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Tue 19. May 2020

How to Onboard Remote Team Members

Author: Julia Schädlich, human resources manager at TDSoftware

The Onboarding supports new employees in getting to know the new company. The process helps the new team member to become familiar with the way the company works, the tools used in the company and the values and visions of the company. Internal rules and the knowledge of the key contact people also play a central role. All this can be experienced through trial and error. However, it makes it much easier to get started if the rules and procedures as well as the corporate culture are communicated in a structured way right from the start. Good Onboarding reduces complexity for new employees, helps the team to come together and, as a consequence, makes the company as a whole more productive.

Onboarding put into practice

Good Onboarding begins before the actual start of work. This includes a welcome message with all important information; accesses, passwords and the hardware are to be ready. Our team usually starts the planning right after the signing of the contract of employment. In total, the mentee (employee in the Onboarding status) has two days to complete the tasks, learn about our vision and values during this time, and have the first team contacts. The mentee is guided through all tasks by a structured process. The Onboarding is set up in such a way that the mentee can work as independently as possible. The mentor (a member of staff, usually from the same department) is available to answer questions and, at least once a day, a so-called Daily takes place. This is important so that the new employee becomes familiar with our agile way of working. Afterwards, the new employee will immediately start with his/her tasks as a full team member.

But how does an Onboarding work in remote?

Remote Onboarding is different because it does not take place in the office. A simple determination with far-reaching consequences.
One problem which became apparent right at the beginning was that the hardware was not at the new team member's office on time. Since the devices have to be ordered and labelled and afterwards shipped again, we need a little more lead time than before. Especially since the delivery routes are currently slower. Another problem is that the new team member has no access to internal (communication) tools. We use Slack and Microsoft teams for internal communication. To give the new team member access to our internal tools, we have added a Welcome Call as the first active step in remote Onboarding. Via Microsoft Teams, the new team member can make video calls with us, even with his private email address. In the Welcome Call, everything is set up, passwords are handed over and afterwards, arrangements and the rest of the Onboarding can take place via internal company tools.

The task of integrating the new team member was also challenging. Normally series of unplanned communication occur in everyday office life, e.g. while waiting for a program to be downloaded, getting a coffee or having lunch with different people.
In this way, you learn who is an expert on the best coffee or who questions can be directed to regarding the preparation of an offer. In remote, this access to the other members is missing. The technical solution was relatively easy for us to manage. For the process solution, on the other hand, our approach was initially seemingly paradoxical. In particular, the planning of unplanned communication.

We integrated calls into the Onboarding, which we called "TeaTime". These are used for team building.
Guided by the mentor, the participants of the call introduce themselves and are asked to tell something about themselves, e.g. every participant was asked to say something about his/her key ring. Interestingly enough, the key ring is a tool used daily, which tells a lot about us. Everyone carries something personal on it and can tell something about it. The result was that even the old team members learned something new about their colleagues and the atmosphere was positively influenced. The mentee had first points of contact for further communication with the others. Another approach to solve this problem was that we established several contact people. The mentor is and remains the main person responsible, but there is at least a second contact person to distribute questions and increase the integration of the mentee.


Remote Onboarding has special challenges. Technically, the implementation was relatively easy for us at TDSoftware because we had already used remote communication tools before. Our previous experience with online job interviews and arrangements with international customers helped us here.

More challenging was the team building. Tea-time worked better than expected. It seems to be a simple step, but to enter into non-targeted communication in a planned way, helps to establish a sense of familiarity and belonging to the team. Time will show if the integration, during the Onboarding, has reached its target.

What are your experiences with remote Onboarding? Did you have special challenges or did you postpone the recruitment of new employees for the time being? Please leave a comment.

If you want to contact Julia or have questions about the procedure, please feel free to network with her on Linkedin or Xing.


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