Editorial

22 Feb 2022

Virtual Onboarding

Kelsey Kaczynski

Onboarding refers to the systemic integration of new talent into an organization's workforce and virtual onboarding is when that process is carried out remotely.

Remote onboarding is a relatively new concept that has become a regular in HR departments and the employment lexicon as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Before 2020, almost all organizations opted to conduct in-person onboarding processes, however, the ongoing pandemic and its associated restrictions and recommendations have rendered the norm impossible. Now, it is a necessity that all HR departments run a completely virtual onboarding roadmap.

In the present moment, most companies have comfortably settled into a routine of remote, or at least hybrid, working processes. However, for many organizations, their remote onboarding processes are still lacking finesse.

A great deal of pressure rests on a company’s onboarding experience. Just because you now conduct it remotely does not mean that the standard of your process is any less important. It probably means the opposite. Instead of relying on in-person graces to impress new talent with the company values you are now entirely dependent on the curation of conferencing tools, online resources, and webinars.

Adjusting to this new normal can feel daunting, particularly when you are exclusively experienced with the traditional form of onboarding. However, it’s important to create a seamless, impressive, and engaging itinerary nonetheless.

Get it right and you’ll create a culture of employees who respect your organization, work environment, and the hard work you put in to make their introduction to the company, and remote work, hassle-free. But get it wrong, and you risk losing valued talent.

In this article, we’ll explain how you can make your onboarding system reflective of your company’s mission. We’ll run through ways that you can use to craft and run a seamless remote onboarding process and make your new employees feel right at home - from their own homes.

How do you conduct virtual onboarding?

The value of your virtual onboarding processes shouldn’t be underestimated. Your HR department should design a multifaceted itinerary that spans across a series of days, not just a start date, and fully immerse its participants into your company. For an organized and efficient virtual onboarding experience, check out flair's recruiting feature here!

Designing your program isn’t something you should take lightly, it’s something that requires your uninterrupted time, energy, and industry expertise.

So, first things first, we recommend sending a digital survey out to all of your existing employees. In the survey, consider asking the following questions:

  • What did you enjoy most about our company onboarding process?
  • What did aspects of our onboarding procedures did you not find helpful/relevant?
  • What do you wish our onboarding process had shown you?
  • What piece of advice would you like to share with your future coworkers?
  • What should future employees know about our virtual company culture/work processes?

This survey will give you an insight into your current employee's onboarding experience, demonstrate to you what you should highlight to future employees, and provide you with invaluable information which you can use to perfect a virtual onboarding process. It also empowers your current workforce and includes them in the integration process. This helps to promote a holistic team dynamic.

Once you’ve gathered all completed surveys, meet with your HR fraction and consider what kind of events and virtual meetings you would like to incorporate into your plan.

Your onboarding itinerary shouldn’t just be the first day and done type task; instead, it should be an intricate and well-thought-through plan that covers all bases and includes scheduled check-ins.

We advise planning a detailed itinerary full of a variety of events and video calls. However, remember to be conscious of your new employee’s schedule when organizing this. While you need to have a 3 to 4-day schedule ready for them, which introduces them to their prospective role, future team members, and company culture, it’s also vital that you don’t overwhelm them with too many calls or meetings. You don’t want them to feel overlooked, but it’s also key that they don’t feel too pressurized. Starting a new role can be stressful so make sure to give them the time to adjust and rest.

In addition to formal calls and meetings, why not include some fun, informal events such as a virtual scavenger hunt and general knowledge quiz too? Get creative! Try out a mix of games, interactive sessions, and prerecorded content.

Speaking of rerecorded content, preparing some killer videos which explain your company culture, ethos, structure, etc, can be a lifesaver. It will give you, your new talent, and your other HR colleagues a free block of time that you can all use to regroup.

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What are the 4 phases of the virtual onboarding process?

Before you begin to plan your transition from traditional onboarding to virtual onboarding, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the classic four phases of onboarding so that you can design a plan that ticks all the right boxes. That way, you can draft a clear strategy that engages candidates, promotes new hire retention, and enables them to adapt to your organization easily from home.

Phase 1: Pre-Onboarding/Orientation

The first phase of onboarding is called pre-onboarding or orientation and it begins the moment your new hire accepts your company’s offer. Yes, that’s right - that early. Kicking off the onboarding process early is key to securing their confidence and providing for a smooth transition. The earlier, the better.

First things first, run through the following list with your candidate and make sure each stage is complete:

  • Ensure they have signed their new work contract and are aware of any contractual formalities/obligations
  • Make sure they have notified their previous employer of their termination
  • Confirm an official start date
  • Help them complete any paperwork
  • Check if you need to aid them in relocation processes
  • Check that they are aware of any correct work attire obligations
  • Confirm a suitable time for them to pick up any work equipment from the office
  • Prepare a welcome package full of little treats and company merchandise
  • Ensure their access rights have been clarified

The first phase of the onboarding process might not be the most exciting, but it is one of the most important in ensuring that you onboard new employees properly. It’s a very crucial time for your candidate’s relationship with you and your organization. You need to demonstrate a clear behavior of trustworthiness, organization, and understanding so that they feel comfortable and enthusiastic about their decision to join your company.

Phase 2: Welcoming new hires

The second phase of onboarding should help your candidates ease into their company culture and team dynamic. For this reason, we advise incorporating team introductions and company calls into this stage of the process.

Most new hires will be eager to get started, though, so it's better to restrict this phase to less than a week. Keep in mind that most new team members will not know anyone else working at your organization yet, so this stage will be the first time they meet any future employees or managers. Many individuals find this kind of challenge more daunting when done virtually, so make sure to be extra supportive during this phase. Make an extra effort to help them feel welcome.

Use it as an opportunity to explain how the payroll works, run through the software, and their day-to-day duties via comprehensive training sessions. Explain the basics. You can even incorporate topics such as holiday allowances, medical insurance, and working from home policies if you like. You can also check out flair's payroll feature `!

We recommend starting this phase on day one of employment via a series of explanatory calls, introductory meetings, etc. Keep things relaxed and simple.

Phase 3: Role-Specific Training

This phase is one of the most important in the entire onboarding process. There is a direct correlation between this phase and the future of your new hire in the company.

During this phase, it’s important to explain the role and expectations of the new hire’s role entirely and comprehensively. Make sure that they are in total understanding of what is expected of them and what any repercussions that may occur should they not keep up with their role. Ensure that they feel comfortable asking you any questions about the company procedures and also direct them to a member of their team who can advise them on any department-specific issues.

Without formal training like this, employees won’t know what it takes to thrive. You risk creating an environment of dissatisfaction, miscommunication, and confusion instead of one that emulates trust and openness. During periods of home office, this stage is even more important since the new hire is already detached from their new company.

Phase 4: Ongoing Development

Phase four of the virtual onboarding process is meant to help employees transition from the role of a new hire to the one of a full-fledged employee. Though it does not have a clear timeline, it should run throughout their entire probation period.

This phase should heavily involve the managing team of your new hire. It is their responsibility to set clear expectations for their new team members so that they know what they are responsible for and how they can progress in the company and meet expectations in their new role.

For this reason, we suggest that you set up regular settings with the new hire’s management so that you can confirm that they have:

  • Scheduled regular performance reviews
  • Scheduled weekly check-ins
  • Created a map for continued personal and professional development

By ensuring this line of communication is taking place, you and helping your new hires understand how they can reach their goals and achieve success at their new job.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of virtual onboarding?

Though adapting to a new onboarding system can be a big adjustment, there are multiple benefits to switching to a remote system.

  • It ensures you can hire throughout the pandemic.

Nobody knows how long COVID-19 restrictions will last and so developing a remote onboarding system is absolutely necessary if your organization would like to hire any new talent during this time.

Put simply, it ensures that your organization can continue to grow, expand and post new jobs.

  • It is efficient

Arguably the largest benefit of a virtual onboarding procedure is its increased efficiency. Sure, developing a new system of onboarding can be time-consuming, however, once you have the process completed and streamlined it should be more efficient at integrating remote employees into the company than in-person routines. There is less chance of things going wrong.

  • It means you can hire new talent from anywhere

Having a virtual onboarding process has encouraged many companies to switch to operating on from a remote office or at least a hybrid work model. This virtual environment means that your company can hire the best talent, no matter where they are located, and provides your HR team with fewer restrictions.

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Despite the mentioned advantages of virtual onboarding, however, there also exists a multitude of disadvantages that are associated with the process.

  • It increases the risk of employee isolation

It is natural for individuals to feel alone when they are working remotely every day, no matter the number of video conferences or virtual events. This may cause some talent to disengage from company culture because they don’t feel like they are part of a team but rather an individual worker.

  • Technical Issues

By their very nature, virtual learning and working environments are subject to technical issues such as security, network, and bandwidth glitches. These issues can interfere with both your employee experience and the progression of your organization as a whole.

  • Poor Working Culture

Despite arranging multiple social events and first-week introductory conferences, a virtual work environment will probably not have the same energy or buzz as an in-person one. This can lead to a weaker sense of team alliance, engagement, and participation.

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What are some must-haves for virtual onboarding?

Now that we’ve run through the backend of virtual onboarding, here is a quick list of must-haves that you and your company should secure before conducting your first session. We advise using it as a final touchpoint before polishing off your new virtual procedure.

  • Zoom logins and Zoom usage guidelines for employees who haven't used the application before
  • Additional videoconferencing tools should Zoom
  • Applications to sign documents virtually
  • Templates made for all documents and contracts to be converted to digital formats
  • Regular social events for new teammates and senior employees
  • A handbook complete with all relevant passwords, interface rules, and backend instructions
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Final Tips to Provide the Best Experience for your New Hires

While optimizing your onboarding process is a key strategy for improving your employer brand and recruiting better candidates, that doesn’t mean that your onboarding procedure has to be strictly business. In fact, we recommend that you incorporate some fun activities into your process too.

In between your scheduled Linkedin courses and Slack group chats, we suggest organizing relaxed informal events into your onboarding program too. For example, why not include some company swag in your welcome basket? Or arrange for virtual happy hours every Friday? That way, you can ensure that your employees are working hard, but also having fun.

In this article, we’ve fully explained the importance of virtual onboarding and examined how you can convert a preexisting traditional onboarding routine into a state-of-the-art virtual process. We hope that it has aided you in your knowledge of remote HR practices and wish you the best in your procedural transitions!

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