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Manager Minute: Three Keys to Effective Remote Onboarding

Three Keys to Effective Remote Onboarding

Onboarding new employees in person is hard enough and the process has only become more difficult during the current pandemic

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

Scott Hanton is the editorial director of Lab Manager. He spent 30 years as a research chemist, lab manager, and business leader at Air Products and Intertek. He earned...

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Welcome to the Manager Minute. In this new short editorial, I will pick one topic of interest to lab managers and provide some tips and insights from my experience as a lab manager. My goal will be to share knowledge with you that you can use today in your lab.

Onboarding new employees has always been challenging. There is so much new information to be shared, digested, and learned. Onboarding new employees in person is hard enough and the process has only become more difficult during the current pandemic. Bringing new employees into the fold remotely may feel impossible. Interestingly, I’m in the process of onboarding remotely now at Lab Manager. For me, this process is important, personal, and has gone well. Here are three tips that will make onboarding your new remote employees easier and faster:

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#1 – Provide clear expectations

For any new employee, having a clear understanding of the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of the new job are vital. Having alignment around needs and objectives provides the firm foundation that enables the new employee to start contributing. As a hiring manager, you can provide your new teammate with two critical documents:

  • Roles and responsibilities—briefly describes the three to five main areas of contribution. It illustrates the space in which the new employee should focus their initial effort
  • 30, 60, and 90-day objectives—details the knowledge the new employee is expected to learn and initial contributions in one-month intervals. These help provide a clear foundation for early feedback

#2 – Provide contacts

One of the critical things to learn in a new role is who knows what. It is hard to learn all of the new knowledge until the new person knows where to direct questions. It is challenging to learn all the names and roles when everyone is in the lab together—it can be daunting when starting a new position in a home office. As a hiring manager, you can provide your new teammate with three critical contacts:

  • Teammates—those people the new hire will interact with most often
  • Mentor—someone who will share basic information about the lab, the business, and the science. Someone whose behavior you want emulated
  • Functional contacts—a go-to list for the inevitable questions about policy, HR, quality, safety, and many other things. Ensure they know who the local experts are, and how to reach them.

One key aspect of providing these key contacts is encouraging the new employee to ask for help. Feeling safe to ask for help has been demonstrated to be a very effective way to get new employees contributing more rapidly.1

#3 – Accidental conversations

Prior to the pandemic, we could simply expect people to have useful conversations around the lab during the normal flow of work. In a remote work environment, the hiring manager must help the new employee by engineering some ‘accidental’ conversations. These would be calendared conversations with key individuals to ensure the new person is meeting the right people, gaining knowledge about different aspects of the lab, and feeling included.

Thanks for reading. I hope you can use this information. I am very interested in hearing from you. If you have feedback or comments on this set of tips, or suggestions for future Manager Minutes, I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to me at I’m looking forward to our conversations.


1. Baker, Wayne. All You Have to Do Is Ask. Currency, NY 2020.