Virtual Onboarding 201: Beyond the Paperwork
New hire onboarding — whether it’s in-person or virtual — is much more than signing contracts, filling out paperwork, and setting up email accounts. Your onboarding program needs to set employees up for long-lasting success. Adding structure to your program can help. New employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years.
Welcome your new hire to the team
Send an email as soon as you can after they’ve accepted the offer and encourage other teammates to do the same. This will quickly establish a sense of social acceptance, which is linked to newcomer success.
Ask team members who met the new hire during the interview process to send a personalized email or LinkedIn message to welcome them to the team. This begins to create connections with new team members and further contributes to a sense of social acceptance.
Make their first day memorable
There are countless ways you can welcome new hires even if you can’t meet them in person. Send them a virtual greeting card. Invite them to give a tour of their home office space and introduce their “coworkers” (whether it’s their children, pets, or even a favorite houseplant). Encourage other teammates to do the same. Include time for casual conversation or icebreaker activities in your team meeting so there’s a chance for everyone to get to know each other on a personal level.
Consider the unique circumstances of working remotely
Share expectations for working hours and communication. Is there a daily standup? Core working hours? How do team members keep everyone informed on what they’re doing? Let your new hire know how often they should check in. Be sure to offer recommendations about unplugging to avoid burnout. And don’t just provide this information verbally — put it in writing so they can reference it later.
Help new hires acclimate to your team and company culture
The topic of a workplace’s culture makes up an average of just 30% of onboarding programs, even though struggles with culture are a big reason why many new employees fail. In an office setting, new hires might be able to absorb culture more naturally. But it takes extra effort in a virtual setting. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Document everything! Fully distributed companies like Zapier and GitLab stress the importance of having a well-maintained handbook that acts as the go-to for getting all questions answered.
- Make sure leaders set a good example of culture-specific behaviors. At Udemy, leaders reinforce the learning culture by setting aside time for learning and regularly sharing courses they’re taking on Slack.
- Speaking of leaders, make sure your CEO and other executives participate in frequent company-wide check-ins like “Ask Me Anything” sessions or fireside chats. Try to rotate through each time zone where your employees are located so everyone has at least some chances to watch the sessions live.
Be more intentional about your remote onboarding process
A comprehensive onboarding experience for your new hires is non-negotiable. The more time and intention you put into onboarding, the faster your new hires become engaged and productive. For an even more comprehensive guide to help you plan out your new hire onboarding, check out this checklist and share it with others: 11 Steps to Onboarding New Employees Remotely.