Building a remote-first culture can be incredible, but it’s not without its set of challenges. Onboarding is the first impression new hires have of your company and it’s important to get it right.

This playbook will cover the ins and outs of new hire onboarding. Good onboarding means happier new hires and faster ramp up. Let’s dive in!

What’s in this playbook?

  1. Remote onboarding principles
  2. The operational checklist
  3. The cultural checklist
  4. Accelerating ‘get-to-know’ with Candor
  5. How to go  the extra mile for your new hires
  6. Onboarding resources from other high-performing startup teams

Remote onboarding principles

Your goal in onboarding is simple: integrate new hires into your team’s culture and norms as quickly as possible. There are two principles in making this happen:

  1. Operational setup - the logistics for your new hire. The tools and access required to join, work, and get paid on time.
  2. Culture setup - the human interactions and rituals required for new hires to feel included, welcome, and able to contribute effectively.  
Try and get most if not all of the operational setup complete asynchronously and prior to a new joiner’s Day 1.

Operational checklist

To be completed at least a week before the new hire starts. If you run work trials to de-risk your hiring process, then we recommend starting these activities immediately after the successful completion of a work trial.

A high-level checklist:

(more detailed examples are in the resources section at the bottom of this page)

  • Employment contract, equity agreement, and signatures
  • Purchase and ship equipment (e.g. laptop/desk setup)
  • Setup payroll
  • Enroll in health insurance, dental, 401K, etc.
  • Post in slack to let the team know your new hire’s start date
  • Software setup - emails, team calendar, password manager and 2FA

Cultural checklist

To be completed before your new hire arrives.

Show them you care

  • Ship something physical! Even a handwritten card from the founder will go a long way.

Share your mission and values

  • Share your employee handbook with new hires before day 1 (we use Notion) and highlight a list of key areas/reads specific to their role. Example:
  • Have your founder take a Loom sharing the mission, vision, and what culture is like from their point of view.

To be completed on their first day:

  • A synchronous face-to-face meeting with their manager. Confirm they’ve received everything they should have and share how excited you are to have them onboard.
  • Invite them to join slack, update their profile pic and let it rain emojis and memes :)
  • Encourage the rest of the team to DM and book time with them to meet and greet in their first week.
  • Invite new hires to share a brief intro, why they are excited about joining and how they are going to contribute.

Share your working norms:

Help new hires understand ‘how’ you work by providing a Loom/Notion with the following:

  • how your team shares knowledge
  • what communication tools are appropriate for different situations
  • how you track team goals
  • how you recognize and celebrate each other
  • How you give each other feedback and guidance
  • how you typically get an idea off the ground
  • what behaviors are encouraged or discouraged

Accelerating ‘get to know’ with Candor

Remote onboarding can mean it takes much longer for you to build a meaningful relationship with a new teammate. But we think Why wait until month 3 to understand if someone is a morning person or a night owl?

Candor profiles are beautiful in depth personal readmes that help new hires remove the awkwardness from early ‘get to know’ conversations by discovering and sharing how they do their best work.

If you’re looking for a way to rapidly integrate a new hire into your team and help them share how they do their best work and understand how the rest of the team do theirs then we’ve got you covered. We created Candor profiles to help teammates get to know each other in minutes not months and avoid the sometimes awkward or difficult questions about ways of working that can hold a team back from their true potential.

Candor profiles are completely free to create. Here’s how to use them to level up your onboarding and help new hires hit the ground running with their teammates:

  1. Create a slack/discord channel called #candor
  2. Invite new hires and their team to asynchronously complete/update their candor profiles
  3. Invite new hires to share a link to their completed profiles in #candor and update their team directory page
  4. Invite the rest of the team to comment and react to build a shared understanding
  5. (Optional) Facilitate a team conversation about work styles and build empathy with each other.
  6. You’ll get a better understanding of how each other works, people’s feedback preferences, core motivations, what things people are looking to learn, self-awareness, and be able to spot conflict before it happens.

Want to see how it works? Create your Candor profile now.

Onboarding Inspiration to go the extra mile for your new hires

Enhanced team directory to help people connect

Customize your team directory to go beyond ‘job title’ and ‘headshot’ - here’s an example from ours:

You can encourage people to share fun facts like favorite foods, hobbies, skills they can teach, and things they are looking to learn. It’s a great way to intentionally create connection and provides common ground for some of those first early ‘get to know’ meetings.

Personalized video welcomes

The team at Loom shares personalized videos on day 1 with new hires where each team member talks about their excitement, referencing parts of the interview process they attended. This is a great way to break the ice with new team members remotely. We love how this makes each new hire feel welcome.

Here’s a collection of live examples.

Onboarding as a Kanban board

The team at Trello keeps an updated kanban board of activities that gets shared with each new hire. It includes key points of contact, things to have completed in your first week and a guided virtual orientation. We love this, you can grab the template here.

Buddy system

Pair every new hire with someone from the team who can help guide them through those early weeks and be a soundboard for any ‘silly’ (there are no silly) questions! This person’s job is twofold:

  1. to help the new hire ramp up as fast as possible
  2. to incorporate learnings and update the onboarding process and employee handbook with answers to any new questions that get asked so the next onboarding is even better.

Virtual Games

There are many virtual games you can play with new team members to add a fun element to their onboarding while also helping everyone get to know each other better. One great option is Two Truths and a Lie but there are countless Zoom-friendly games you can play with your new team member.

Valuable resources and guides from other high-performing startup teams

Here’s a collection of remote onboarding resources we love:

Twist’s remote onboarding guide

HelpScout’s onboarding guide

Loom’s team welcomes

Officevibe onboarding guide

Evolution of Buffer’s onboarding process

Memo bank’s onboarding checklist

Notion’s onboarding guide and template for startups

360 Learning’s remote onboarding steps

Personio’s 7 tips for remote onboarding

Trello’s onboarding guide

Virtual onboarding trello template

Connect and engage with your teammates

Candor makes it easy to connect and have fun with your teammates, even while you’re remote. Use Candor to do feedback, shoutouts, check-ins, and more, all in one place.

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