When it comes to onboarding new employees, especially as work becomes more distributed and complex, managers’ involvement is key. According to Gallup, employees are 3.4 times as likely to report that their onboarding was successful when managers play an active role in the onboarding process. But what does it look like for a manager to actively — and effectively — facilitate a remote onboarding experience?
In this article, we share five specific tactics that managers can use to create a smooth onboarding experience for new remote hires, as well as insights from current Range employees who onboarded remotely in the past year. We hope you and your team find these tips helpful as you rethink onboarding at your organization. Let’s dive in.
1. Make it easy to ask questions
Designate places and points of contact that new remote hires can turn to when questions come up
Clarifying upfront where new hires can go to find answers to their questions is an important way to streamline communications and ensure new team members feel supported in their work. For example, when a new team member joins Range, we always set up an "onboarding-name" Slack channel where the new teammate can ask questions and get help as they're onboarding. This reinforces the idea that questions are normal and part of the process, and it gives them a clear place to go where the entire team can provide input instead of just one manager or teammate.
In addition to an onboarding Slack channel, we assign new employees an “onboarding buddy” — a designated point of contact who can direct the new team member to resources, answer questions, and share insights about workflows and team culture. Importantly, an onboarding buddy acts as a bridge between a new hire and the rest of the team, helping them to quickly get a sense of who does what and how to best collaborate across the organization.
Quotes from the Range Team
“The Slack channel ‘onboarding-jean’ was really helpful because I often didn’t know who to ask for something — but knowing that the sole purpose of that channel was for me to ramp up and get my questions answered helped decrease the barrier to asking for help.” (Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering)
“It was helpful to crowdsource answers to my questions in a Slack channel. I was able to receive quick responses from teammates with different areas of knowledge and expertise rather than depending on one supervisor for contextual information.” (Charlotte Reynders, Marketing Generalist)
“One thing that helped me onboard at Range was their designation of an ‘on-boarding buddy’ who gave me their permission to figuratively tap their shoulder at any moment. I could ask questions about culture, policies, software, or anything else and not feel concerned for bothering someone too much.” (Taylor Palmer, Design Lead)
2. Schedule multiple 1:1 meetings in the first week
Help new remote hires connect with teammates and get up to speed on technology & tools
In addition to establishing a cadence of 1:1s with their direct reports, managers can organize or encourage 1:1s between new remote hires and team members across the organization. These meetings can serve a variety of purposes, ranging from informal “get to know you” chats to technical IT setup, but ensuring that new employees have multiple opportunities for 1:1 connection throughout the onboarding process can help to strengthen their sense of belonging early on — especially when working remotely.
Quotes from the Range Team
“In my first week,I had 1:1s scheduled with different team members for separate parts of my onboarding. It was great to be able to meet basically everyone I’d be working closely with in my first week one at a time.” (Yoobin Han, Engineer)
“A lot of the marketing tools we use here at Range were new to me when I joined, so I scheduled short 1:1 meetings with current team members to get up to speed.” (Charlotte Reynders, Marketing Generalist)
“I had a lot of casual, short 1:1 ‘coffee chats’ with coworkers that I didn’t work as closely with on a day-to-day basis, which I really appreciated. Having scheduled face time with teammates created more space for me to get to know them in greater depth than what I’d previously expected from watercooler conversation.” (Yoobin Han, Engineer)
3. Clearly document projects and processes
Make expectations visible to ensure alignment and understanding
When onboarding remote employees (and, more generally, when managing a distributed team), documentation is essential for communicating expectations and keeping everyone on the same page. At Range, we provide new hires with specific “starter projects” to help them find their footing in their new role. We also create custom Welcome documents that orient new team members to company-wide policies and resources.
Documenting the principles and processes that inform day-to-day work at an organization — as well as any background information that may have shaped the org’s trajectory over time — is a great way for leaders to help new hires understand the “why” and “how” behind their work. Templates are also a powerful tool for communicating expectations and guiding new employees towards best practices. Note: Be sure that these documents and templates are all stored in a shared space where teammates can easily revisit them and apply them to their daily work.
Quotes from the Range Team
“Having basically an agenda/itinerary for onboarding and really clear expectations from the team helped a lot.” (Yoobin Han, Engineer)
“My first day I was sent a document titled ‘Taylor’s First Project’ that included a brief, links to relevant documentation and research, and a rough timeline. It was nice to start focusing and feeling like I could add value from my first day." (Taylor Palmer, Design Lead)
“[Writing/documentation] is important for being a strong collaborator on an async team. I improved at this by reading Range's wealth of examples already in its digital library, ranging from company protocols to theories on effective teamwork and beyond. The more documents I read, the more conditioned I became to reading others' thought processes and more natural I felt writing my own.” (Ryan Johnson, Engineer)
“Range has a shared folder where team members can easily access up-to-date templates, strategic planning briefs, and process documents that outline how the company operates. Range even has a reading list of books on organizational behavior and team dynamics that have shaped the company’s work since day one. The opportunity to access a super-comprehensive ‘source of truth’ when I first joined gave me a built-in sense of comfort and confidence. I felt like the resources I needed to build up my historical knowledge and strengthen my sense of belonging at Range were right there waiting for me in an accessible format.” (Charlotte Reynders, Marketing Generalist)
4. Facilitate moments of fun and social connection
Help remote hires feel like part of a team from the moment they start their new role
Virtual social gatherings like Donut meetings and online “game time” can help to strengthen feelings of trust and connectedness on a team — which is especially important as new hires come on board. (Without that foundation of trust, teams struggle to create the culture of psychological safety they need to be effective).
Other touch-points, like snack packages and company swag, can help new remote team members feel recognized as individuals and more personally connected to the brand of their employer.
Quotes from the Range Team
“As I got acquainted with my calendar, I noticed there were standing game times and automatic coffee chats to get to know people. I didn’t have to exert any extra energy (because, let’s face it, the first weeks at a new role can be a lot) but was able to organically get to know people along the way." (Taylor Palmer, Design Lead)
“At first I was a bit skeptical about one of our recurring team bonding meetings called ‘Social: Game Time.’ Since it’s optional, I expected to go the first time and never go again! However, it is actually very nice to be able to take a break and laugh with everyone over whatever silly game we’re playing, and now I try to participate whenever I can! “ (Yoobin Han, Engineer)
“In my first few weeks, I received a SnackMagic box in the mail, including instructions for a ‘snack scavenger hunt’ that prompted me to order themed snacks based on a list of topics. I also got access to a page where I could choose my own company swag, so I immediately felt like part of the team, even from a distance.” (Charlotte Reynders, Marketing Generalist)
5. Build routines that keep your team productive & connected
Make it easy for your team to check in on what and how everyone is doing
Part of collaborating effectively as a distributed team is finding the right cadence for planning work, sharing progress towards goals, and strengthening personal connections with teammates. Tools like Range can help teams get into a daily rhythm of sharing updates on their work alongside answers to mood-sharing and team-building questions, without adding extra meetings to the calendar. Try Range Check-ins today and get to the heart of what and how your team is doing.
“Since I had worked with some of the team before, and hadn’t met some of the team at all in-person before, I was a little concerned that there would be a gap in how connected I felt with different people. Answering the daily team questions in Range really helped bridge that gap, and quickly, I felt like I knew everyone really well.” (Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering)
“Using the Range Check-in tool has been a great way to feel connected to my new teammates. Seeing others’ daily work plans, moods, and responses to team-building questions (like ‘What TV show would you guest star on?’) helps me stay in touch with what and how people are doing.” (Charlotte Reynders, Marketing Generalist)
“It was empowering to see what everyone was working on each day and to have the freedom to participate in requests for feedback, which are fairly frequent on our team.” (Ryan Johnson, Engineer)
As work becomes increasingly distributed and complex, Range is working to help teams build the routines they need to stay productive and connected. We envision a future of work where teams share what and how they are doing through recurring async updates, empowering their organizations with deep contextual knowledge that lays the foundation for more purposeful meetings and a culture of trust and belonging.
Interested in learning more about our team and culture? Read more about how we are rethinking the fundamentals of work, or explore careers at Range. We’re committed to building a diverse and inclusive workplace because we know that incorporating more perspectives is necessary for us to be successful. To those interested in a career at Range — please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
A group of Range team members hiking in Marin County, CA