How significant is virtual onboarding for Remote Employees

How significant is virtual onboarding for Remote Employees

Aakash Shetty

Mar 12, 2022

Recently my friend joined a new, well-established company in Germany. She was excited, motivated and willing to give her best. However, on her first day, she came back with her motivation faded, tired and uninspired. What happened?

The reason was unfruitful virtual onboarding!

As companies move towards remote and hybrid work structures, we need better tools for virtual onboarding. Tools to help our new employees understand their responsibility, integrate into the organization culture, and have fun on day one.

In a similar tone, BCG reports that 80% of business leaders agree on the importance of onboarding on companies' performance and need to improve it.

So what is the goal of onboarding?

In a nutshell, onboarding has one goal. To actively integrate new employees culturally, professionally and administratively.

Traditional onboarding was done through trainers and new employees had the chance to meet their new colleagues.

But when new employees are sitting at desks across borders such a task becomes daunting.

With emerging demand for Home-Office, virtual onboarding has become a necessity.

We need to rethink how we organize and conduct onboarding to make sure it works for everyone.

GitLab Inc. is a pioneer when it comes to remote work. I am taking a few pages from their onboarding handbook to get the virtual onboarding right.

The GitLab team suggests dividing virtual onboarding into three categories to achieve the best results.

  • Organizational

  • Technical

  • Social


This part of onboarding answers common questions from new employees such as

  • What tools can I use?

  • How to create a ticket for IT services?

  • How to report leave and vacation?

And so on.

Traditionally companies have relied on a hands-on approach from trainers to pass on such knowledge. But since remote companies rely on asynchronous work they need to be more efficient in sharing that knowledge.

Many companies are opting for a centralized approach.

Creating a central repository like Wikipedia for your company to answer many common questions. Tools such as Notion, Confluence, and others can help create a handbook allowing new employees to find information whenever they need it. Such a central repository can easily be updated by employees, making sure up-to-date knowledge is efficiently shared among teams.


Technical onboarding refers to the learning of both software and hardware provided by the company.

The golden rule here is to make new employees use tools as soon as possible. Onboarding can be an opportunity to use tools on easy tasks boosting their confidence while feeling productive and empowered.

As a team, you can set up tasks during the onboarding process for new employees to encourage them to use tools and software. If your company provides hardware to new employees it is best to inform new employees about company policies. Especially when it comes to IT security and data protection.


Lastly, the social part of onboarding. Arguably, the most difficult part of virtual onboarding. Starting a new job is overwhelming and if a new employee is used to a traditional office, adjusting to remote work might be challenging and needs support from the organization. A large number of organizations skip the social part of virtual onboarding.

Having a social part within your onboarding can help employees feel connected with the team and the organization even though they don't share a common space. "Social onboarding" encourages networking and cross-team engagement. And as a result, it drives company culture. One way of building such an informal communication network is to assign onboarding buddies to new employees.

Such a role can be important for remote companies as buddies are the first point of contact for new employees. Gitlab takes it so seriously that they have a specific handbook on that.

Onboarding buddies can help new employees explore remote work cultures. For example, how to connect and build relationships with other team members. Another way is to create a virtual space for informal communication and cross-team engagement. When in-person onboarding is conducted. New employees have a chance to talk with fellow employees and team members over coffee and lunch break.

It highly encourages cross-team engagement as it helps a new employee quickly integrate into the company culture driving motivation and collaboration.

With the right tools, you can set up coffee chat or water cooler talks. And encourage new employees to reach out to other teams and bring benefits of cross-team collaboration to your virtual onboarding.