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Onboarding in a virtual world

Onboarding is a multifaceted process and there are many factors to consider. It is challenging when the new hire is based in the same office, but when you need to onboard a new hire virtually the challenges are multiplied.

May 28, 2020

A man sits waving at his computer as he's onboarding in a virtual world

The effective onboarding of a new hire will help to shape their career, support their continued development and also enable the new hire to make a positive contribution to the overall success of the company much sooner. Onboarding is a multifaceted process and there are many factors to consider. It is challenging when the new hire is based in the same office, but when you need to onboard a new hire virtually the challenges are multiplied.

Consider these key activities when onboarding virtually

The current situation has led to organisations needing to pivot quickly and digitise the entire onboarding process.

The important aspect is the new hire feels welcome and understands what is expected from them on day one. They feel set up for success! Further down the line, the results of this can be seen in increased employee engagement, productivity and retention.

We have complied a list of thoughts to consider when onboarding employees virtually.

  • Communication is key in any onboarding process; however, it plays an even more significant role when onboarding talent virtually. Companies should be in constant communication with the new hire. Providing a detailed outline of the new hires onboarding schedule ahead of start date will help them manage their expectations, particularly when it comes to receiving essential equipment i.e. laptops etc. Following this, time should be put aside on day one to run through and answer any questions the new hire may have regarding the schedule.
  • Create a working virtually info sheet to share with the employee before they start which includes helpful information such as, setting up your virtual workspace, tips on looking after yourself as a remote worker, working virtually dress code (if applicable) and any other key information required so they can feel supported and set up for success.
  • Ensure that there are regular touchpoints set up for the new hire and their direct manager to connect. Touchpoints via a video call is preferable to emulate an in-person meeting and to make the meeting feel more personal.
  • Organise virtual introductions to key team members, whether it be inviting the new hire to a daily stand up or organising virtual coffee meetings or lunches, these are all activities that will assist the new hire in feeling welcomed and facilitate the building of relationships.
  • If possible, pair the new hire up with someone in the team who they can virtually job shadow and contact with any questions.
  • Depending on how large your organisation is and how many new hires you have starting concurrently, consider setting up a virtual group where new hires can connect with other new hires.
  • Ensure that the new employee’s email address is set up and that they can access all systems, tools and applications needed to complete their work. It is also important that they know who to contact with any questions they may have regarding using any applications or troubleshooting. The new hire should also be added to any groups on platforms used by the company to communicate and stay in contact (audio and visual) so they can connect with their team.
  • It is best practice to have a log to track all remote equipment not only for new hires, but any employees who have a remote working set up. This ensures that when/if the employee eventually transitions to a physical office/workplace you know exactly what equipment needs to return with them.

Why is onboarding and pre-onboarding so integral?

Engaging with the new hire between offer, acceptance and their first day is imperative. This involves having a strong pre-onboarding process, so the employee feels excited to start their new role and most importantly welcomed and part of the team all before they open their first email. Some examples of pre-onboarding activities include:

  • Start building relationships: This can be as simple as a handwritten card welcoming the new hire to the team or inviting them to any virtual team building activities.
  • Prepare them for their first day: Ensure that they have someone they can contact to answer any questions they may have before they start. Prepare a welcome pack for them so they know what their first day/week will look like including who will greet them? what they will be doing? who will they be meeting? It is also important to ensure their equipment is delivered on time, so they are set up with everything they need.
  • Prepare the team for the new hires first day: Email the team a copy of the onboarding schedule before the new hire is due to start so they know what time to meet them and any other logistical details. The inclusion of a short bio and photo of the new hire in the email can also be a nice touch.

The onboarding process is an opportunity to immerse the new hire in the company’s culture and values. It is integral that companies communicate their culture and values at the beginning of the onboarding cycle, starting with the interview process. This sets the standard of the company’s, culture and can be the driving factor as to whether a candidate chooses your company. The onboarding process and any induction should further embed this message and demonstrate to the new hire how these values are put into practice through behaviours, rewards and benefits. An article written by Brett Gleeson for suggests that employees who believe in the company culture, have shared values and work well with managers and team mates demonstrated high job performance and were more likely to stay with the company.

Whilst it is important for the new hire to understand the company’s culture, policies and procedures, onboarding should not stop there. Studies have found that approximately 20% of employee turnover happens within the first 45 days. Further to this notion, Isaac Lueng from suggests that one of the reasons why a new hire might leave is due to a lack of understanding of their role. How can this be mitigated? Managers should create 30, 60 and 90 days plans for their new hires. By having a formalised document on what the new hire needs to achieve at each touchpoint everyone involved in the onboarding process understands what is expected. Perhaps even more critical than that, is the new hire will rely on these plans and opportunity for learning and development to structure their day to day activities. It will also aid in them understanding what they need to achieve to be successful.

Starting a new job is a daunting experience for anyone, especially when you don’t know anyone. It is crucial that during the onboarding process there are opportunities for the new hire to be integrated into the team. Whether this be a welcome lunch with their immediate team, a formal introduction to key business partners or participating in virtual companywide networking events using a video platform. Ensuring that the new hire has opportunities to get to know people within their first few months can help build relationships.

All of the above activities are just a few elements of a structured and robust onboarding process. So, what is the significance of all these elements? Research conducted by our parent company Allegis Group in their report Staying in Front: An Inside Look at the Changing Dynamics of Talent Acquisition found that a quality onboarding experience helps to facilitate time to productivity, as high-performing talent functions report that it takes an average of six weeks for a new hire to become productive compared to nine weeks for other organisations. Effective onboarding helps to ensure this investment is given the value it deserves.

Whether your new employee is starting in the office or working remotely effort invested up front on the onboarding process will help to yield a successful, engaged employee in the long term.