Virtual Onboarding

Virtual Onboarding

Onboarding new staff members is one of the most important functions for a Human Resource department. It is a broad term that captures many of the critical moments at the beginning of a new staff member joining a company and sets the tone for the rest of their journey at the company.

Depending on the size of the company, these processes differ. A big corporate might have an onboarding program in place that could take up to a month with various systems, policy and stakeholder inductions and for a smaller firm it could take as little as one day.

With the business models changing to hybrid models it has been necessary to move away from the traditional onboarding. The latest trend is to make use of virtual onboarding which many human resource departments are struggling with. Traditionally the fact that you could physically meet with the new staff member made the process easier and more “human”.

In essence, an onboarding program will include below which differs from company to company but from the list you can see that some of the elements will be more complex to conduct virtually:

  • Completion of onboarding documentation
  • IT and technical set up
  • A welcome presentation
  • HR sit-down to address key question
  • Q & A with senior leaders
  • Introduction to key people
  • Office tour
  • Team lunch or drinks after work

What exactly is virtual onboarding? It is a process of introducing a new employee into their new job, acquainting them with the company’s goals, values, rules, responsibilities, procedures and socializing the new staff member into the company’s culture.

Although the needs for a new employee is the same whether in person or virtually the approach is drastically different. Therefore it is important for a company to be innovative and instead of trying to mirror the on-site onboarding experience they should curate a distinct, intentional virtual experience that is aligned with the company’s culture.

Studies have shown that having a bad onboarding experience could leave the new employee feeling unsure of the their new appointment, disgruntled, unsure of what is expected of them, who their key contacts within the company is and in some cases it will be difficult for the company to retain them.

If the below is taken into consideration, the online experience could be improved:

  • Make sure that the employee is set up properly and have good connection and an understanding of the virtual software they will be using to avoid discomfort or them feeling anxious.
  • To ensure that they feel part of the team, be creative like making a personalized video from their team members welcoming them or a video of the office tour.
  • Concentration spans are shorter online, keep it punchy and interesting.
  • Capitalize on the power of technology to build new experiences. There are many tools that could help a company show their ability to adapt to the new norm.
  • Keep the tone light and encourage engagement from their side without making them feel like they are put on the spot.
  • Make sure there isn’t an awkward goodbye, leaving them concerned about how the call ended.

The main challenges during virtual onboarding has been

  • Access to equipment. Without the right access and IT equipment, the first day could be disheartening and a waste of time for the new employee and the company.
  • The onboarding program is a good time to make a first impression on the employee and needs to be stimulating to keep them engaged and get them up to speed quickly.
  • Peer to peer interaction can be difficult and hinder exchange of valuable information, both procedural and institutional, therefore it is important to be organized and have the right people connecting with the new employee.
  • With some employees using their own devices from home, there could be some logistical issues and lack clarity on how to access confidential data and what the implications are of security breaches. It might be a good idea to allocate a dedicated IT person to the new employee to ensure that they have a direct point of contact if they have any concerns.
  • Tracking of project deliverables could be a bit challenging if the employee doesn’t have access to the company network that holds critical information such as project plans. Ensure that the employee has what they need to make deadlines and regular team status meetings so that they are abreast of any changes or critical deadlines.
  • Lack of communication between the new employee and the company could leave a big void. It is recommended that there are regular networking sessions to ensure that the employee understands their role within the bigger picture and goals of the organization.

Most importantly remember that the experience doesn’t end here. Regular check-ins with a new employee from the human resource department is very important to ensure they have everything they need to perform at optimal levels.

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