Few things provoke more anxiety for small business owners than onboarding new talent. The trepidation is only increased when the new person is a remote team member. But here’s some good news —you are the expert on your small business and no one is better equipped to do this job. Plus, what could be more fun (or important) than expanding the team of people who care about your business and are dedicated to your success?

Still, let’s acknowledge that onboarding is a lot of work. Knowing a few secrets and having some tricks up your sleeve can make the onboarding process easier for you and more effective for your new team members.

You already have expertise on staff

Onboarding is the process of integrating new team members into a business with the goal of familiarizing them with the company, as well as expectations, processes, procedures, and guidelines. No one knows more about this than you and your existing team.

Whether you complete the onboarding yourself or have a business manager to handle the task, onboarding is essential if you want to get your new hire up and running efficiently and effectively. This is your chance to let your passion for your business really shine and to make your enthusiasm contagious. As part of the formal onboarding process, your new team members should:

  • Learn the company’s goals, mission and history-including how and why you got started. Share the underlying passion that drives you. (Even if a business manager does most of the onboarding, try to find the time to share your excitement with your new team members.)
  • Find out the details for their job responsibilities and get appropriate training on their role.
  • Understand your company communication channels for questions, feedback and concerns.
  • Know what is expected of them in terms of schedule, communication, commitment and day-to-day responsibilities.
  • Complete any required paperwork, such as tax forms.
  • Feel excited about the decision to join your team and motivated to help you fulfill your mission.
  • Demonstrate an increasing comfort level with the team and the job.

Set Objectives, Draft Goals, Create a Timeline

Onboarding will be easier if you set specific, time-sensitive goals and objectives. You can use this template to help you plan your own onboarding process.

Objective Lay a foundation of success by successfully onboarding new hires.
Timing Goals
Day 1
  • Meet all existing team members, by phone or in person. (See the Secrets to Success section below for more on this.)
  • Complete all new hire paperwork.
Day 2
  • Introduce origin story, history, and future objectives.
  • Share communication expectations, channels, and timelines.
  • Overview jargon used around the office and explain what it means.
Day 3
  • Ensure access to all email, apps, and programs used as part of the job.
  • Begin training on all needed software.
  • Share job expectations around timelines, deadlines and communication. Tip: Be as detailed as you can to avoid confusion or issues. Spell out specific expectations now.
End of the first week
  • Complete all training on email, apps, and programs.
  • Assign initial tasks along with deadlines.
  • Gather first impressions and questions from new hire.
End of the second week
  • Share initial feedback on work-to-date.
  • Discuss overall performance review philosophy and processes.
End of the first month
  • Check in on progress.
  • Solicit feedback about the onboarding process.


Secrets to Success

Now that you have a sense of how an onboarding schedule may look, here are my top secrets for success.

  • Start early! You’ll find onboarding less stressful if you start preparing to onboard even before you find the right person to add to your team. Use the chart above as a template onboarding document. But first:
  • Think about the things you want a new hire to know.
  • Talk to someone who was recently hired to mine ideas.
  • Remember your first day on the job. Consider how you felt and what questions you had.

Tip: For some roles, it may be wise to have a document or manual that outlines their responsibilities and includes detailed instructions for carrying out those duties. This document can serve as your guide in training but it also saves time when you need to onboard future team members. Start working on the manual when you suspect you may need to grow the team. This leg up will make onboarding easier and help your new team member find success more quickly.

  • Lead with introductions. Design a fun introduction with your team that includes not only direct team members but others they may interact with. Consider a virtual coffee time where you get to know one another and share stories about your time working together and help your new hire feel at ease.
  • Stay connected. Once official onboarding is complete, don’t underestimate the power of checking in to help new team members feel connected to their team. Communication is key even more so for remote teams! Tools like Zoom, Slack, Google Chat or Google Hangouts can be used to give remote workers a deeper understanding of team dynamics from the moment they begin the onboarding process as well as help them feel connected.
  • Build a community. Many people drawn to remote work are independent and hard working by design. Your job is to keep them motivated by appreciating and encouraging them. Think of ways to build camaraderie with your remote team. Could you have periodic virtual happy hours, celebrate birthdays on Zoom or even have a surprise online party? Look for ways to recognize great work with shout outs on social media or featuring them in your company email campaigns. Everyone loves to be recognized and appreciated! And when you’re doing that, you’re making your team feel valued and appreciated!
  • Consider rewards and incentives. Do you have any rewards, incentives or bonuses for your team? Are there ways to motivate them to increase productivity, teamwork, morale, and/or your bottom line? Be creative and look for ways to make working for you fun AND rewarding!

Lesley Pyle is the founder of HireMyMom.com, a boutique service connecting Small Businesses with Virtual Professionals across the country. She began her work-at-home career in 1996 with the launch of her first website: Home-Based Working Moms. Pyle was named one of “50 Women Entrepreneurs Who Inspire Us” by Self-Made magazine and has been featured in numerous publications including Forbes, Entrepreneur, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and many others. Follow Lesley on LinkedIn, Twitter  and FB.

Onboarding remote employees stock photo by GaudiLab/Shutterstock