Onboarding in a Remote World

By Catherine Lang-Cline

Portfolio Creative has been finding marketing talent for our clients for over 16 years, so onboarding happens daily for our clients. But in that timeframe, for all of us, onboarding has never been more challenging than it is right now when the world hires and retains remote workers. Luckily, the Society for Human Resource Management / SHRM recently provided some ideas on how to make onboarding run a whole lot smoother.

Cover all of the bases

Onboarding is a lot more than just putting someone at a desk with the hope that they will “catch on” or contacting them via phone and sending them off on their own. You may need to start with daily check-ins. We have gone “remote first” at Portfolio Creative and we still check in daily with a team that has worked with us for years. Not only is communication important with your veterans, but it can also be imperative with someone that is just starting. It can be as simple as; “Good morning… What are you working on today? Do you have any issues with completing your goals? Is there anything I can do to help?” Set up a calendar with this person for a session of onboarding; with you, with each of the team members. Onboarding can also be created with videos if you have a large team. Keep going with setting up sessions for brainstorming with a group, learning company software, and maybe even a happy hour just to get to know everyone a little better. Most importantly, check-in, check-in, check-in!


In most cases, marketing and design people have always had the equipment that they needed at home. But if your workers use your equipment, it can get a little complicated. Getting the equipment to them is easy, setting up for a new user and having it talk to your equipment at the corporate headquarters can sometimes be a challenge. Be patient, troubleshoot, try things, and listen to their struggle to avoid frustrating a new employee. Did I mention, be patient?

Build Engagement

Find creative ways for the team to stay connected. Add some live chat software so they can connect immediately and have conversations about clients, projects, and general information. Plan time for collaboration in the form of virtual lunches and coffee breaks. Assign an “onboarding buddy” to them so they know who to contact with questions. And maybe send a welcome basket with company-branded items or items to make them feel a part of the team.

Think Beyond Day One

In that first week, the new employee could not be more excited and according to this report, that wanes by 22% after the first week. Companies need to think about how employees feel valued and heard. Are you providing resources to them? Are you helping to create micro-moments of belonging? Ask for feedback and do it early, often, and keep ongoing. This is just not for the new hire, but everyone. Send out surveys every 60-90 days to the veteran employees and 30-45 days for the new person, then get them on track with everyone else’s feedback schedule. The key is to get ahead of any issues or concerns because we want to retain good employees. Ask if communication has been clear, the equipment is working properly, and is there anything that they need. You can keep it short, it is just a check-in, but it could make a huge difference.

It is always exciting to add a new person to the team. On-site or off-site it can work and work well if you are ready and willing to embrace the change. Let’s get busy.