Virtual Onboarding: How to create a great new hire experience remotely

Here are three areas of support to consider when creating your new remote onboarding experience: strategic, social and operational.

18 Sep 2020 Articles Recruitment Trending Best practices

As COVID-19 continues to influence how business gets done and keeps employees working remotely, important processes such as employee onboarding must adjust to the current virtual world.

First impressions are important, and how your organisation welcomes a new hire and ushers them into your company will have an enormous impact on how engaged they are and how quickly they reach their full potential and productivity. In a remote setting, it becomes even more crucial to be able to integrate new employees and not leave them feeling isolated or struggling to familiarise themselves with the company culture and work environment.

With no physical office to welcome and connect new employees, how should the onboarding process adjust with the times? What are the tools and support you need to provide your new hires with to ensure a great remote onboarding experience? Here are three areas of support to consider when creating your new remote onboarding experience: strategic, social and operational.

Strategic Support

A key component of an onboarding process is helping newcomers understand and identify with the organisation structure, goals and culture. 

A strong company culture fosters unity and keeps remote employees connected to one another, and creates a sense of belonging to a greater community or purpose. However, it can be challenging for new hires to get a sense of your organisation’s culture and where the work of the team fits in the total context of your organisation’s strategic plan and shared goals when they are working strictly in a remote environment. 

Here are a few steps to consider support your new hires in this area.

  • Start by introducing your organisation’s values, mission and behaviour expectations and have senior leadership involved in the onboarding process to share the story behind the company’s inception. This will inspire your new employees as well.
  • Think of ways to virtually demonstrate your company culture, such as through virtual team lunches and regular check-ins, to allow your new hires to better understand and align with your business culture.
  • Help them have a clear idea of how their work fits in to broader organisational goals by working with representatives from different departments to provide an overview of the different departmental objectives and goals, and their contribution to the organisation. This will also help your new employees meet employees from different teams and build their internal networks.

Social Support

Traditionally on an employee’s first day, new hires would be shown around the office and introduced to their colleagues and team members. Positive relationships at work are key to establishing and maintaining high employee engagement, and in a virtual setting, establishing such connections will be more challenging.

The good news is that teams can continue to build interdepartmental relationships and instil a sense of camaraderie. 

On the employee’s first day…

  • Create a dedicated session for the team to have them introduce themselves and welcome the new colleague, preferably via a video conferencing platform, and use this opportunity to express excitement about them joining the team
  • Walk them through what their onboarding will look like and what they can expect over the next few days or weeks

Unlike an office setting where you can physically check-in with your employee, it is easy for the onboarding process to lose momentum. 

Over the next few weeks…

  • Set regular team huddles and check-ins to touch base and gauge how they are progressing and address any pain points early on
  • Find opportunities to get to know their general interests outside of work – this lets them know that they are valued over and above the work they have been hired to perform

Operational Support

It is important to provide your new hires with the right materials and knowledge to do their job well. 

This includes

  • Providing IT equipment and administrative support, e.g. arranging for the collection of the company laptop, setting up their email address and providing access to online collaboration platforms
  • Modifying your onboarding content has for virtual learning, e.g. using a combination of training mediums such as recordings, live sessions, interactive modules, virtual exercises and written materials
  • Assigning a work buddy or mentor to help accelerate the new hire’s onboarding as not being in the same physical space makes it challenging to shadow a colleague
  • Ensuring at the outset that the employee is clear about who to turn to in various situations, e.g. work issues, technical queries, navigating HR systems – and emphasise that they should not hesitate to use these channels.

Even in these unprecedented times, the shift to remote working shouldn’t prevent your new hires from having a positive onboarding experience. Keep in mind that the onboarding process sets the tone for your new hire’s experience with the organisation, so it pays to invest time and effort in replicating it virtually to make it a positive one.