How To Master Virtual Onboarding

When the last employee, the one who could barely successfully send an email pre-pandemic, finally figured out how to work remotely from home, you may have breathed a sigh of relief. You had finally done it! You found a way to make your employees work in a virtual format and all was right with the world (well, from a business standpoint perhaps!) But what about when you have a job opening to fill? Beyond the pitfalls of hiring in a remote world, how do you make someone who has never stepped foot in the office feel like a part of the team? Especially when we’re all well aware that a strong onboarding experience closely correlates with your new hire’s ultimate success at the company?

Below, we outline seven top tips for making your existing onboarding program ready for the virtual world. 

Just switch venues

When it comes to onboarding a new hire, you probably already have a pretty good system. Now that you have to do it virtually, the only thing that should change is how you host your content. Indeed, the goal of your onboarding should remain the same and should cover your company’s mission and values and provide the tools and training to get them up to speed on their job. In addition, you’ll want to make sure that you’re helping folks feel connected to their bosses and colleagues and help them to feel like a true part of your company. This can all be accomplished online via Zoom calls, interactive training sessions, Webinars, and informal video chats with managers and colleagues.

Consider their needs

As you think about what changes you’ll need to make to your onboarding process to make it work in a virtual environment, place yourself in your employee’s shoes and think about what you might need to be best supported in the first 30 days on the job, then at 60 days, and at various other intervals across their first year. To best meet their needs, consider asking what the employee’s expectations are as part of the initial onboarding process and then tailor some of the programming accordingly. Next, it is wise to set up checkpoints with HR, managers, and other folks who are integral to their development so that the employee can stay on track with various onboarding tasks and have opportunities to ask questions and clarify any issues that crop up along the way.

Extend an olive branch

The onboarding process does not have to start on the first day of employment. Rather, you can begin engaging with the new hire as soon as the job offer has been accepted. At this time, you can begin sending virtual modules that enable the employee to get to know the company, such as a welcome message from their manager or entire team or even sending out a video addressing frequently asked questions or offering tips and tricks to help employees navigate their first day. It is also helpful to send out an email ahead of the first day letting your new hire know what to expect for the week ahead and showing them how to set up their home office, including information on logging on and setting up passwords, as well as providing the contact information for a point person who can help troubleshoot any issues they may encounter.

Get cultured

While many things move quicker when it can be done in the virtual world, getting folks on board with your company culture when they aren’t in the office can prove significantly more difficult. However, there are a number of work arounds you can employ to help new hires feel more connected. One idea that we love that has been used successfully at many companies is to assign each new hire a “cultural ambassador” who is charged with teaching the new hire about the company’s values, mission and general ethos. In addition, it can also be nice to connect new hires with other recent employees so that they can form bonds and connections and help guide each other through the orientation process.

Let’s get digital

When folks were in the office, much of their first day was likely dedicated to filling out paper after paper to get them set up in your HR system and ready to roll! Rather than mail things back and forth – which not only prolongs the process but can open you up to a security breach – consider digitizing your new hire paperwork and pairing them with a video conference so that you can be along to answer questions as they go through the documents and witness signatures.

Change it up

According to the pros, Zoom fatigue is a real thing! Rather than plan for a full day of video conferences, make sure that your employees are getting to learn the content using the formats that best convey the information. Where possible, use a combination of one-on-one chats, screen sharing, on-demand videos, interactive training modules, and even good ol’ fashioned PDFs and phone calls! Sure, it may sometimes feel a bit cumbersome, and may even prolong the onboarding process to a degree, but it is better to take your time and make the training effective than to skip over things and keep your new hire in the dark.

Keep tabs on them

Depending on your position in the company, you may not have cause to check in with the new hire on a regular basis. However, as the person that oversaw their hiring, you are a natural point person for them to lean on for support and guidance. Since you aren’t their manager, they can come to you with any uncertainties or concerns and you can either address them in the moment or put them in touch with a point-person who can. These informal check-ins, which should happen across the new hires first year with your company, are integral to their development at your company and can even help shed light on any weak spots in your onboarding process that you can address to further strengthen your program.