How to onboard employees virtually
In the past, a new employee would show up on their first day and get thrown into the mix. They might go through a few organized sit-downs with managers, financial controllers, or a department head to get them up to speed, but mostly, they would learn by watching.
Onboarding digitally is a very different experience than onboarding in-person—not just for new employees, but also for the existing team members already working with the company. There are a few things that are especially useful for creating an authentic experience.
You must be very specific regarding what your culture is like, beginning with the interview. Give them a sense of what a day of their role would look like. Walk them through some of the problems they could expect, and talk with them on how they feel regarding them.
Something that has been found to be beneficial is pairing new hires with senior employees who can act as mentors. This gives the new hire someone they can go to for questions, but more importantly, it gives them a way to feel included. A mentor gives you reassurance.
In terms of onboarding a new employee, structuring time to answer questions, introducing them to other team members, or walking them through client materials is priority number one. There should also be moments where other employees spontaneously reach out.
These moments of serendipity are everyday occurrences in a physical office. When working remotely, we have to work a little harder to engineer them. Send a few check-in emails to the new hires or, better yet, pick up the phone and ask how things are going.
Find ways to build relationships so new team members feel they’re part of something and that people in the organization care for one another. What we are learning from this shift to digital workplaces, is that the way we interact needs to be done with intention.
Being effectively onboarded into an organization deals with communication: how you communicate the workings of the company, how you communicate standards and expectations. It sends a signal as to how the new hire should communicate.
Have someone from your marketing team put together a quick video that can be used for new hires. Including interviews or videos with leadership and employees across teams and levels can give a new employee a good grasp of the corporate structure, everyone’s roles, their personalities, and how each team and employee is connected.
Asking people to record clips on their phones is an easy way to get this done, and makes it feel relatable. Set up a buddy system. Give someone a go-to resource they can ask questions of, and make sure to introduce them first-thing on their first day.
Set up ‘meet and greets’ with as many employees as you can, even if it’s not someone that the new hire will work with daily. There’s nothing worse than joining a meeting and having to ask someone who half the people are because you have never seen them before.
Don’t jam everything into one day. The first day on a job is always overwhelming, so don’t overload a new hire with all the details. Spread out how you can to ease them into everything. Create a probation period plan with concrete goals and small projects.
Although getting onboarding right represents a massive opportunity, getting it wrong represents an even greater risk to an organization. 1 out of 5 new hires will leave within the first six weeks — and it has never been more critical than during the Great Resignation.
It’s important that everyone involved in the onboarding process knows what they need to do. Even more critical are the actions of the new hire’s manager during the first few weeks. Research shows the hiring manager’s impact on an employee’s engagement is 70%, so it’s critical for managers to receive thorough coaching, guidance and reminders.
Instead of giving new hires and managers a list of information and tasks to complete on the first day, onboarding should be viewed as a journey that takes place before, during and after a new hire steps through the office door. This relieves much of the first-day stress by providing new employees the right information at the right time.