7 tips for virtual onboarding

If I had asked any of my CEO clients 15 weeks ago whether they would recruit and onboard a director virtually, they would have laughed. How times change because in our recent survey 29% of our respondents said that they would do exactly this…and indeed over recent times, theory has become the reality. 

virtual onboarding

As ever, time waits for no man and if you are a company looking to grow, you need the right team in place and we have proved that recruitment needn’t be put on hold because you’re not in the same room. 

We specialise in finding executive hires that fit and use the ORESA system to ensure they are onboarded successfully. 

The challenge has been how to do this when you haven’t met the person physically? Or when they live in another territory? Virtual onboarding is for many businesses, a new frontier and so we thought it might be useful to share some of what we have learned with you. 

Here’s how to do it right. 

Before they start

Firstly, make sure you have followed our advice on preboarding. This will ensure that there are no surprises on day one!  As part of this, share the onboarding schedule with them. 

Get technology sorted ASAP 

It seems likely that most of us won’t be heading back to the office anytime soon, if at all. In which case,  do you need to provide them with a laptop, or give them access to your cloud? 

If you are providing a laptop or other tech for your new employee, make sure it arrives at their address ahead of the first day. Set up a support call with IT first thing on day one to cover the basics of getting online and then put in another session later in the week if necessary. Ensure laptops/phones are loaded with all necessary programs/ systems and also make sure there is systems training blocked out in the schedule.

Take your time with the onboarding process

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a company’s onboarding programme. Virtual or not, we’d always recommend taking time to onboard staff properly. Don’t just provide a quick whip around the kitchen, a lesson on using the printer and directions to the loo. 

The equivalent is true online. A 15-minute call on your company culture isn’t enough for the message to sink in or allow the new hire to ask questions. The first few weeks are crucial to set your new team member up for success in the company. 

Make sessions engaging and interactive 

Pedagogy is essential when onboarding online; opt for shorter bursts of learning, with a combination of videos, audio, face to face and testing, so as not to overload the new hire.  

LinkedIn has a brilliant example of their 5-day process that starts with establishing the business mission, vision and values on day one and ends with an ‘Ask me anything’ session with an expert in the new hire’s department.

Whether you onboard over a few days or a week, make sure there are regular catch-ups with other team members. Working from home can already feel isolating, you want your new team member to feel part of the team. 

virtual on boarding

Make company values and culture clear 

By this, we do not mean an hour-long presentation with your mission statement in bold font and a series of buzzwords. You need to get to the heart of your business and engage your new hire. 

Discuss your mission and values, how the company began and your plan for the future. Get them to virtually meet employees from the top to the bottom of the organisation in order to really bring the culture to life. 

Did you know that over 50% of executives now agree that corporate culture can influence productivity, creativity, profitability, firm value and growth rates? Sharing these with your new hire isn’t about ticking a box, but getting buy-in from them at the start. 

Finally, if they are not being culturally appropriate, let them know, it won’t help you or them in the long term if they aren’t getting it right. 

Peer-up and share a brew 

Peer mentors (more appropriate than a Buddy when it comes to senior leaders) are used in many offices for new hires, but they can also be used for virtual onboarding. Make sure your new hire has a point of contact who they can check in with and ask questions. Equally, their Peer should be reaching out to the new hire, arranging virtual coffee meetings and checking how they are settling in. 

You might want to organise team lunch or drinks to bring groups together online. Keep things simple with a cuppa or send out treat boxes to your employees so they can all share a moment together. 

Between the Peer and line, your new hire should be receiving regular contact. You can’t over-communicate in this scenario. In an office, you’d normally stop by the new person’s desk to catch up during the day. Use communication tools like Slack to check in and encourage other staff to reach out and say hello. 

Don’t let the onboarding fizzle out 

Set a clear structure and plan for your new hire during the first week and month. There is little point spending days making great progress in the first week to let the new hire fall by the wayside the next. 

Schedule catch-ups, Q& A’s, virtual coffees, team sessions with peers, line and board members at regular intervals.  

Final Words

A successful onboarding should be clear to those on the journey and to those delivering it. 

We know that bad onboarding leads to a higher churn rate of new employees and a disengaged workforce. Make sure your new hire feels welcome, understands what is expected of them and is embedded into the team and culture. 

If you’re looking to make an executive hire or need help restructuring your team to overcome new challenges, get in touch today. 

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