Breaking Down Virtual Onboarding Best Practices

Posted July 20, 2020 by Justworks in Hiring and Onboarding
Ensure your company’s virtual onboarding experience sets new hires up for success and provides a smooth transition from newly hired candidate to team member.

Implementing an effective virtual onboarding process is an important key to setting your company’s new hires up for success. Whether you hire fully remote employees or people who will temporarily work from home due to COVID-19, creating a quality virtual onboarding experience is critical to effectively integrating new team members into the organization.

Virtual onboarding just got easier with this checklist.

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Set the Stage Through Pre-Onboarding

Once a conditional offer is made and the candidate clears the background check, you're ready to set a start date and begin the pre-onboarding phase. What happens during this time will set the stage for the overall virtual onboarding experience. Provide clarity on what new hires should expect during onboarding and start building a meaningful connection to the organization. For example:

  • Send a welcome email that includes information the candidate will need to know prior to the first onboarding session, such as the onboarding schedule, equipment requirements, a company overview, and a link to a brief getting to know you survey.
  • Ship a carefully curated welcome kit to the new employee’s home to start building a sense of connection to the organization. Include some fun logo items — think caps, shirts, mugs, etc. — and other goodies.

Choose Virtual Onboarding Tech Tools Wisely

Virtual onboarding shouldn’t involve a series of phone conversations sandwiched between printing and scanning piles of paperwork back and forth.

Virtual onboarding shouldn’t involve a series of phone conversations sandwiched between printing and scanning piles of paperwork back and forth. Instead, it’s important to utilize appropriate tech tools and systems to simplify and streamline the onboarding experience.

  • Use a collaboration platform that allows for easy screen sharing and video capabilities, such as Zoom or GoToMeeting.
  • Avoid unnecessary printing and scanning by utilizing a secure electronic signature tool, such as DocuSign or Adobe Sign.
  • Rely on an easy-to-use HR management platform that simplifies new-hire setup, benefits enrollment, payroll, and compliance support all in one place.

Standardize Virtual Onboarding Procedures

Virtual onboarding doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. Don’t reinvent the wheel every time a new team member joins your organization. Instead, standardize the virtual onboarding process a bit. This will make it easier for you to manage and help ensure a consistent experience for new employees.

  • Use a checklist to help ensure that all necessary onboarding activities are completed with each new employee.
  • Create templates and form letters that can easily be customized for key communication related to onboarding.
  • As much as possible, try to coordinate start dates so multiple people start the onboarding experience together. This helps streamline facilitation while also allowing new team members to start bonding with one another.

Initial Onboarding: Welcome and Paperwork

Share a schedule of upcoming department, team, and company meetings and events and encourage new hires to participate, even in ones that are optional.

The initial part of the onboarding process is usually handled by the same person or department with each new hire. Depending on how a company is structured, this is often handled by HR, the office manager, an administrative assistant, or the business owner. Examples of initial onboarding tasks include:

  • Welcoming new hires to the company
  • Conducting virtual icebreaker activities (if multiple new hires are starting together)
  • Providing an overview of company history, mission, vision, and values (live or video)
  • Reviewing the employee handbook, org chart, and key policies or procedures
  • Providing new hire notices and gathering new hire documentation electronically (Form I-9, Form W-4, policy sign-offs, benefits enrollment, etc.)
  • Providing communication details such as a company directory, login information for company platforms, etc.
  • Delivering required new hire training (as applicable), such as harassment prevention or safety training
  • Completing employee development tools (if used), such as personality or team assessments
  • Clarifying expectations for continued onboarding within the department

Many of these initial onboarding tasks can be streamlined by HR tools and software. If you're planning to do a lot of remote onboarding over the months to come, make sure you have a solution in place that makes the process easier both for you and your new hires.

In-Department Virtual Onboarding Experience

Assign a peer buddy to provide new hires with a non-management point of contact on the team.

Once the initial new-hire tasks have been completed, an employee’s direct supervisor becomes responsible for in-department onboarding. This phase typically extends for 60-90 days past initial onboarding, and sets a new team member up to master key duties and responsibilities and become fully integrated into the team. Examples of virtual onboarding activities appropriate for this phase include:

  • Hold an initial 1:1 dialogue between the manager and each new employee focused on relationship building, departmental overview, workflow, initial tasks, questions, etc.
  • Establish a frequent, regular schedule for 1:1 manager/employee check-ins for ongoing dialogue, two-way feedback, and goal setting.
  • Host a meet-the-team session (via a collaboration platform) or other virtual team bonding activity so existing team members and newcomers have a chance to get to know one another.
  • Assign a peer buddy to provide new hires with a non-management point of contact on the team.
  • Encourage team members to reach out to the new employee with a personalized welcome to the team message (via a collaboration platform or email).
  • Provide job-related training to prepare new employees to succeed; provide feedback.
  • Share a schedule of upcoming department, team, and company meetings and events and encourage new hires to participate, even in ones that are optional.
  • Assign new hires to speak with key personnel in other departments to help them develop a stronger understanding of the organization as a whole.

Building Company Connections

The key to implementing an effective virtual onboarding process lies with building a strong connection between each new hire and the company from the beginning, and continuing to reinforce that connection from the very first day of employment until the individual becomes a fully integrated member of the team. From there, of course, it remains important to focus on maintaining open two-way communication and laying the groundwork for employee engagement.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.