How to onboard staff remotely

How to onboard employees remotely

As part of Katie Killinger’s continuing HR in practice series, we’re sharing one of our favourite parts of recruitment – new starters! With balancing welcoming someone into your organisation with the legal requirements and practical measures (such as how to get their laptop to them!) we’re sharing our first week plan from the ‘queen of the ‘to do’ lists’.

With LinkedIn buzzing with headlines such as ‘will work from home become work from anywhere?’ and ‘Twitter’s plan to WFH indefinitely’, quite how our world of software development will return to normality remains to be seen. As a Microsoft Partner, we’ve used tools like Teams, GitHub and DevOps for many years, and before our office was locked down we had become used to remote scrum and standup etiquette with our shared benefit of WFH one day a week (according to where we are in our sprint calendar).

As an ever-growing technology company with a sharp start-up focus on new products, hiring continues and so too does onboarding. We had a small experience of physical distance previously, with some new starters joining through our Graduate programme caught between their university towns and us in Southampton; and those inopportune moments when certain teams were locked into training days.

When we have a process that works, we want to at least share the highlights. Here’s our checklist.


Once all contractual documentation has been returned HR should:

  • Provide a Job Description, outlining expectations of the role.
  • Raise a ticket with IT as soon as possible. They have their own sprints and might need to organise licenses.
  • Introduce your new employee to IT to arrange hardware delivery. It’s imperative that you have at least two ways to contact your new employee!
  • Begin your induction plan with both IT and Line Management resources.
  • Provide your induction plan to the new employee so they know what to expect on their first day.

Day 1 Begin with IT

IT to contact the new employee and introduce:

  • Logins
  • Passwords
  • IT Policy
  • IT Kit
  • Teams Training

TIP: We advise both parties to have access to FaceTime/video calling should there be laptop access issues.

Day 1 – HR

Now the new starter has access to their system you can introduce:

  • Employee Handbook
  • Payroll Information
  • New Starter Forms/P45
  • Quality Management System
  • Absence recording portal
  • Company Values & Culture
  • GDPR policies

TIP: This is a chance for the employee to clean their data (if necessary) and promotes self-guided activities should your timings be thrown off later in the day.

Day 1 Company Introductions

All heads of department and our CEO meet every new starter via video call. This is always highly rated in our feedback, and is especially important during this work from home period. Remember, there’s no chance to stop by a desk during an office tour or to say hello in the kitchen. Meeting the company this way demystifies names and faces, and how colleagues themselves became part of Zupa. It’s an informal, short introduction to say hello. We include:

  • Management
  • Finance
  • Operations
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Development
  • Customer Services

TIP: With a very busy Day 1, don’t forget to build in time for lunch!

Day 1 – Handover to Line Manager

After sometimes weeks of interviews, questions, contracts and anticipation, all parties are keen to get working so we don’t waste any time in letting employees get started:

  • Outline what they can expect within their first week.
  • Outline what the business expects from them in their first week.
  • Introduction to how our architecture fits together and why.
  • Introduction to our Agile development calendar.
  • Assign activities and breakdown into tasks.
  • Assign a work shadow for pair programming.

During the first week

In line with sprint planning/show and tell meetings we provide detailed training sessions on:

  • Who we build software for.
  • Current products.
  • Future products.
  • Best practice tips.
  • Any area of the business that the employee has an additional interest, such as Marketing.

End of the first week

  • Team Manager & Line Manager review call.
  • Line Manager & HR review call.
  • Any queries or unanswered questions for the business.
  • HR reviews feedback for comment trends and the onboarding process.

The truth is, other than some physical logistics at the beginning of contract, you should trust that your feedback loops have refined your process. The ability to seamlessly move HR online should be part of your business continuity planning.

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