As technology continues to develop and evolve it’s changing the traditional workforce tremendously. People and businesses now have the ability to hire employees who work remotely or virtually from their own home offices. While this option increases the pool of qualified candidates as geography is no longer an issue it does present other challenges that need to be addressed such as how to effectively onboard remote employees and ensure they feel connected and a valuable team member. The goal of onboarding new hires is to help then to adjust to the new environment, to form meaningful relationships both personally and professionally. Effective onboarding of new hires helps them to navigate the new environment and supports them as they learn the expectations and fit in to the established team. It’s in person and onsite. It’s the company culture that is showcased throughout the onboarding process so how does a new employee who is working remotely find their way? Taking full advantage of technology for the purposes of effective onboarding is where you will want to start. Ensure that the new employee has the technology they need to communicate and connect. Computer equipment and bandwidth, cellular telephone and a headset or earphones are a must. These are simply the tools needed for the remote worker and onboarding does not stop there, they need to meet the team and face-to-face introductions are by far the best way to connect people, we all like to put a face to a name! If it’s not feasible to bring the new employee into the office to meet the team then make full use of video-conferencing applications and be sure that the remote employee is included in all team meetings. Again, video conferencing services can easily facilitate this. Since it will be harder for the virtual employee to feel connected you absolutely must go out of the way and think outside of the box to find ways to make them feel welcomed and valued. Check in regularly, include them on internal communication lists, newsletters and the like. Make sure they have all the contact information they need and ensure they know whom to contact within their team and the company when they need help. Schedule video conferences individually with upper management and pair them with a long-time employee to mentor then and assist with the transition. When the opportunity presents itself for the virtual employee to visit the home office reinforce their interpersonal relations with team building activities and social events. Welcoming remote employees, arming them with clear expectations, and giving them the tools they need to succeed in the position coupled with regular check-ins and ensuring they are included in team meetings and social events when possible will help to foster loyalty and feelings of inclusion. With remote workers onboarding extends far beyond the normal length of time it typically takes, this does not mean its overly onerous or taxing but requires special attention and consideration to ensure that the connections made become strong enough to withstand the disconnect that remote employees often feel. Perhaps the biggest challenge with a remote workforce is fostering inclusion and making the employee feel connected and important but using technology creatively and checking in often will go a long way in creating a happy employee who is an integral team member that just happens to live in another country, or city. Virtual employees are an asset and companies are just beginning to understand their worth.