work account, they will immediately be asked to setup multifactor authentication and to install essential software via verified sources. All of this access must be provisioned in advance. The first day can be a very dry experience which is necessary for security and access. Expect a new hire to spend at least half their first day simply installing software, creating accounts and completing security checks. Standardize those process to ensure compliance and make sure your all team members have the information they need. We do this by creating an onboarding issue also known as a ticket or project, which is built using a template and assigned to the new hire as a checklist of required tasks. While most of the essential tasks should be standardized, you will have some customization based on the new team members role and their location. For example, we have different processes for employees than we do for contractors. We have extra security training for engineers and people who have access to sensitive intellectual property, and of course we'll have different legal documents to ensure compliance in the individual's country of residence. Make sure that your technical onboarding is inclusive of people with varying backgrounds and abilities. While you should empower people to ask for additional support or help if they encounter challenges, it's ideal for them to not need to ask. Onboarding information should include clear instructions on how team members can acquire a workspace, equipment, and tools to be able to do their job and how to expense it. Remember, an individual's workspace needs to be functional for their work, and the onetime expense to set up a home office is vastly less costly than monthly rent on an office space. Be generous. Organizational onboarding can begin on the first day as well, and it should be a focus throughout the first week. This includes the code of conduct in the company handbook. Give new hires the opportunity and the incentive to read and understand these materials. Be aware that in many countries, you can't legally require new hires to complete any tasks before they officially start their job. Make the space for them to study and learn on company time. While your new member should be required to perform specific tasks in the first few days, part of their organizational training should include moving them into a self-directed, self-enabled way of working. If you've hired with a focus on independent motivation, you should find that team members are seeking out information and connections on their own within a few days. Encourage this behavior. For example at GitLab we asked new hires to add themselves to the team web page, which requires doing some self-directed learning. Assign a variety of tasks to help people gain new skills they'll need. For anyone who will be managing people, include manager training. Even if your new manager is highly experienced, managing remotely requires a high level of competency and cultural awareness. Enforce standardization, and you'll be empowering managers to work together and to support your organization's values and norms. Social onboarding can also start as soon as the first day. A new team member should meet with their supervisor and their team for a welcome call as soon as possible. Use these calls for informal connection and relationship building, but also to enforce some basic norms. For example, call etiquette such as how meeting time is managed and whether employees keep their video cameras turned on during calls. In a distributed team, social onboarding is key. It should be a focus for at least the first month. GitLab maintains chat channels and AMA or Q&A calls for new team members, as well as using a Slack bot called Donut to introduce random team members for networking social calls. We encourage coffee chats, which are work-free conversations between any two people. Encourage these sorts of interactions consistently. Some new hires will be introverted or intimidated seeking out social connections. Make this easy and you'll raise performance and retention rates as a result of creating a welcoming atmosphere. Include formal cultural training in this process. Later in this course we'll discuss culture and values. Having a clear set of cultural expectations is useful for new hires. Require them to read and acknowledge culture information as part of onboarding. Finally, assign an onboarding buddy within the first week. This should be an experienced team member whose role is to answer questions, offer support, and provide context. Microsoft found that up to 97 percent of new hires who had an onboarding buddy, found the experience to be helpful. In a remote environment it can't be overstated how much a new team member will benefit from having a go-to person they can reach out to with questions. We have a formal onboarding buddy program which you can read about in the linked resources below. As social onboarding continues, encourage your new team member share their interests and bring their full self to the team. Host interest-based chat channels and social calls. Point people toward relevant resource groups and give them time off to volunteer or to participate in causes and activities that are important to them. Work cannot replace a person's social and family life. But your team member should be comfortable to share more about the people they are outside the office. This doesn't always come naturally in remote work, so make an effort to encourage self expression and model it. Onboarding can make or break and new team member but they may not always feel comfortable speaking up when things aren't going well. Close the loop by collecting feedback consistently as the final step in an onboarding process. After an employee's first few weeks, follow-up to ask for onboarding feedback. This is a valuable opportunity to identify dissatisfaction or burnout, as well as to strengthen your processes. Survey onboarding buddies as well, and allow people to give feedback anonymously. Analyze your data across regions, across functions, teams, roles, identify any trends and areas of improvement.