How to Onboard Remote Designers

Smooth onboarding is crucial to make sure you make them most of a new hire as quickly as possible. We'll dive into how to make onboarding for design as smooth as possible. The last thing you want is for your designer to quit only a few months into the job because of poor onboarding.

How to Onboard Remote Designers

Businesses that embrace exceptional designs generate 56% more shareholder value and 32% more revenue than those that don’t. As such, the last thing you want is for your designer to quit only a few months into the job because of poor onboarding.

And don’t think they won't. A recent survey by Paychex can confirm that they very well may. It shows that 80% of remote employees with poor onboarding experiences plan to quit soon.

In an era where remote workers, including designers, aren’t willing to put up with bad experiences, you should prioritize a seamless onboarding process for remote designers. But how do you do it?

Keep reading to learn how to onboard your remote product design team in 2023 and set them up for success right from the start!

Build a Design Onboarding Checklist

You should have a well-structured and comprehensive onboarding checklist to serve as a roadmap. This checklist will ensure that you cover all the necessary bases and provide your new remote designers with the guidance and resources they need to hit the ground running. Here's what you should include in your design onboarding checklist:

Design Collaboration Onboarding

Designing is a collaborative task, so list everything your remote designers need to collaborate seamlessly with the team. Include everything they should access to foster seamless teamwork and productivity. Examples include:

Instant messaging apps: Your remote designers will need access to your real-time communication platform, likely Slack or Microsoft Teams are examples of great platforms.

Design/Collaboration Software: Connected workspaces are key to better and faster product design. That said, design collaboration software such as Figma, Notion, and Workflow shouldn’t be missing from your design onboarding checklist. Your remote designers will need them to brainstorm, share design assets, and iterate on designs in a collaborative environment.

Analytics tools: Your remote designers work hard to create exceptional designs that drive results. To help them make data-driven decisions, ensure they can access analytics tools such as Google Analytics or Mixpanel.

Product Team Onboarding

Your remote designers can only unleash their creative genius if they are acquainted with the product they will be working on. So, your design onboarding checklist should include a product overview.

The product overview during onboarding should include:

What your product does

  • Clearly explain the core features and functionalities of your product
  • Highlight how it solves specific problems or addresses customer needs
  • Share any unique selling points or competitive advantages that set your product apart

Who you are trying to help with your product

  • Introduce the target audience or user persona your product is designed for
  • Describe their characteristics, pain points, and goals

How customers find you

  • Provide insights into the marketing channels or strategies used to reach customers
  • Explain the digital platforms, social media, or advertising methods you employ
  • Share any notable partnerships or referral programs that drive customer acquisition

North Star Goals

You should introduce remote designers to your start-up’s North Star—the guiding light leading your startup to success. Sharing this North Star with your remote designers aligns everyone toward a common destination.

When the product designers know your startup's goals, they become more than just designers—they become your strategic partners. They understand the "why" behind their design and can align their efforts with your startup's overall direction.

When onboarding the remote designers to your goals, focus on the following:

What’s your KPI: It could be user engagement in your marketing efforts, revenue growth, or something else related to design.

How come that's your KPI? Share the story behind your KPI and the reasoning that led you to choose it. The goal is to give your remote designers a backstage pass to your startup's decision-making process and empower them to make design choices that support your overarching goals.

How does your design roadmap feed the KPI? When onboarding remote designers, emphasize how their work fits into the grand scheme. This way, they can craft designs that not only look fabulous but also move the needle toward success.

Team and Calendar Onboarding

Your remote designers should have a solid understanding of the team they'll be working with. You should also acquaint them with the collaboration calendar to ensure everyone is in sync. Your team and calendar onboarding checklist should include:

Introducing the team: Let the remote designers know who they'll be collaborating with and encourage them to connect with their teammates.

Get on a call: Make it a priority to get your remote designers on a call within the first week of their start date. The call will break the ice, establish rapport, and address any immediate questions or concerns they may have.

Establishing cadence: Define clear expectations regarding when and where your remote designers should deliver daily updates. Should they be posted in a shared channel? Should they tag you in a Figma comment when a screen or page is completed?

Recurring check-ins: Schedule regular check-in calls to discuss progress, address challenges, and provide feedback.

Starting the Collaboration with the Designer

After onboarding your remote designer and establishing a solid foundation, it's time to kick off the collaboration!

How to Pick the Right First Design Tasks

Picking the first task for your remote designer is an important step in kicking off a successful collaboration. Let's break it down into two key milestones: the first task within two days and the subsequent task within two weeks. The goal is to pick work that the designer can ship while they're building context on your startup, rather than after they've built context.

Within the first two days, try to ship something simple. This initial task allows you both to get a sense of what it's like working together from end to end. The focus on your part should be around process: do they have what they need from you to get you the work you need?

You'll gain valuable insights into their work process, ability to take feedback, and timeliness in responding. It's an opportunity to assess their collaboration skills and see how seamlessly they integrate into your team.

As you progress to the 2-week mark, aim to ship something impactful. Ideally, you would pick up a task that can move the needle on your KPI. This is where the real magic happens (hopefully). Your designer will unleash their creativity and technical expertise to deliver designs that contribute to your startup's success.

However, a challenge lies ahead for you as a design stakeholder. Can you keep the scope focused enough to ship within the 2-week timeframe, including allowing time for feedback?

This challenge presents a valuable learning opportunity for you. It forces you to refine your ability to strike the right balance between ambition and practicality. You learn to help your remote designer grow and sharpen your skills in managing design projects effectively.

The First Few Sprints Will Be Bumpy - that’s Normal

Don't expect everything to be smooth sailing immediately. Why?

Well, it takes time for your remote designer to align their design taste with yours and truly understand your thoughts. To mitigate this, the secret sauce is to overcommunicate.

Don't hold back on sharing your thoughts, ideas, and feedback. Be explicit about your expectations, desired outcomes, and the direction you envision. This is the time to provide clear guidance while allowing room for creativity.

You should even share examples of what you expect the remote designer to deliver. For example, if you’re engaging them in web design, share links to websites that capture the aesthetic or functionality you're aiming for.

Remember, the initial stages of collaboration are the most critical for your involvement. Keep the lines of communication open, provide constructive feedback, and be patient as both of you find your groove.

Building Context On Your Customer and Problem Space

It's critical that during your onboarding, you catch your designer up on your customer profile and your domain space. Here are a few ways you can quickly get your designer onboarded to your domain:

  • Pair with them on taking customer support calls
  • Add them to any workspaces where you keep records of your customer conversations. Highlight the most illustrative conversations so they don't have to spend time sifting for them
  • Share with them any customer discovery call recordings
  • Are you or the founders part of any online communities where your customers hang out? Invite your designer to them!
  • Send over Youtube video tutorials of your competitors or explainers of your problem space
  • Have your designer join customer conversations you've scheduled
  • Share the top Twitter accounts that discuss your problem space or speak to your customer persona

So much of good design depends on context. But the process of building that context doesn't need to be slow or magical. To catalyze it, you just need to give your designer a few pieces of content. If you do this right, your designer will quickly be apply their generalist design thinking chops in targeted, specific ways to your industry.

Design Collaboration Cadence is Everything

When it comes to design collaboration, cadence is key! Establishing a structured yet flexible rhythm ensures that your remote design team stays in sync and produces outstanding results. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

Aim for at Least One Synchronous Design Review Call per Week

A synchronous call is a valuable opportunity to gather the team, check in on outstanding tasks, review the backlog, and provide feedback. Use this time to dive into complex, high-level discussions that require real-time interaction.

During your regular design review calls, touch on key topics such as outstanding tasks, feedback needs, and the project's overall status. Keep an eye on the backlog and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Keep the Collaboration Structure Simple

While collaboration requires structure, there's no need to drown in excessive processes or bog down the collaboration with excessive bureaucracy. Find the sweet spot where your team feels empowered to be creative while still maintaining a framework that keeps everyone aligned. Flexibility allows for innovation but structure ensures that goals are met, and progress is made.

Remember, collaboration is a dynamic dance. Encourage open communication, foster an environment where ideas flow freely, and embrace the creative sparks that emerge from the team. While maintaining a cadence is essential, don't be afraid to adjust and adapt as needed to accommodate the ever-changing nature of the design.

Onboard Your Remote Designers the Right Way

In a world where remote work has become the norm, your next product designer will most likely work remotely. How you onboard your remote designers will set the stage for success and dictate whether they will stay or move on to new opportunities. We’ve told you everything you need to do during the onboarding process, so it's time to dive in and create an onboarding experience that shines.

But if you have to start by finding your remote designers, NUMI can help. We will connect you to vetted designers who match your preferences, including talent needs, time availability, and technical skills. Get started on hiring a pro today to handle your product design needs.

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