Your startup's complete guide to remote onboarding

Gillian O'Brien

You did it — after many, many phone screens and interviews, you extended an offer to “the one” and they’re starting soon. Good job!

Now, on to your next challenge: setting up the new hire for success while working remotely. Not to worry — our team at Dover has grown from 5 folks pre-COVID to 20+ people and is going strong. Through some thoughtful preparation and experimentation, we’ve perfected our remote onboarding playbook.

At Dover, we believe in crafting top-notch hiring processes and in perfecting the candidate experience so that when an employee starts, they can hit the ground running. If new hires are to feel a high sense of ownership and responsibility right away, their onboarding must optimize for collaboration and delivering results. Onboarding is traditionally a period to see what can be done — what we’ve seen is that actually doing things builds trust and impact.

All that being said, there are a few things you should do to make space for a new employee to dive right in.

Step 1: Do your pre-work

You’re too late in the game if you start ramping up a new hire on their start date. When you have a new hire’s start date, make sure to hit “start” on their onboarding a couple of weeks out. This allows the new hire to order the necessary equipment and provision accounts that will allow them to spend more of their time learning right from the start.

Make yourself and your team available to the new hire — if you’re a hiring manager, provide your personal phone number in case of any questions that come up. Brief your teammates of the hire’s start date and start to block off time on calendars for introductions so that the new hire can look forward to some conversations that have already been scheduled.

Step 2: Plan for a quick win

Each onboarding will require a few weeks or months of learning, asking questions, and exploration. Tip: structure a new hire’s onboarding so that they can offer the team a quick win during their first week — have them ship something that the team hasn’t been able to get to, complete a small project, or write a blog post. Sharon, one of Dover’s engagement managers, details how she took a client call and owned follow-up tasks — on Day 2:

“Roles at Dover being as cross functional as they are has made it easy for me to really get to know my coworkers. People I know at other companies may have happy hours & team parties, but they don’t always have the opportunity to build relationships through collaboration like I do.”

Step 3: Create team and manager/employee “user guides”

Written documentation is essential for an effective and remote-friendly onboarding, and an easy way to disseminate institutional knowledge. Create an effective knowledge base with general best practices, commonly asked questions, and up-to-date processes.

As a hiring manager, create a user guide for yourself — how do you prefer to communicate, what are your working hours, and how do you give feedback? Share in writing before your first 1:1 and encourage your new report to do the same. This reduces ramp time dramatically.

Step 4: Ask for feedback — rinse and repeat!

As companies grow quickly, things break, or need to be changed early and often. Treat your onboarding as a dynamic process — gather feedback (an onboarding buddy comes especially handy here), ask new hires to document when things are confusing, and schedule more check-ins than you would for an in-person relationship.

Building a process that’s thoughtful and intentional for your new hire has unbelievable upside — for you, for them, and for your team. With just a bit of planning and empathy, you’re off to the races — good luck!