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Virtual Onboarding: Delivering an Excellent Remote New Hire Experience

By James Scott, CEO of Thrive.App

The Downfalls of a De-Personalised Onboarding Experience

As wonderful as technology has been in terms of powering operations and keeping communication flowing during the pandemic, it doesn’t naturally make for a personable onboarding experience.

To use one example, video conferencing enables visual and verbal communication, but experts say that rather than making people feel closer, the distortions and delays inherent in video conferencing can instead make us feel isolated, anxious, and disconnected.

This is the exact opposite of how you want your new hires to feel in their first days and weeks on the job, when they’re getting acquainted with new people and systems, and absorbing so many new processes, procedures and policies, all from afar.

Because 69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience great onboarding, current remote work situations present an opportunity to rethink your onboarding processes and ensure they are getting employees off on the right foot with your organisation.

With that in mind, here are our recommendations for using technology to ensure your virtual onboarding experience is a great one for your new hires.

Set New Hires up for Success

To start work, new hires need the right equipment and information: a computer or laptop and peripherals; access to all the programs, systems or applications they need to perform their job functions; and access to people and documentation.

Do you currently have good procedures in place for remotely setting up equipment and access? How are employees notified of those details? Consider sending them some fun company swag to welcome them in their role and install a bit of your culture into their at-home workspace, at the same time they receive necessities like a laptop.

Ensure that all new hires receive the right flow of content, documents, and training modules on a thought-out cadence, rather than receiving everything at once and having to sort through and prioritise it.

Another option for new hire materials and onboarding schedules is to make them available in an employee communications app. Your employees can access contact lists, training information, company policies, plus sign documents, all from a mobile device — even before they are online with new computer equipment.

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Providing these details in one, centralised, easily accessed place provides a streamlined experience and shows employees you have their success in mind. Plus, with an app, you have the ability to set access to content by job role and location, so they don’t have to sift through irrelevant information.

Facilitate Culture and Connection

In a face-to-face environment, there are all sorts of opportunities for new employees to get to know others and to feel immersed in company culture. But in a remote setting, the essence of culture doesn’t quite make it through to the employee in the same way and can experience a breakdown.

It might feel silly or forced, but in the absence of spontaneous chats in the breakroom, you will need to organise virtual ways for your new hires to get to know others. These might include:

  • Virtual “get to know you” games, with fun prizes awarded for participation
  • Scheduled, but unstructured, virtual coffee breaks
  • Virtual team lunches, with lunch delivered to each team member, if possible
  • Social/Photo “Walls” in an employee communications app for non-work-related banter and announcements. Bonus: In-app interactions can happen more spontaneously and on your employees’ time, rather than adding another scheduled meeting.

As you plan these types of activities, make sure that your new hires have opportunities to interact with others outside their direct team. As well, make sure to keep virtual social interactions brief and relaxed — don’t add pressure by making things mandatory, and realise that some employees may appreciate the ability to disconnect for a time. Zoom fatigue is real.

Check In With Your New Hires — And Do So Frequently

Without in-person social cues, it can be easy to miss how a new employee is feeling. They might be afraid to ask questions, and will need to know how and when they can ping you with needs or to offer feedback. They will also need to hear from you. At the new hire stage especially, frequent communication should be the default, especially when that communication happens virtually.

Determine how you can check in on your new hires routinely and often, but not in ways that are overly interruptive of their work. Use your employee communications app to send out a quick “how’s it going?” pulse survey. Or recognise them with a virtual high-five or other kudos to celebrate milestones, like a completed first day or week on the job.

When you do meet one-on-one via video or phone call, ask open-ended questions and let them do as much talking as possible. Make sure they feel comfortable sharing feedback, and help them to understand all the ways they can speak up virtually using technology tools. Make two-way communication a priority during the onboarding process and always to help them feel engaged and as though their voice matters.

Conducting regular check-ins is part of making the well-being of your new hires a priority, and to help them adapt to and adjust in their new role.

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