As organizations continue to navigate the murky waters of COVID-19, recruitment activity has started to pick up. A critical part of the recruitment cycle is on-boarding, but with many companies still not returning to a physical office, businesses need to re-imagine the new-employee experience. New candidates make their decision whether or not to stay with a company within 45 days, so getting the first month right is crucial. Organizations that rely solely on in-person on-boarding cannot simply retrofit existing processes. They must find digital ways to integrate their new employees into the team’s remote workplace. Here are three questions companies should ask themselves in order to reimagine on-boarding for remote environments.


1) Do you understand how your culture has changed?

Before you begin on-boarding, consider the culture into which you are bringing the new employees. Studies from HBR and SHRM have found that successful assimilation into company culture can reduce time-to-productivity and improve employee retention by more than 50%. How well do you actually know your culture?



Organizational culture is dynamic and influenced by internal and external factors. McKinsey underscores that “[e]xecutives must be proactive in shaping and measuring culture,” and leaders must recognize that organizational culture is not a monolith. Sub-cultures exist across geographies and departments; these sub-cultures interact with each other and the overall organizational culture to drive performance and behavior.


For many organizations, the remote-working culture is a distinct sub-culture that overlaps with office-working culture. Without chance meetings in the kitchen and regular social events, a Sales Director may find sales teams that previously worked well together are no longer interacting as frequently. A collaborative office culture can easily devolve into a remote culture of siloed working, while other elements like work ethic and tenacity carry over into the digital-working culture.


Workforce analytics and intelligent listening programs can help companies keep their finger on the pulse and understand what really matters to staff in each sub-culture.


2) How can we create a remote on-boarding process in this new environment?

Once companies know their new culture, they must translate in-person on-boarding experiences to a remote process. But what should the process look like?


Successful on-boarding means integrating new employees into the company culture. When designing a remote on-boarding experience, leaders should focus on inclusion and connectivity. A good on-boarding process has multiple touchpoints, both active and passive. Active touchpoints are part of structured induction and on-boarding processes. For example, a welcome session with the Managing Director is a great way to set the tone for new recruits, and that event is easily replicated via webinar



Passive touchpoints are equally important but more difficult to translate to the digital workspace. Having experienced colleagues visibly demonstrate core company values is more impactful than values listed in an welcome packet. Structured training enables new joiners to execute job functions, but the person sitting next to them provides valuable context and adds to the best practices learned in the classroom.


The remote on-boarding experience analyses the impact of these passive touchpoints and determines how to replicate or re-design them. Using collaborative digital tools creates ways for new employees to feel included. Evaluate which of these touchpoints are most valuable to people and most effective in shaping the team’s culture. Prioritizing them accordingly will ensure they don’t fall by the wayside in everyone’s increasingly busy calendars


3) What should on-boarding look like in the remote workplace?

Standard on-boarding is linked with new-hire productivity. The remote experience should mirror this where possible. Induction meetings in the conference room can be replaced by a web conference, but leaders need to measure the change and take steps to ensure the same level of engagement in the virtual setting.


Think of ways to get people working together. Encourage “office hours,” drop-in sessions, and different ways to increase connectivity. Such initiatives do not necessarily need new tools. Managers should review their existing applications and look at ways to use that functionality for the new requirements. For example, using the “request control” feature in an MS Teams meeting to show someone around a new application can simulate the experience of sitting next to him or her at the same workstation.


In-person and remote on-boarding impact personalities differently. Extroverts may be great at making connections with colleagues in the office, but they could suffer without regular interaction. While managers would normally gauge personality types during the initial phases of in-person on-boarding, understanding personas is difficult with limited touchpoints. Think of ways to gather this information during the recruitment process, perhaps by using personality analysis tools to better understand incoming staff.


Five Guidelines for Virtual On-Boarding

Work from home is here to stay, and organizations must adapt and change their approaches quickly. Remote on-boarding requires more time and thought than a laptop delivery followed by a two-day online orientation. Replicating what may have worked in the past won’t create a stellar remote-employee experience or properly introduce a new team member to company culture. Companies are integrating a person into their team, not just an employee. Here are five guidelines to help executives as they reimagine on-boarding for the remote environment.


  1. Know the Team. Think about how various sub-cultures impact personas, and develop ways to support a range of personality types.
  2. Encourage Growth. Without development opportunities and remote mentorship, new employees will look elsewhere.
  3. Mirror, Mirror. Amend or add to existing on-boarding processes, don’t replace them entirely.
  4. Get Connected. Be proactive in encouraging a sense of community and relationship-building through virtual walls.
  5. Be Patient. Adjust your expectations! It will take longer to on-board remotely, so keep at it.


There is more to working life than simply performing a job. It also means building relationships with colleagues, engaging in water-cooler conversations, guiding through mentorship, and encouraging active and passive development. Recognizing this, organizations should innovate and be creative with new tactics to connect people with their new working culture.

Stephanie L. Thomas

Stephanie L. Thomas

Principal Consultant, North America Talent & Change Practice


Stephanie is a change specialist focused on embedding cultural change and driving user adoption through agile ways of working. With a background in technology, her passion lies in bridging gaps between sales, design, and delivery through human-centered, persona-led approaches.

Danesh Kalia

Danesh Kalia

Consultant, European Talent & Change Practice


Danesh specialises in developing persona-based interventions to drive user adoption within large scale transformational programmes. He is passionate about using technology to improve the employee experience and he has managed successful change efforts in numerous industries including Warehouse and Distribution, Retail and Technology.

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