Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us have had to adapt to remote working and whilst many organisations have put a temporary hold on recruiting and onboarding new employees, some companies are still actively recruiting for roles that are essential to sustaining and growing their business, despite these difficult and uncertain times. Here is our guide to the virtual onboarding of new employees.
The virtual onboarding of new employees into a remote working environment is challenging and you will need to adjust your processes to ensure that new employees are set up for success and feel like part of the team.
Starting a new job can be daunting, especially when your first day is conducted remotely and you don’t have the benefit of going out for a team lunch or drinks. When bringing a new member into a virtual team, it is critical that the onboarding process does everything possible to integrate them into the team and help them begin to build trust and form relationships.
We’ve put together some tips for onboarding and welcoming new hires into a remote work environment:
Preparation and Set Up
- Coordinate with key stakeholders – Agree accountability for all aspects of onboarding and how it might be different in a virtual setting
- Hardware set up and delivery – Ensure that a laptop and other hardware are ordered well ahead of their start date and have this sent to their home in time for their first day. Work out how you are going to share passwords and log in credentials safely
- Send a welcome kit – Send your new hire a welcome kit (e.g. company branded mugs, pen and mouse mats). This adds a personal touch to their onboarding process and makes them feel valued and appreciated.
- Create a week one schedule in the new hire’s calendar – Agree within your team who will be responsible for sharing information including links to join any video conferences and team meetings taking place
Modifying your Onboarding Content for Virtual Learning
- If you typically hand new hires a welcome pack full of useful documents, these will now have to be organised into a PDF style document and sent out digitally
- If you normally do an in-person presentation introducing the company, you’ll have to modify that to suit a virtual learning environment
- The virtual tour is something that has been widely used in the property sector but is now being adopted by organisations as a key part of their induction process
- Instead of having a new hire physically sit with a member of the team to learn about the tools and systems, organise for someone to run through these via video conferencing and screen sharing
With no colleagues around to point them in the right direction, you will need to have a clear plan of work in place when you undertake virtual onboarding of new employees.
Create a timetable and schedule the following events over video conference which allows employees to make eye contact and observe facial expressions that are important to interpersonal communication:
- Individual introductions to each of their teammates
- Virtual team lunch
- Introduction to leaders in their team/cross-functional teams
- Assigning them two or three tasks they can complete over their first week
- Team meeting to discuss the team culture and expectations
- Ensure clarity around company values, team objectives and individual goals
- Establish time frames for training, reviews and milestones
- Ensure your new hire knows what their working hours are, what happens at lunch breaks and if there is flexibility in the day
- In these unusual times, when many people are responsible for children at home as well as their work, you can add some much-appreciated flexibility. Let your new hire know they can work their way through onboarding information at their own pace and in their own hours.
Use Video and Digital Tools to Maximise Engagement
- Collaborative tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack can really help in getting your new recruit on board and integrated into the fabric of your organisation
- Be mindful that some of these tools may be unfamiliar to your new hire, so make sure you provide some simple guidelines to get them up and running as quickly as possible
- No matter how formal or informal a call is, using video for every single call or training intervention is critical. This is such an important step to building relationships and connections with colleagues. Using video can also improve engagement during calls and help managers/trainers pick up on non-verbal cues (i.e. facial expressions and body language) which is important throughout training and gauging comprehension
- Recording virtual training sessions can make it much easier for new hires to easily reference when they need the information and can become a library of resources for everyone within your organization
- When working remotely, there can be less “natural” rapport-building opportunities (e.g. watercooler chats, lunches, happy hours, etc). In a virtual environment, you simply need to create these more proactively
- One-to-one time is a hugely important aspect of an onboarding process. Carve out time for regular check ins to see how they’re doing, especially in their first week. You want to remind them that they are not working in isolation, and that you are there to support them
Pair new hires with a buddy
- Pairing a new hire with a buddy helps ensure they have a person to go to when they have questions, someone who can point them in the right direction and provide support and guidance
Review and improve the onboarding process
Once new team members are settled into their role, ask them the value they got from your virtual onboarding process. By constantly evaluating and improving the process, you can help remote workers adjust to their new roles more easily and can refine for future remote hires.
Successful onboarding sets the tone for the employee’s experience with the company, so it pays to invest time and effort in making it a positive one! Even in these unprecedented times, the shift to remote working shouldn’t prevent new employees from having a positive experience when starting a new role. Indeed, a good onboarding experience will eliminate many of the ambiguities and confusion surrounding virtual work, allowing new team members to settle into their roles quickly and begin to build the relationships and trust they need to deliver results.