Remote working is now a standard feature of the work landscape. From IT support to DevOps, companies rely on armies of remote workers to keep things moving.
As remote work has expanded, companies have had to adapt their onboarding processes. Remote onboarding has become critical when ensuring a smooth transition for new hires. But how does remote employee onboarding work, and what challenges can HR teams expect?
This article presents a comprehensive remote employee onboarding checklist. Our step-by-step checklist simplifies the onboarding process, making challenges easy to overcome. The result will be a more positive experience for IT professionals and remote workers.
Challenges with remote employee onboarding
Remote onboarding integrates new hires into company culture and introduces IT systems that power the organization. But unlike standard hiring procedures, remote employee onboarding is a virtual experience.
HR teams do not have face-to-face contact with new hires during remote onboarding. Employees meet managers and colleagues virtually via emails, Teams meetings, and Slack discussions. This creates some unique challenges that companies need to think about.
1. Lack of a clear onboarding timescale
Onboarding tasks like creating access profiles, logging devices, and providing security training takes time. New hires may need to arrange calls with IT teams, HR professionals, and departmental colleagues.
Companies may provide employees with approved hardware like authentication tokens or access cards. And contracts and confidentiality agreements are often part of the process.
As a result, onboarding processes aren’t usually over in hours. They can even extend beyond the first week. New hires can wait over a week before accessing applications and databases. So HR teams must set itineraries for each stage of the remote onboarding process.
2. Managing access credentials and permissions
Each new hire must have an appropriate access control profile before accessing network assets. But establishing access controls for different resources can be challenging.
Security teams must create accurate profiles for new employees and connect permissions to their corporate role. They must also ensure that new hires have suitable credentials and train workers to use enterprise-wide 2FA or Multi-factor authentication systems.
3. Limited technical and administrative support
Remote onboarding can be highly technical. Employees sometimes need to update their hardware and security setups to meet company requirements. Companies often use unique platforms and apps that require orientation training. Collaboration tools can also lead to bottlenecks, making it harder to start work efficiently.
Every remote hire needs support to overcome these issues. But with many new employees entering an organization and limited IT resources, providing this support can be difficult.
4. Communication problems
Ideally, HR teams and managers would introduce new hires to the company via face-to-face meetings. But that’s not possible with remote onboarding. The distance between new hires and central offices can result in communication issues.
Without instant feedback, it's also easy to lose critical information the new hire needs. And this is even more challenging when workers speak a different language.
New hires may also struggle to create personal connections with their colleagues. Integrating a new hire into the company culture becomes very difficult. Companies thrive when workers are connected and willing to share information. But disconnected remote workers rarely collaborate effectively.
5. Out-of-date onboarding materials
New remote employees require relevant information about technology, access, and cybersecurity. But company policies constantly change. HR teams may not maintain up-to-date onboarding databases. And they often provide the wrong information during remote onboarding processes.
For example, a company might install a data loss prevention (DLP) system to protect critical client data. But new hires may not receive guidance about classifying and handling data. This results in security risks and frustration when they begin work.
6. Delivering cybersecurity training
Cybersecurity in the workplace now extends to home offices. New remote employees need the knowledge required to use company assets securely, wherever they are. Whether you are hiring managers or freelance designers, delivering the correct cybersecurity training is challenging.
Video calls, emails, and downloadable presentations are a robust basis for security training. But they do not always add up to a productive learning environment. New hires may have questions about policies and processes. Technical problems could interfere with training events. And managers may lack assurance that employees retain critical information.
Remote employee onboarding checklist: what you need to know
When done well, remote onboarding allows workers to hit the ground running. It makes sure employees are cybersecurity aware. And it minimizes the workload on IT support teams as hires become familiar with corporate systems.
But a poorly executed remote onboarding program can be disastrous. Companies can lose the social connections that make teams effective. IT staff can become overwhelmed. Poor security practices creep into everyday work, raising the risk of phishing and malware attacks.
A well-structured remote onboarding policy streamlines the process. And creating effective systems relies on IT professionals. The following checklist provides a roadmap to design onboarding systems that integrate new hires without raising security risks or damaging productivity.
1. Preparing the IT infrastructure
New hires must usually make changes to their home IT setup. IT teams need to ensure staff have appropriate workstations and operating systems. They need to consider cybersecurity, as well as providing critical communication tools. And IT staff must provide proper support to make IT infrastructure operational.
At the start of the onboarding process, prepare any necessary hardware. Match up new hires with required laptops or authentication peripherals. Prepare the hardware for shipment as quickly as possible.
OSHA can also fine companies that put the health and safety of remote workers at risk. In any case, protecting worker health is crucial. Verify that each workspace meets ergonomic requirements. And provide any necessary furniture to create safe, comfortable environments.
Remote employees need access to essential applications. IT teams should prioritize the configuration of video conference software and communication tools. Set up messaging apps and virtual meeting platforms. This will keep new hires informed and help to integrate them quickly.
IT must check that software supplied to remote devices has the correct licenses. And technicians should test every critical app. Ensure the worker can access central or cloud-hosted resources and that performance meets minimum benchmarks.
2. Cybersecurity and data protection
Remote workers can create cybersecurity risks to both network assets and sensitive data. IT teams need to prioritize security when introducing new employees.
Review your security policies before onboarding new workers. Security policies should cover all critical risks. For example, they should clearly explain password policies for remote workers. And they should include details about penalties for policy breaches.
Provide cybersecurity training for every hire. Remote workers should understand the main phishing risks and the importance of using updated threat detection tools. They should be aware of corporate data handling policies. Including a list of best practices in the employee handbook is advisable. This list should provide guidelines for critical security issues.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA)
Remote workers should connect via secure authentication systems. Implement multi-factor authentication for all access requests. MFA requires multiple authentication factors for each login request. It can apply to SSO portals or individual messenger apps.
Ensure every employee has correct credentials and that authentication tools connect seamlessly with privileges management systems.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Virtual private networks encrypt data passing between remote workers and central network resources. They provide an essential layer of protection for information and should be part of every remote onboarding process.
Inform new hires how to access the company VPN. Provide client software and any required hardware. And check connection speeds to ensure seamless connectivity.
3. Communication and collaboration
Create smooth communication channels between your new hire and the IT department. Onboarding remote workers involves a lot of technical information. And employees usually have queries or issues to resolve. Following these communication best practices will help.
Add remote employees to relevant team chats and email lists. Introduce them to colleagues in team chat rooms, and ensure staff can use communication tools effectively. If you need to provision specialist collaboration tools, go ahead and do so.
Introduce virtual meeting tools and check for bandwidth or configuration issues. Licensing problems can interfere with some video meeting tools. Double-check to ensure everything is up to date.
Virtual welcome meeting with IT
Schedule a virtual introduction meeting with relevant IT professionals. This is an opportunity to explain critical technology issues and reinforce cybersecurity training.
The meeting is a social event that introduces personalities and gives new hires the confidence to raise questions. Take onboard employee feedback and use it to make the onboarding process more efficient. The meeting also allows technicians to test video conferencing tools, allowing IT staff to fine-tune configurations.
4. Access to information and resources
Network resources should be available to remote employees when they complete security training. This should take place as quickly as possible. IT teams should plan so that access privileges slot into place automatically.
Shared drives and cloud storage
Link each new hire to a role-based access management profile. Access management tools document which resources are available to the user. Users should have easy access to data and apps that are relevant to their role, including company intranets and cloud environments. But IT teams should block access to all other resources on shared drives and cloud containers.
Be careful to provide the right privileges for each role. If you are hiring a large group of remote workers for a project, you can use generic RBAC profiles. But hiring managers requires a more tailored approach for each individual.
Make security and IT policies available to every new hire. At the introductory meeting, explain how to access documentation and how policies are updated and maintained. If possible, create an employee handbook that includes everything remote workers need to know.
Remote employees require virtual training. So prioritize access to digital training materials and resources. From the start, security training is a core part of the company culture. And make access to resources as flexible as possible, allowing workers to fit training into their onboarding routine.
Checklist for HR professionals
The other side of the remote onboarding coin relates to Human Resources teams. HR professionals are critical in introducing new employees and making the onboarding experience more enjoyable.
Company orientation tasks complement the work of IT departments. Here are the key actions that HR officers need to consider:
Ensure paperwork is done
Nothing is more frustrating during onboarding than receiving an endless stream of documents to sign. Make this task pain-free by creating a single cache of necessary paperwork for each onboarding procedure.
Automate the provisioning of key documents. This reduces the number of times the new employee needs to provide digital signatures and makes human error less likely. Assign a team member to field queries about forms or policies. And apply encryption to secure any personal information transmitted during onboarding procedures.
Send pre-boarding IT hardware and manuals
Ensure employees are comfortable and safe by providing ergonomic furniture and peripherals like back supports and ergonomic mice. And field requests for specific hardware. Employees may need more powerful laptops or software upgrades. Provide whatever hires need to work safely and productively.
Manuals are an important part of the HR onboarding process. Produce an appealing employee manual that blends clarity and accessibility. Include information about cybersecurity and how to access critical workloads. But also add sections on company history and employee benefits the company provides.
Send company swag
One of the most important HR tasks during remote onboarding is creating a sense of belonging to the company culture. That isn’t easy to achieve without face-to-face contact. HR professionals need to think creatively about the onboarding experience and make every new employee feel welcome from the start.
Providing company swag in the first week is an easy win. Simple branded items like cups, mouse pads, pens, or diaries can add a human touch. But you can go as far as you like. Some companies like to send hoodies or T-shirts. Others send laptop cases, beach towels, or practical items like reusable water bottles.
Check up on new hires in the first week
HR is the first point of contact for each new employee during their first days on the job. Make HR professionals available to talk via video calls. And proactively check up on remote workers to keep them in the loop.
HR can also encourage staff to complete the onboarding schedule within the agreed timescale. Don’t force new hires to finish the onboarding process too quickly. Everyone adjusts at their own pace. But be clear about what employees must do, and let them know when everything is complete.
Simplify and secure remote onboarding with NordLayer
Remote onboarding is a challenge for businesses in every area of the economy. Workers need to receive training and information. They need the tech to carry out their duties. And they must have the right access privileges and authentication credentials to work securely.
NordLayer will help you create a secure and streamlined onboarding experience. Our solutions make the IT side of remote onboarding much easier.
Companies can use our secure remote access solutions to replace existing Virtual Private Networks. NordLayer’s business gateway encrypts traffic passing from remote workstations to the company intranet. And they scale easily. Organizations can easily add more workers as the need arises.
Our remote access systems facilitate network segmentation for assigning role-based privileges, offering network administrators precise controls over the network. They integrate with all major authentication providers. And they do so cost-effectively. Companies can onboard hires rapidly, safely, and affordably.
If you are struggling with remote employee onboarding, NordLayer can assist. Use our checklist to guide you and feel free to get in touch with our team today.