How to craft your day 1 employee onboarding experience?

A kick-ass employee onboarding experience increases retention. Read our guide and access our free templates to know exactly how.

First impressions are everything and yet, it’s hard to make a good one for your newest team members. Think about this: all they’ve done is sign the offer letter, go through background checks, and spoke to HR. They’ve had limited interaction with your team and are wondering about how to make a good impression.

You, as a company, should be concerned about your impression too.

If you’re a distributed team and scattered across the world (like us), you must’ve felt this. And if you do, you’re not alone.

The kicker, though? Bad onboarding is a slippery slope for retention. If your newest team member feels overwhelmed in the first couple of months, they’re more likely to try to figure things out by themselves. They’re more likely to not bond as much with their peers.

There’s a method to improve remote employee onboarding. But first, let’s understand why it’s so hard to do in the first place.

Why it’s hard to build a remote employee onboarding process

Remote employee onboarding is harder than offline onboarding because of the dramatically less human-to-human interaction right off the bat. To combat this, companies schedule multiple 1:1’s for an employee’s first day and follow-up a couple hours later - but does that go a long way in helping?

We can’t expect the new hires to learn the organizational culture and processes just by observing how things are done by their colleagues in the office, it requires more attention and planning.

Saravana Kumar, Founder at Document360, explains that remote onboarding differs majorly in 2 different ways. In offline onboarding, an employee learns the ropes of his job while interacting with a peer. The feedback and question loops are immediate. And you instantly get to know how your colleagues are, what the office vibe is, and how you might fit in.

In remote teams, this is replaced by a mix of documents and 30-minute calls. And if your documentation is not up-to-par, good luck. Subpar documentation - and a lot of it - can result in more confusion and information overload for new employees.

That’s why effective onboarding - in remote - is a complex problem to solve. It’s not just about interaction, the learning curve, or the cultural context - it’s all of them.

What does good remote employee onboarding look like, then?

A good remote onboarding has these distinct characteristics:

  1. They have one place to review all documentation, and the go-to person for doubts
  2. They’ve had warm intros with their co-workers
  3. They’ve completed all formalities set by human resources
  4. They’re given due time to go through the material at their own pace
  5. They’re given small, easy-to-accomplish tasks
  6. They’re given all the info they need about company policies
  7. They’re told how their job description will translate into tasks for their couple of days
  8. They have one place to look at all of the above - that could be as simple as an onboarding checklist for small teams. Or as large as a dedicated onboarding program. Ideally, this could also be in your welcome email that’s sent by your HR team.

This can look different across companies. This can also differ based on your culture and how much you value peer-to-peer relationships. But all in all, if they know what they need to know, who to talk to, and get small tasks right off the bat for fast feedback loops - it can assure that your newest employee feels comfortable at their new job.

A Step by Step process

Before they start: give them all the crucial info, in one place

New employee onboarding should start from the moment they sign their job offer. You should build a remote welcome kit about the must-know info and send it to your teammates well before their joining day.

What information to include in a welcome kit:

  1. Logistical details

Include the time to login for your new employees. And share the details of when they’ll be receiving their work laptop and other credentials. Much better to have these in one place than having your HR send it in email threads.

  1. Admin & paperwork

If there’s some paperwork still to be signed, get this out of the way. Let them know exactly what formalities are pending, and how they need to be involved.

  1. Team presentation

This should be the first thing in your welcome kit. Include a quick Loom from their reporting manager/their assigned buddy. Having someone wave and welcome them right off the bat can create a really comforting first impression. Then, continue to give a quick intro of the team, and link the video with a detailed presentation on who’s who and what they do.

  1. Organization's vision and strategy

Employees onboarded remotely post-COVID are shown to be less familiar with company values. If you have a company handbook, it's the perfect place to send your new hires to read up on the company.

In case you don’t have an employee handbook and want a reference, here’s Gitlab’s company handbook. This is what a standard company handbook should look like:

Slite’s handbook

If you want to learn how to prepare a company handbook, read our detailed guide here.

  1. Present their onboarding buddy

Give the name, contact details and role of buddy at your company. Explain what the buddy will help with in the first weeks. Let them know if it’s okay to contact your team buddy before the start day, and how to do so. It’s important to do this well - because their opinions are going to pain the first impressions of your work environment in fron of your new employee.

  1. The first days planning: meetings, milestones

Create a networking plan between the new hire and individuals across the organization. Just make sure you're not overwhelming the new employee with too many 1-1 meetings in their first days — spread these out over the first two weeks.

You should build a basic template with multiple subdocs covering the info above. Then, you can share it with all teams so they can modify it a bit if they need to, for their particular function.

The first week: make information easy to find

The average employee spends 19% of every work week just trying to figure out how to complete tasks. That’s not just new employees - it’s the average!

To radically simplify their start date and week - make information dead simple to find.

Your best bet to combat this issue is a good company wiki or knowledge base. If you don’t have one, you should build one ASAP. You can create your wiki as you build the business as part of your day-to-day work. Otherwise, you’re looking at the prospect of writing down every important process for the whole company at once - months of work. All the information in one place can save everyone the embarrassment of asking seemingly basic questions all the time. It also helps to future-proof the company against the possibility that individuals start doing things their own way, leave, and this knowledge is then lost to the business.

Example: Since we update our wiki quite often, it’s really easy for our new employees to find information. A lot of times, they don’t even need to navigate through docs anymore. They just type their question in the search bar and get an instant answer from the Slite assistant.

Example of how new employees use Slite’s Ask features to get instant answers

What about the first week's tasks? We recommend managers to prepare task checklists for the first week for every person who joins Slite. This ensures that they can keep a track of everything they need to do in the first week at one place. Since they’re still gathering context and researching the company, this makes it very easy for them to track the essentials of what to get right in the first week.

The first month: give them the chance to prove themselves

Without a doubt, the best thing you can offer a new employee is a workbook for their first week. They start with a series of empty checkboxes and unanswered questions, and by the end of the week it’s full. You can keep track of all of this with an employee onboarding template like the one we already tested out.

Every new hire wants to perform. So in the first month or so, it’s important to give them opportunities to contribute.

Create tasks and challenges, and let them come away from the first few weeks with a real accomplishment. For instance, new developers at Slite get to push their first lines of code live on day one.

Some companies go further and actually have new hires “graduate” from their onboarding process.‍

This might involve a test or a simple live presentation. Just note that these options may feel a little more “pressurized,” which won’t suit every employee or company culture.

But the possibility to show off their skills is so much more powerful than asking them simply to listen and take notes. And when they’re done, they know for sure that they’ll do just fine.

This is also an essential time to clarify the role they’re stepping into, and to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Do this early and often, and you won’t run into trouble down the line.

The first three months: seek feedback often

If you’ve been with the company since the start, chances are you yourself were never formally onboarded. So even though you may think you know what it feels like to join the company, you haven’t exactly been in those shoes.

You can plan well and strive to create something special, but the only way to make sure you’ve achieved this is to ask new hires for their thoughts.

You already knew that. And of course you check in to make sure the onboarding is going well, and they have everything they need.

But here’s the thing, there’s a roughly zero percent chance that a new employee will honestly tell you how they feel. They’re new. They just went through a potentially grueling hiring phase, and they’re trying to make the right first impression.

Which means you have to get serious about asking for feedback. And this needs to be baked into the onboarding itself.

All the templates you need to enhance remote employee onboarding

We listed down a lot of templates in the section above. Preparing these templates once, will save you hours of work every time your team has to onboard someone new. It’s one of those things you should have in place right away. Here’s a list of all of them so you don’t miss out:

  1. Welcome kit checklist
  2. Welcome kit template
  3. First day checklist
  4. First week checklist
  5. First month checklist
  6. First 3 months checklist
  7. Feedback questionnaire
  8. HR <> Manager check-in about employee performance
  9. Performance growth evaluation

No matter which tool you’re using - Notion, Confluence or Trello - you’ll find most of these. Slite has all of them in one place for you to download here. It will directly copy the templates to your desired location in your Slite workspace.

Tools to enhance remote onboarding

Communication Tools:

First up, let's talk about keeping the conversation going, even when we're miles apart:

  1. Slack: This is like your virtual office water cooler. You can chat, share files, and hook up with other apps – it's like the command center for your team's communication.
  2. This one's all about keeping your team in sync. Share info, set up meetings, and collaborate like a boss.
  3. Skype: For those face-to-face moments when you can't be in the same room. Skype's been around forever for a reason – it's reliable.
  4. Zoom: Zoom has taken the virtual meeting world by storm. Whether you need team meetings or a big ol' conference, it's got you covered.
  5. Microsoft Teams: If you're deep into the Microsoft ecosystem, Teams is like your one-stop shop for chatting, meetings, and working together. No need to jump between apps.

Project Management Tools:

Now, let's talk about keeping our projects on track when everyone's working from home:

  1. Asana: Think of Asana as your project organizer. It makes task assignments and tracking super easy, so everyone knows what's on their plate.
  2. This tool is all about custom workflows. You can create boards for your projects and even automate some of the boring stuff. Productivity heaven!
  3. Trello: Trello's like a giant digital to-do list with cards. It's simple and flexible, perfect for keeping track of tasks and projects.
  4. Jira: If you're in the software game, Jira is your jam. It's all about agile project management and helps you plan, track, and release software smoothly.
  5. Basecamp: Basecamp is like your project and team HQ. It's where you have discussions, make to-do lists, and share docs. A real all-in-one tool.

Training & Development Platforms:

Now, let's talk about growing our skills and knowledge remotely:

  1. ProProfs: ProProfs offers a buffet of training courses and quizzes. It's a great way to keep your team's skills up to snuff.
  2. TalentLMS: Need a flexible learning platform? TalentLMS is your go-to. It lets you create, manage, and deliver training content remotely.
  3. Bridge: Bridge combines performance management and learning. It's like the Swiss Army knife of employee development.
  4. Lessonly: Lessonly is all about making learning easy and interactive. Create lessons and quizzes to keep your team engaged and growing.
  5. Auzmor Learn: Auzmor Learn is user-friendly and comprehensive. If you want an easy way to manage training, this is it.

Workflow Automation Tools:

Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty of automating some of those repetitive tasks:

  1. airSlate: airSlate takes care of document workflows. No more manual data entry – let the machines do it!
  2. Zapier: Zapier is like your virtual assistant, connecting different apps to automate workflows. It's like magic for productivity.
  3. This one's all about integrating and automating tasks across different apps. Say goodbye to copy-pasting.
  4. Workato: Workato is your go-to for complex workflows that span multiple apps. It's like having a robot butler.
  5. IFTTT: IFTTT (If This, Then That) is simple yet powerful. It's perfect for creating automated actions between apps and devices.

Employee Onboarding software:

Now, let's talk about welcoming new folks to the team – even when they're far, far away. A good app can replicate a formal onboarding experience for all new hires at scale. Be it new hire paperwork, or having an employee onboarding checklist, they usually consolidate everything.

  1. Acuvate: Acuvate makes onboarding a breeze with its easy-to-use interface. It really shines in employee orientation.
  2. ClearCompany: ClearCompany is your HR buddy, streamlining hiring and onboarding. No more paperwork headaches.
  3. WorkBright: This one's for remote onboarding specialists. It's tailored to make the process smooth, even when you can't meet in person.
  4. BambooHR: BambooHR is your one-stop shop for HR, including onboarding. Manage employee data and monitor job satisfaction without the hassle.
  5. Zenefits: Zenefits covers everything from building a recruiting process to payroll and benefits. It's like having a whole HR department in your pocket.

Knowledge Management Tools

Last, but certainly not the least, here’s our picks for the top 3 knowledge management tools

1. Slite:

Slite is a collaborative documentation platform that focuses on simplicity and ease of use. It's designed to help remote teams create, organize, and share knowledge within a shared workspace. Here are some key features and benefits of Slite:

  • Rich Text Editing: Slite provides a user-friendly interface for creating and formatting documents with rich text. You can easily add headers, lists, tables, and embed multimedia content.
  • Real-time Collaboration: Multiple team members can collaborate on the same document simultaneously. This real-time collaboration makes it easy to brainstorm, edit, and finalize content together.
  • Organized Content: Slite offers a hierarchical structure to organize your content. You can create workspaces, teams, and channels to categorize and manage information effectively.
  • Version History: Slite keeps track of document revisions, allowing you to revert to previous versions if needed. This feature ensures that important information is never lost.
  • Search Functionality: Finding information in Slite is a breeze. Its powerful search functionality lets you quickly locate documents, notes, and even specific text within documents.
  • Integration Capabilities: Slite integrates with various third-party tools like Slack, Google Drive, and Trello, making it easy to connect your existing workflows.

Slite is an excellent choice for teams that value simplicity, collaboration, and organized knowledge sharing. It's particularly useful for creating and maintaining internal documentation, wikis, and knowledge bases.

2. Notion:

Notion is a versatile workspace that goes beyond traditional note-taking and documentation. It allows teams to create databases, wikis, project boards, and more. Here's what makes Notion stand out:

  • Customizable Templates: Notion offers a wide range of customizable templates for different use cases, from project management to knowledge bases. You can adapt these templates to fit your team's needs.
  • Rich Media Integration: You can embed various types of content, including images, files, videos, and even code snippets, directly into Notion pages.
  • Relational Databases: Notion lets you create relational databases, making it possible to link information across different pages and databases. This feature is incredibly powerful for organizing complex data.
  • Kanban Boards and Calendar Views: Notion allows you to create Kanban boards and calendar views within your workspace, making it suitable for project management and task tracking.
  • Real-time Collaboration: Like Slite, Notion supports real-time collaboration, enabling multiple team members to work on documents simultaneously.
  • Access Control: You can control who has access to specific pages or databases in Notion, ensuring that sensitive information is secure.

Notion is a flexible tool that adapts to the unique needs of your remote team. It excels in creating comprehensive knowledge bases, project management boards, and dynamic databases, making it a valuable asset for teams of small teams. However, be cautious about trying to do everything within Notion. Small teams use it as an all-in-one and as they grow, their Notion database slows down, starts lagging, and becomes unusable.

3. Confluence:

Confluence is a knowledge management and collaboration tool developed by Atlassian. It is specifically designed to help teams create, share, and collaborate on documentation. Here are the key features and benefits of Confluence:

  • Page Creation: Confluence allows you to create and format pages with rich text, tables, images, and macros. This makes it easy to create documentation, project plans, and more.
  • Team Collaboration: Confluence emphasizes teamwork by enabling multiple users to collaborate on pages and documents simultaneously. Comments, mentions, and notifications keep everyone in the loop.
  • Templates and Blueprints: Confluence provides a variety of templates and blueprints for common use cases like meeting notes, project plans, and product documentation. These templates save time and maintain consistency.
  • Integration with Jira: If your team uses Jira for issue tracking, Confluence integrates seamlessly with it. This integration allows you to connect development and documentation efforts.
  • Access Control: Confluence offers granular access controls, ensuring that only authorized team members can view or edit specific content.
  • Powerful Search: Confluence's search functionality is robust, making it easy to find the information you need, even in extensive knowledge bases.

Additional Suggestions

What does this look like? Here are a few suggestions:

1. End the first month with a quick survey

Ask the new employee to reflect on what they’ve learned so far and give their thoughts. It’s always best to do this while the experience is fresh.

You’ll easily be able to see which aspects of the day they most enjoyed, whether they feel like they’re getting the hang of things, and whether you prepared enough resources.

Note: If you don’t want to create more work for yourself, build the survey around a simple 1-5 scale or a 1-10 NPS-style survey. You’ll know quickly which areas are consistently scoring poorly, and should be changed.

See our employee feedback template here.

2. Make time for one-on-ones

We’re all a little cautious of meeting fatigue. But it’s unlikely to set in at the beginning of a new role. So you can risk an extra face-to-face in the first few weeks to optimise for employee engagement over meeting fatigue, especially if it’ll strengthen the relationship.

Make sure the new person knows that you’ll want feedback, and encourage them to keep notes along the way. This gives the meeting a clear purpose, and gives them something achievable to work on throughout the week(s).

A lot of employee onboarding can feel passive - just listening to endless presentations or reading countless notes. When you can give someone small wins along the way, it helps.

More importantly, the feedback you receive will have been thought through, and positively impact employee retention.

3. Don’t forget the suggestion box

You can’t improve employee experience if you don’t ask your employees about their experience. Simple.

Your business should have an easy, anonymous way to give feedback. This could be as simple as the classic suggestion box somewhere in the office.

Slack bots are another, more modern option. Officevibe is one such choice - it lets employees answer a quick survey each week, semi-anonymized. Staff can answer questions when they have time, and managers can respond directly if appropriate. One happy side-effect of this is that the new employee learns how to give quality feedback from day one.

4. Set down some metrics to really commit

An HR manager focuses on hiring since that’s every startup’s first need while growing. Once you’re at a good headcount, employee satisfaction becomes more important. HR professionals often nail hiring, since that’s their primary task. But because of working at a breakneck speed, they tend to be scrappy. That means scrappy paperwork, and a scrappy process.

This is why, setting metrics is crucial. HR teams should start tracking employee onboarding experience for every member of the team. If tracked correctly, this data can help you answer a bunch of questions like:

  1. Does poor onboarding lead people to leave in the first couple months?
  2. What exactly does an ideal successful onboarding look like?


The experience you create for your newest team members influences their long-term success. 36% employers don’t have a structured onboarding process in place. Ensure that you’re not one of them.

The onboarding process should be a step-by-step journey, starting before day one and extending into the first three months. Templates and tools, such as checklists and feedback questionnaires, can streamline the process and ensure that your new hires feel supported and empowered.

Remember that as you guide your new team members through this process, creating a feedback-friendly environment is essential. Continuously seeking their input will help you refine and perfect your remote onboarding, ensuring a smooth and successful transition for them into your organization. You've got this!

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