Onboarding processes are common in the office place, with new hires typically undergoing training and mentoring from their colleagues.
But as the workforce shifts to virtual setups, companies are starting to disregard onboarding measures, which leaves a lot of remote workers in the dark about how to kickstart their new employment.
Onboarding processes are crucial for retaining and motivating employees—whether in-office or remote. An effective onboarding process helps retain employees by 80% and increases their job productivity by over 70%.
Effective onboarding is critical to the employee and employer relationship. You need to know how to create an onboarding process that will keep your remote workers engaged and productive. Let’s discuss what a virtual onboarding process is and the six best practices you should adopt.
What Is Virtual Onboarding?
Virtual onboarding has all the elements you would find in an in-person onboarding program. This includes activities or training materials that allow your new hires to acclimate to the new work environment, learn everything they need to know to get started with the company and their role, and become familiar with the company culture, communication protocols, policies and so on.
But a remote onboarding process adds more of a challenge. Because it is run online, you need to do what you can to keep your new employees engaged and allow them to learn everything they need to in an online environment.
With virtual onboarding, you don’t have some of the opportunities you do in physical onboarding, such as introducing them to different departments, walking them around the office, and showing them the tools and equipment they can use. Nor do you have the benefit of improving the learning session with non-verbal cues.
Instead, everything is done in front of a computer—but that doesn’t mean virtual onboarding is ineffective.
As long as you can communicate well and curate an onboarding plan suitable for an online learning environment, you can ensure that your remote employees are onboarded adequately into your company.
How to Carry Out a Virtual Onboarding Process
Virtual onboarding processes can be successful with these best practices. So make sure to adopt these tips the next time you hire a new remote employee, and don’t be afraid to adjust them as needed.
The moment you decide to hire a remote employee, the pre-onboarding process begins with some important admin tasks.
Gather employee information
First, gather all the information that you need from the remote worker. This can include details like their contact information and any information you may need to set up payroll, such as their bank account information and tax identification number.
If you have in-office employees, you most likely already have a list of information you need for all new hires. Ensure you add or remove items to make it suitable for remote hires too.
There will probably be some paperwork that you will need your new hires to fill in. Use a means of sending it that will make signing documents and sending confidential information easy and safe.
Create account credentials
Your remote worker will also need access to the tools and platforms that your company uses. Well before the official onboarding, ensure you have all these ready for them. You should do this early so your new hire can begin to become familiar with the platforms before they start.
To make this step easier for you, create a list of all the applications and software that you use and create accounts for them accordingly. Some of these may include:
- Company email
- Communication platform
- Content management systems
- Time-tracking software
- Project management software
- Spreadsheets and documents
Deliver work equipment
If your work agreement with your remote worker involves you providing them with the equipment they need to build a work-from-home setup, ensure you get these delivered to them as early as possible.
Ideally, they should have everything received and set up before day one of their employment.
Schedule the onboarding
Once everything else above is settled, you’re now ready to inform your remote worker about the schedule for onboarding. You can send them a calendar invite or provide the meeting room link to a video conferencing app. Ask your new hire to confirm their availability and attendance.
Make sure that you set a date that works best for all parties. If you need other team members in the onboarding, align your schedules to ensure that everyone important can attend.
2. Create a Positive First Impression
The onboarding is the beginning of your new hire’s experience in your company, so make sure you’re creating a positive first impression. In other words, don’t scare or intimidate them!
Be friendly and conversational, and create a fun learning atmosphere for them. Show them you’re excited they’re joining your company and looking forward to working with them more closely.
But making a positive first impression isn’t only about being nice. Different aspects of the onboarding can also make or break their experience. Here are some other things you should observe:
Be on time and well prepared
Just because you are the employer doesn’t make it okay for you to be tardy. Make it a point to be on time and don’t waste any second of the meeting.
Once pleasantries have been exchanged and the ice has been broken, get straight to business and discuss your agenda. This will show the new hire that you are well prepared and not just winging the process.
It would help for you to have a presentation ready so that the onboarding flows smoothly. If you have some, show some introductory videos of your company. If you have a ton of materials to go through, consider spreading the onboarding out over a few days to avoid overwhelming the new hire or at least factor in coffee breaks.
Make it a point to set the new hire’s expectations about your company, the job, and their responsibilities. Discuss with them in detail what they will be doing and how that will affect the company’s goals.
You should also cover the work culture and ethics, as well as your policies and rules that might affect their working experience.
Setting expectations straight beforehand can help them adjust more seamlessly.
Make an onboarding checklist for them
All the new processes and information can be overwhelming for your new hire. Your goal should be to make things more manageable and achievable for them while they are adjusting to your company. It can be helpful to make a checklist of their immediate tasks.
List what you want them to do during the first day, first week, and the first month of training. This will give them a good overview of what they’ll be doing in the long run and ensure they have a clear path to success.
Assign an onboarding support group
Learning doesn’t end for your new hire when you complete the onboarding process. They may have additional questions or need things clarified that you weren’t able to discuss during the call.
It will help them if you assign an onboarding support group or onboarding buddy who can continue guiding them throughout their training.
3. Introduce Vital Tools and Resources
To help the new hire get more familiar with your processes and how to go about their daily tasks, introduce them to the collaboration tools, resources, applications, and software that your company uses.
By now, you should have given them access to these so that they can explore the platforms as you go along the onboarding process.
It would greatly help to be detailed here. Give them an overview of how to use the software and provide them with tips on accessing, navigating, and using the company’s tools. After the onboarding, allow them some time to explore and try out the tools themselves.
4. Let Them Experience the Company Culture
Aside from the job and responsibilities, your new hires will likely stay with you if they like your company culture. Hence, you have to put your best foot forward and allow them to experience it for themselves.
This starts with an introduction. Introduce them to key people they will work closely with, such as their managers or colleagues and their batchmates (other new hires). You can even make this more fun by doing an introduction round during onboarding or schedule in time for informal chat during breaks over video calls.
In addition to introducing them, make sure you’re helping them feel welcome and accepted. A sense of belonging can go a long way to increase productivity and improve employee retention.
Feel free to motivate them to share their interests, then introduce them to other team members or groups within your organization with shared likes that they can connect with.
At this point, you may also want to provide your new hire with resources that will familiarize them with your company culture, such as company brochures, mission vision statements and the company handbook. While you’re at it, talk to them about your organization’s goals and how you value employee contributions that help you reach those goals.
Above all, celebrate your new hires. Let them know you’re excited that they’re here and are grateful for them! This will go a long way in motivating them to work hard and stay productive.
5. Make It Last
Onboarding is not a one-time thing. It needs to last throughout the employee’s first couple of weeks on the job. Keep guiding them and encouraging them during their training period with regular check-ins (even if their onboarding buddy is doing so too). Make it a point to check how they’re doing and ask them if they’re adjusting all right. If not, ask how you can help.
Doing this will not only help them adjust to the job faster, but it will also allow you to be consistent with your new hires and make them feel valued and heard in your company. This makes for happy employees that will stay loyal to your organization.
6. Gather Onboarding Feedback
Your new hires will significantly appreciate you listening to their opinions and feedback. So, make sure you provide them with an avenue to voice their thoughts or ask questions. Start with your virtual onboarding program.
During the call, you should also be as open as you can to their questions. It would help to ask them if they have queries now and then so you know they’re following the new information well and not feeling overwhelmed.
Check-in with new hires and ask them questions about the onboarding. Allow them to share their experience and ask them if there are things you can improve on. While doing this, ensure you’re making a safe and comfortable place for them to share their concerns.
Hearing their opinions is not enough—make sure you also apply their comments and revise your onboarding process accordingly. Doing this will help you improve your onboarding and create more fruitful and enjoyable experiences for your next hires.
How you onboard your remote team members can make or break how happy and productive they are with your company.
With research showing that 9 out of 10 new hires would consider quitting in their first month if a job doesn’t meet their expectations, it’s crucial that you foster a good experience that will improve employee retention.
Virtual onboarding can be a different ball game than physical or in-office onboarding. But with the right tips and a concrete plan, you can create a memorable and fruitful virtual onboarding experience for your new hires.
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