How to Have a Successful Virtual Onboarding Program for New Employees

As the business world adjusts to work during social distancing guidelines, many organizations are left scratching their heads as how to welcome new employees properly and ensure the first few weeks provide the same quality training as usual. 

Fortunately, there are numerous means available to make a virtual and unusual onboarding process feel, well, pretty normal. You just may need to get a little creative. 

Below, we’ll share some helpful tips on how organizations can combat the obstacles social distancing presents and provide an onboarding process that checks all the usual boxes and sets new hires up for success.

Help establish a home office

A fully-equipped workspace is critical for all remote employees to stay productive, especially for new hires embarking on their first few weeks. Because new employees won’t be able to come to the office, make sure you ship everything they’ll need to get started on the right foot: laptop, mouse, monitors, phone, headset, office stationery, pens, etc. Take some time to evaluate a supply list of essentials for specific roles to prevent any delays of necessary equipment. 

Several systems for new employees will also have to be configured (Teams, Slack, Outlook, Adobe, and whatever else your organization uses). While it’s certainly possible to help set this up through video conferencing, it’s even better if you can ship the laptop with as much of this configured as possible. Think about how you want to relay sensitive passwords and credentials safely, too. 

Adjust your traditional training regimen 

Now that you’ve prepared how you’ll help new hires get everything they need for a successful start, it’s time to think about how your training program is suited for online delivery. It’s common to have multiple welcome binders full of information on how to use various systems, review benefits, and other preliminary information. While you can choose to mail these items, it may be even better to repurpose them into PDFs or PowerPoint decks for easier access and delivery. 

Any training sessions involving more senior team members will also have to be facilitated via video conferencing, so make sure whichever tool you are using is suited for training purposes. Additionally, make sure that both instructors and participants are provided with any additional material they need that would typically be in the office. 

Get creative with your communication

In addition to the ample planning you’ve done to prepare before the first week, once it’s underway, make sure you’ve set up as many touchpoints as possible to make sure new hires are progressing issue-free. Don’t ignore the usual staples of the first week as well; fun introductions to team members, introductions to leaders and other departments, and even virtual welcome lunches should all still be conducted to the best of your ability. 

Beyond just getting up to speed and introduced, the first few weeks are very important to new hires as they get their first chances to set a strong first impression, display their personality, and begin developing relationships with team members. A virtual onboarding, however, can rob them of this opportunity and, if left unattended, can cause new employees to be anxious about how they’re fitting in with the greater team. 

Remedy this by providing ample opportunities for group communication, both formal and informal. Lean in on your internal communication software and try to allow new hires to get as much face time as possible with the company. 

Remind managers of the importance of one-on-one check-ins

As your new hires progress beyond their first week and begin to get settled, remind managers to still schedule one-on-one meetings weekly. This provides a more suitable environment to tackle any issues, answer questions, and help each new employee feel that they are supported and that you are invested in their progress. 

Distance is a natural antagonist to togetherness, but putting in an extra effort to ensure new hires feel that their voice is heard, their ability is appreciated, and their value to the greater team is important can work wonders in making what is an abnormal onboarding process feel a lot more normal. 

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