The COVID pandemic forced millions of employees to start working from home. As companies struggled to sustain operations, the results were better than expected. 94% of employers said productivity was the same or higher with employees working remotely. Companies are hiring more remote workers than ever before. The trend is not likely to slow down either. 74% of HR professionals expect remote work to become more standard. The percentage of employees working from home permanently is predicted to double by the end of 2021. When employees work remotely, however, they need a different onboarding practice to make sure they get started on the right foot. Here are some of the best practices for onboarding remote teams. Have a Plan Whether you’re onboarding someone in person or remotely, one of the most important things you’ll do is create an onboarding plan. Your plan should cover everything that a new employee needs to know, training schedules, and what employees should expect over the first few weeks on the job. Pre-set meeting with key stakeholders ahead of time. Schedules should be customized depending on the role and individual learning speeds for the most effective onboarding experience. Beyond the paperwork and the forms, you also want to create a sense of excitement for new employees. You want them engaged and immersed in the corporate culture as quickly as you possibly can. Create Remote Onboarding Materials Part of your plan needs to include developing remote onboarding materials. It should include all the important information employees will need, such as: Employee handbook Phone and email lists Benefits information Payroll information Any forms that need to be filled out You might also want to consider creating a welcome kit that includes company merchandise, such as T-shirts, mugs, or anything else that can help remote employees feel like part of the team. Provide Secure Access Your onboarding should include a review of company policies and procedures. When employees are working remotely, one of the more important policies will revolve around cybersecurity. Cybercriminals have targeted remote workers who may not be using the same robust security protocols that IT teams are deploying in the office. The threat has gotten big enough that the FBI and the US Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a rare security alert to warn employers about the problem. Employees need specific education on how to mitigate the risks of using public Wi-Fi or hotspots. Arrange for In-Person Meetings During the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon for people to do virtual interviews, get hired remotely, and start working from home having never been to the office or meet their co-workers in person. Starting a new job can be exciting, but working remotely without team members nearby can also be isolating. Arrange for in-person meetings to let team members meet each other. If that’s not possible because your team is working in geographically different locations, you should do virtual get-togethers using video conferencing software. Tools, Training, and Collaboration Remote employees will need a different training routine. You need the right training tools to facilitate learning when face-to-face learning isn’t possible. You should train not just on the job skills, but also how to utilize the software it takes to work remotely and collaborate with co-workers. You also need to make sure remote employees have the equipment and software they need to work productively . Ask for Feedback As part of the onboarding process for remote workers, you should also build in regular feedback to assess how the process is working. The best way to optimize your remote onboarding is to assess how efficient it is. Ask each new remote worker to evaluate the onboarding process after the first day, first week, and the first month to see if the onboarding and training provided the right information they needed. Create a Remote-Friendly Culture While the onboarding process is designed to get employees started strong, it’s the culture that will keep them engaged. Your company needs to create a culture that includes remote workers as an essential part of your team and establishes expectations right from the start. Setting clear goals for work hours, habits, performance, and output will help ensure remote workers know what you want. It may help to pair them up with current employees so they have someone they can talk to during the workday to ask questions or get guidance. Managers should make sure to schedule regular meetings as well as informal check-ins with remote workers. Regular communication is essential to keep everybody up to speed on company priorities.