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Virtual Onboarding: Make It a Valuable Experience for New Hires

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced innumerable leaders and HR pros to reinvent how their employees work. After the initial shock of working remotely full-time, many leaders have recognized the positive impacts of flexible, virtual work. 

As a result, several company leaders have elected to develop more permanent work-from-home policies. However, when looking at your organization as a whole, many processes will not easily switch from in-person to fully remote. 

Virtual onboarding is one of the prime examples. Before going fully remote in response to COVID-19, just 12% of HR pros report they used virtual meetings only to conduct onboarding sessions, according to Doodle’s 2020 research study, Recruiting & Onboarding Employees from a Distance. This small percentage demonstrates that the majority of HR teams do not have much experience in virtual onboarding. Furthermore, the same study found that only 16% of HR pros feel extremely prepared to switch to a fully-virtual recruitment and onboarding process. 

Although leaders and HR pros like yourself will, of course, aim to keep morale high, the experience positive, and new hires feeling like part of the team, it is a challenging transition to implement this vital process in a remote setting. 

Here are four ways you can enhance your virtual onboarding experience: 

1. Make onboarding a virtual fan fair

Successful onboarding isn’t possible with just a one-and-done meeting under any circumstances. There must be more interaction with new hires for them to be comfortable in the new work environment. 

This inclusion is especially imperative for virtual onboarding. According to the Doodle research study, one of the top challenges of virtual onboarding is integrating new hires into the established team. It is difficult because the new hires aren’t surrounded by their co-workers or immediately immersed in the company’s culture.  

To overcome this challenge, make virtual onboarding a weeklong, exciting experience. The continued support and positive energy over several days create a more welcoming experience for a new hire. It is also essential to encourage frequent interaction between the team and new hires. Ask employees from various departments to hold meetings or schedule in a few minutes for virtual coffees. 

2. Create a career roadmap

The first week at your company is not the time to promise a new hire that all of their career goals will be met. But you should clarify your expectations for their role and present potential career growth opportunities. 

A great way to do this is through digital career roadmaps. 

Career roadmaps help you communicate your short and long-term goals for a new hire by sharing your expectations for their first week, month, six months, and year of employment. It can also improve the new hire’s awareness of areas for growth as they reach those specific milestones.

Use a video or easy digital media tool (like Canva) to create these roadmaps for new hires. These digital formats make it easier to comprehend and remember the information. 

3. Foster inclusive micro conversations

In addition to making new hires feel like part of the team, communication can be a significant challenge during virtual onboarding. Misunderstandings and confusion are more difficult to resolve when the parties involved are physically isolated, especially if a new hire lacks the comfort and confidence necessary for effective communication. 

To ease both integration and communication, foster inclusive micro conversations, and immediately include new hires in them. These smaller exchanges set the foundation for relationships and rapport among your employees. They allow a new hire to see more authentic sides of their co-workers and be more willing to connect with them. 

Micro conversations can be held on your chat tools (like Slack) or built into video meetings with the entire team to give new hires a solid understanding of the group dynamics. 

4. Invest in technology training

It is almost always overwhelming for new employees to transition into their new position because there is so much to learn in the beginning. But in a virtual onboarding situation, they’re not just learning the new processes. They must also understand how to use the technology your company employs to make those processes happen. 

Training sessions throughout the week of onboarding will be ineffective if your newest team members aren’t prepared to navigate all of your digital tools and systems. 

Invest in quality videos or short courses that offer step-by-step instructions on how to use the programs and platforms with which your new hire requires familiarity. Also, select a team member to help the new hire with troubleshooting tips. It is always beneficial to have an established go-to person on hand when questions or unexpected problems arise.