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3 tips for virtual onboarding when your new staff telecommutes

Beyond providing equipment and technology, team integration and culture adoption are pertinent in a remote setting, experts say

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Young woman and her coworker having a video meetingTo be successful, remote hires need to feel supported with clear expectations set, colleague assistance and manager feedback (Getty Images/RgStudio)

Months into working remotely, organizations hiring new staff are forced to do so via video calls.   

From a recruitment standpoint, it gives you access to the “pick of the litter” thanks to the ability to receive applications from anywhere. But finding top talent virtually without efficient procedures in place can be overwhelming. 

“It’s about having a system that can handle that volume,” says Chris Frame, partner, people operations, at LiveCA, Canada’s first virtual accountancy firm. “We had to rework our hiring process to be able to quickly screen candidates.”   

Once talent is found, onboarding becomes the next challenge, requiring adjustments to processes in multiple areas from human resources, to management, to team building. 

Here are three tips for getting remote onboarding practices right. 


Companies should have clear work plans in place for new employees. This provides an immediate sense of purpose and avoids feelings of isolation while working from home, explains CPA Michael Kravshik, CEO and founder of LumiQ, a digital learning platform that provides CPAs with verified CPD requirements through engaging discussions with business leaders.

“It’s really crucial especially when working totally remote that you’ve plotted out what the first couple days of their schedule will look like and don’t let them languish on their own,” he says. 

At LiveCA, work for the first three months is laid out, which includes regular check-ins with managers to ensure new employees are settling in and work is on track. A buddy system offers additional onboarding support. New hires are set up with two existing employees—one designated a trainer and the other a buddy—to ease them into the technical and cultural aspects of the business and address any questions or concerns, via virtual meetings.   

“We set really clear expectations for the new hire … week by week outlining what should be achieved and what they are working towards, so they are progressing and learning,” says Frame. “Buddies help create some strong personal connections on the team.”


After workflow is established, focus should be placed on team integration and exposure to the company’s culture. This side of the onboarding process without face-to-face connection is challenging. 

Embracing the company’s culture is as important as training at LiveCA. The introduction begins during the selection process, during which short-listed candidates test-run two paid workdays to get a feel for the role and environment. Management and staff, meanwhile, get a glimpse of the candidate’s capabilities and professionalism. 

“Building a culture remotely has to be a lot more deliberate and thought out than in a true office environment,” says Frame. “Leadership in an organization must be mindful about creating those personal connections between team members.” 

Kravshik agrees, adding that exposure to culture should be an integrative experience, where the employee further understands the context of the job, the company’s vision and team’s dynamic. At LumiQ, onboarding remote hires includes partaking in one-on-one video meetings with every team member to encourage camaraderie. 

“You don’t want onboarding to be the first day of work, but rather its own experience,” he says. “Since you can’t create those natural, coincidental moments people have meeting in the office, you have to force those communication points.” 


Ultimately, remote hiring executed with efficiency and engagement in mind helps companies fill positions with the ideal candidates, increasing employee satisfaction and retaining talent.

“Employees from firms with efficient HR practices by way of technological automation are reported to have higher job satisfaction levels,” says Rachel Fisch, product evangelist, accountant solutions at Sage. “For the new hire, an HR system sets them up for success, gets them more involved in the business and helps build better relationships with co-workers.”

Frame adds that LiveCA’s onboarding success comes down to easing news hires into their roles and ensuring they feel part of the team and company. 

“We put a lot of effort into identifying a candidate that will be successful, as it’s really hard in a [remote] environment to have turnover. It’s a big investment upfront,” he says. “The emphasis for us has always been taking the time to make sure we hire the best people we can find and that they are the right fit for the role.” 


Check out these tips for how to lead a remote team effectively and learn how to set boundaries between your professional and personal life using these strategies while working from home. If you’re a small business owner, here’s how your soft skills can help keep clients engaged.