5 Tips for Remotely Onboarding a Technical Employee

Nathan Feifel
Nov 12 · 4 min read
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Working from home with my dog, Mac

A couple months ago I joined Ro’s Data Team, which meant I would be onboarding to the company in a completely remote fashion. Despite being ecstatic for the new opportunity, I felt nervous about how a remote onboarding process might go.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, by how smooth, productive, and dare I say normal, the onboarding process felt. Ro had clearly invested in making its onboarding process fully accommodating to employees who would be working from home for the indefinite future. Through strategic planning and palpable empathy, Ro went above and beyond to deliver an experience that has allowed me to quickly assimilate into my role and rather seamlessly integrate into my team despite being remote.

In a world in which working remotely has become far more commonplace, and is likely to remain so going forward, onboarding practices at all companies must adapt to this new trend. Bereft of in-person training, directly meeting teammates, and an office experience, failure to adapt your onboarding processes can be costly in the form of slower ramp up times, wasted resources, and less than satisfactory employee experiences.

I wanted to share some of the components of Ro’s remote onboarding process that I felt worked exceptionally well, so that they might help other organizations with growing technical teams:

Create digitally native onboarding resources

Before remote work became the new normal, creating digital onboarding resources was incredibly valuable. Now, you simply can’t get by without them if you want to have an exemplary onboarding process. One of my favorite examples from Ro is our company-wide online resource center where employees can find everything from the org chart to information on the company’s values and employee policies. A Data Team specific resource that particularly helped me get up to speed was a detailed checklist document that new team members must complete to ensure they have access to all of the right tools, software, and environments to do their jobs. Making sure these resources are comprehensive and up-to-date will prove invaluable to new employees that will be heavily relying on digital resources in their onboarding process.

Create remote versions of physical experiences

In a remote working world, new employees don’t have the benefit of meeting others by the water cooler or being waved into a conference room to sit in on a meeting that might be relevant to them. At Ro, we make a concerted effort to prioritize personal connections by hosting virtual coffee meetups and yoga sessions, and on the Data Team, new employees are encouraged to shadow code reviews and product demos over video call. Creating virtual versions of these types of physical office experiences will go a long way to bring your company’s culture to life for new employees and help them get up to speed faster.

Foster a work environment conducive to success

I imagine most team leaders like to believe that their teams have top-notch working environments. The shift to remote work has stress tested this mass belief and challenged teams to get more intentional about how they work. Ro certainly has. Our Data Team Head, Sami Yabroudi, has invested in fostering a cultural bias for action so that team members don’t drag their feet, and always have the tools and procedures to figure out what their next steps should be. My manager, Kevin Stern, gave me time estimates for my work in my first few weeks to prevent me from going down unproductive or avoidable rabbit holes, unintentionally reinventing the wheel, or refactoring code to unnecessary levels of perfection. Lastly, Ro has done a great job encouraging new employees to step up and contribute even within just a few days of joining the company, whether it be to lead a new initiative or just share their perspective. Being thoughtful about the work environment new employees step into will pay dividends in the form of faster ramp up times and employee satisfaction.

Treat remote work as an asset, not a liability

Regardless of one’s preferred working conditions, we find ourselves in a climate where remote work is the standard across many industries for now. Focusing on the favorable opportunities that this situation affords is not only emotionally healthy, but also leads to positive outcomes. For example, freedom from an office grants employees more flexibility to customize their work environments to their personal preferences, and being relieved of my need to commute left me more refreshed to get acclimated to my role. While remote work certainly has trade offs, my experience has been that leveraging the advantages it creates has increased positivity and productivity.

Share best practices and etiquette for remote communication

Business communication today looks a lot different than it did before work went remote. Video calls have replaced conference rooms and office desks, and coworkers can even be located several time zones away. Whatever your company’s philosophies are regarding remote communication, both in terms of what tools should be used for particular situations and what proper etiquette looks like, you should explicitly share these best practices with new employees. The Data Team at Ro has different protocols and etiquette for sharing new analyses, weekly stakeholder updates, and general video calls (should my camera always be on?). Sharing these up-front has helped our new employees become more comfortable joining on our team.

The playbook for remote onboarding is still being written, so you will likely have to compensate for this uncertainty by investing heavily in the process. Ro has done so, and we have heard it from our employees and beyond. Ro has been recognized as one of Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces and certified as a Great Place to Work, with employees expressing exceptionally strong feedback about our sense of team, camaraderie, respect, and inclusivity at work. While it can be daunting to put this kind of work into onboarding, your team will thank you and their work will reflect your efforts.

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