Virtual Onboarding: The New Normal
Let me start by saying a new hire checklist is a great tool, but we need to start looking beyond checklists for onboarding. We have adapted to a new way in how we live and work, and for many organizations that has meant moving to fully remote work teams. This brings up the new challenge of virtual onboarding and ensuring the same positive experience and engagement level as before remote work.
Onboarding checklists have been around for decades, and many of the items are easy enough to tick off, even remotely. I won’t bore you with the usual, instead, I want to share a few best practices that you should consider for a positive virtual onboarding experience for the new hires entering your workforce.
Engage Your New Hire Even Before They Join
This is a stage often overlooked in onboarding and it is even more crucial now in the virtual environment. Once the candidate has accepted the job offer, in most cases, there is a gap of 2-3 weeks from the offer acceptance to the start date, you want to start getting them engaged even before they start. Have someone from their new team-to-be reach out to them and connect for a casual video meet and greet within 2 days of them accepting the offer. Building a connection before their first day will help get rid of the new job jitters, get them excited about their new job and give them a sense of security in knowing they are going to be entering a supportive and collaborative environment.
Use A Virtual Buddy System
There are many approaches to the buddy system, and you have to see what makes sense for your organization. The virtual buddy can be a coworker of similar rank, or perhaps another recent new hire that has gone through the onboarding phase. The virtual buddy should facilitate introduction meetings and be a support to them for questions and concerns during their first few weeks. There should be a few checkpoints in place 2-3 times a week for the first month, and then the relationship can continue organically.
Encourage Video Interactions
Multiple video calls in a day can be overwhelming for many of us, however, for a new hire, it is important to build personal connections from day one. It limits the feeling of isolation. Virtually connecting with more coworkers will speed up the comfort level of integrating into the team. It can also help bridge gaps in communication, as you can sense tone and body language. It’s a more meaningful way of conveying the company culture and values, rather than relying on corporate or written communications.
Be Transparent With Expectations
As ironic as it sounds, being fully remote is forcing us to connect with our teams at a more personal level than before. Being at home brings each individual their own unique set of life responsibilities. It’s important to understand the environments that each team member is working in and the same goes for your new hire. It is not easy for everyone to work the traditional workday and so many are spreading hours throughout the day based on their individual needs, some people are working from home with children, elderly, or roommates in shared spaces, among many other variables. Having the conversation early is crucial to setting up for success and managing expectations from both sides. Transparency builds trust and engagement. It lets your new hire know that they should feel comfortable sharing their challenges of working remotely so that you can work together to create reasonable expectations and work schedules.
Developing a strong and clear virtual onboarding program, specific to your organization, will ensure a successful path for your new hire as well as positive experiences for how they judge their first few weeks. Adding a few new practices to enhance the virtual experience for your new team members will prove to add the right support for your remote new hires.
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