Onboarding employees used to be a simple strategy. There were more time and more money to do it. The structure was there.

A member of your HR team or a person appointed for new employee socialization would take the person around, let them meet everyone, and explain your company’s mission, vision, culture, and values. The employee then had the time to gradually accustom to the organization and become an efficient part of the whole.

The onboarding process has a whole new meaning now that you don’t have a conference room. Now that you cannot hand out a printed onboarding checklist to your new colleague, or introduce them to everyone in person we need to redefine onboarding.

The definition of onboarding and the processes necessary to make it a success have to be adjusted for virtual work. 

What is the Onboarding Process?

The conventional onboarding definition encompasses the step-by-step rules and processes by which an employee incorporates into a team, adopts role and responsibilities, and grows into a successful and revenue-generating team member.

In traditional organization hierarchies, most onboarding processes included:

  • A minimum of 90 days to complete.
  • Onboarding plans and checklists both for the onboarding specialist and the new employee
  • Collaboration, guidance, and onboarding training from experienced colleagues. 

It took so long that the onboarding had to be separated into four stages of employee experience

The 4 Stages of Onboarding Employees

One example of splitting the four stages of the onboarding process is to cascade the onboarding process into a development curve for the new employee. This example includes the following stages: onboarding, initial development, ongoing development, and retention and separation.

1. Onboarding

The first stage of onboarding is what some identify as orientation. This stage is what most people think of when they define onboarding. 

If you compare onboarding and orientation, you will come to the conclusion that orientation is short-term, technical, and passive on behalf of the employee while onboarding is long-term, structural, and active. We will talk more about why this orientation vs. onboarding comparison is important in the section about onboarding employees on remote teams. Now, let us dig deeper into the four stages.

The beginning stage of  the onboarding process includes:

  • Making the new team member comfortable. 
  • Introducing them to the job and their colleagues. 
  • Training them to be well prepared for independent task execution. 

It can take as long as 3 months to successfully onboard a new employee in this stage. Onboarding statistics show that 28% of the new employees leave an organization within the first 90 days. That is why this early experience is important to keep the member interested, productive, and engaged.

2. Initial Development

In the first two years of onboarding employees, you need to provide the resources so that the new team member can develop specific skills and business relationships that expand their capabilities and enable growth for the organization. That is the most likely moment in which you will invest in future training for qualified and talented employees. Colleagues that show potential will take on new roles.

3. Ongoing Development and Retention

This is the paramount stage of the onboarding process. The onboarded employee becomes one of your most vital team members and brings the most to your organization. If you did well in the previous stages, now is when you start to reap the benefits. At this stage, you need to create new opportunities for successful team members to retain them or you risk losing them.

4. Separation

You and your employee can be a match made in heaven, but business relationships can still break and your employee may decide to take on a new path. You should be well-heeled in this fourth and last stage of the onboarding process and, hopefully, leave enough time (at least three months) to say goodbye. The separation stage is a chance to learn more about your people and your organization and make necessary adjustments.  

When you split a change into stages, it is better accepted and less painful for the participants and destined for success. It is only logical that this smooth transition from hew hires into productive team members is welcomed by the participants. But changes happen all of a sudden. They can leave you unprepared, especially when you have adopted virtual work as your new model and work increasingly more on digital projects and by using the agile scrum method

On remote teams, separation can cost you dearly.

Why is Onboarding Important?

In remote work, the frequency of new hires and dismissals takes a whole new meaning. Including the stage in which the new employee will eventually separate from the virtual organization, it is even more important to understand the crucial steps of onboarding and offboarding. 

Lack of Resources

Here is why pain-free onboarding is vital for freelance teams, part-time contracts, and service-based consultancy. 

  • Employees don’t have three months to learn for a new role. 
  • Managers don’t have the resources to dedicate 90 days to onboarding and training. 
  • Moreover, talented people are looking for more rewarding jobs and won’t settle for companies that don’t know how to create such a working environment. 

Mismatched Values

According to HR Zone, onboarding employees should be more of a journey of values than a dry technical process. This type of elevated employee experience takes new employees through the stages of:

  • Productivity
  • Belonging
  • Inspiration
  • Unique value   

As you can see, these value-based stages of the onboarding process are similar to the conventional onboarding definition described above. But they transform your team members from passive contributors to personally-invested drivers that can help build a strong business dedicated to growth. 

Onboarding Employees on Remote Teams

Remote work is a retention tool. Because of better work-life balance and job autonomy, you can view virtual teamwork as a motivator to increase productivity, cut costs, and simplify processes. When not only work but also hiring and recruitment go virtual, you need to find a way to do it all in a shorter period. 

If you have only three days to make a new hire that will immediately contribute, you cannot be so generous with onboarding new employees. Don’t be prompted to onboard employees by holding endless remote meetings – there are other ways to do it, which we will explore below. Here is an inspiring video to prevent you from wasting time on exhausting online meetings:


However, you still need to ensure you respect onboarding value stages, or things will go rogue in no time. 

So, how do you set up an ethical onboarding process for virtual teams? You need to focus on two things:

  • Onboarding training 
  • Onboarding vs. orientation process  

What is Onboarding Training for Remote Workers?

By providing onboarding training to your new employee, you give them the skills, knowledge, and behaviors to take on a new role in your organization. 

Onboarding training on remote teams is somewhat different. However, you still need to concentrate on skills and knowledge and encourage certain behaviors.

Skills and Knowledge

On remote teams, especially freelance, you collaborate with experts. Or if you aren’t, you should. How can you onboard the most efficient experts for a job in such a short time?

  • Establish a way to check what skills are necessary for a particular job.
  • Seek the expert with the greatest compatibility not only for the project but for the specific task at hand as well. 
  • Be specific. Create a list of skills and questions to ask to confirm suitability.
  • Write clear job descriptions, specifically if you use freelance platforms
  • Link product requirements with job skills – that is mandatory to find qualified candidates.
  • Compare expertise by comparing quotes, job skills, tangible knowledge for the job that needs to get done, and experience. 
  • Set up a process to do this by using project management or team collaboration apps. Even a Google Meet will do. 

If you want to develop a high-performance team for remote collaboration and make onboarding employees stress-free, you cannot rely on manual hiring and selection only. Computational algorithms for setting up virtual teams, such as the flash teams we use in Flash Hub, will help you do it precisely, cost-effectively, and flexibly. 

To learn how you can use flash teams and flash organizations for the benefit of your business, watch the video below:


Provide onboarding training about desired behaviors on remote teams by setting:

  • Clear rules and processes for team cohesion.
  • Task follow-up.
  • Access to measuring tools.

Consequently, new employees can find their place on the team, suggest changes, and be able to track progress in transparent ways. 

Goals measured via objective transparent tools are guiding new employees to self-train. In this way, you gain a valuable feedback method that will help you always correct your course, even when you have an employee that has been with you only for several days. 

There are so many applications you can use to set up behaviors and processes for onboarded members, that you can lose track of the optimal and most effective workflow.

At Flash Hub, we can do this even with the most granular tasks.  If you want to know how to develop a business strategy to grow your team with unnecessary risks, watch this Solution Focused Leadership and Coaching video by Manuel Pistner.

Onboarding Employees vs. Orientation on Virtual Teams

Onboarding training is necessary to initiate short-term, technical, passive employee role in the onboarding process. Initially, guidance about working from home will be sufficient.

You can train your employee about what a home office means in your organization in less than 24 hours by watching this video:

The same training instruments you used for immediate onboarding can take you beyond orientation, into establishing an active structural role for your new employee that can bring long-term benefits. Additionally, your remote team members must share the values of your organization to move from simple productivity to unique value. 

One method to establish trust and productive behaviors on short notice that will go beyond short-term ROI is to hire people openly and transparently and expect the same in return. If you have a hard time finding reliable freelancers, there are ways to check credibility by making short face-to-face virtual calls.

Conclusion: Remote Team Onboarding Checklist

The fast-paced digital work requires adjustments from managers. To successfully manage the onboarding process on remote teams you need to be ready for fast offboarding too. Here is a quick checklist to organize and speed up hiring and onboarding without expensive talent management software:

  1. Develop and polish product requirements as you come in touch with new information.
  2. Search for task-specific experts that have the densest knowledge about the project in question.
  3. Match reliable, trustworthy experts with the optimal skillset for the job they are qualified for and the values that link them to your organization. 
  4. Use video apps cleverly. Run short introduction videos, avoid long remote meetings.
  5. Create rules and processes for orientation to create immediate team compatibility – give home at work guidance, access to team apps, and goal measurement tools.
  6. Expand onboarding training to introduce organizational values.

By taking the above steps and implementing them one by one, it will be much easier to onboard a new employee.

Learn to grow and scale your business with virtual teams and global freelancers with our FREE Virtual Team Starter Pack!


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