Onboarding a new virtual employee? Here’s how to welcome them to the team the right way.
Take a moment to think back to the last time you started a new job. Did you know what you were supposed to do on your first day? Did you know whom to ask if you had a question or problem? Did the company seem ready for your arrival?
Unfortunately, according to Gallup research, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees. As a result, there’s much room for improvement, especially when onboarding virtual employees.
Why You Need An Effective Onboarding Process
With the Great Resignation afoot and Americans quitting jobs at a record pace, you’re likely to be welcoming more new employees through your doors this year than ever before. These new employees all need to adjust to a new role, responsibilities, colleagues, and culture. It’s up to the company to make sure they have an onboarding process that is efficient and effective. Without it, employees can feel uncertain, anxious, stressed, and possibly driven to leave within the first three months - all at a high cost to the company.
By comparison, a new hire will integrate faster if a company has a good onboarding process. As a result, it will produce higher quality work much sooner. An employee survey from Glassdoor backs this up, showing that 91% of employees who went through effective onboarding felt strong connectedness at work and 89% felt integrated with the company culture. They’re also less likely to leave.
An effective onboarding process can differ depending on the company and the role. What’s important is to make it structured, personalized, and start it well before the new hire’s first day. At the end, employees should be comfortable with the company’s day-to-day business operations and culture, understand what’s expected of them, and be aware of any company-specific processes.
For remote employees, a successful onboarding process is even more essential. These employees won’t benefit from watercooler conversations, after-work drinks, and impromptu desk chats. That’s why it’s even more critical to plan and prepare an effective onboarding process so these new hires can feel included and involved even before they officially start.
Designing an effective onboarding process takes time and will require input from various people and departments. Here are our top 12 tips for creating an onboarding process that takes into account the specific needs of virtual employees:
Before the First Day - First impressions count, don’t let your new hire down!
1. Speed up the admin work. The onboarding process starts well before the first day, with paperwork (arguably the most boring, confusing, and frustrating part of the onboarding process). It’s essential to develop an efficient method to deliver, modify, and receive documentation like contracts and W-2 forms. If your HR department doesn’t have the capability, maybe it’s time to invest!
2. Send them a welcome note and gift. While entirely optional, a welcome message along with a gift like company swag or something edible like chocolates can be a great way to make them feel like they’re already part of the team!
3. Set up all software, hardware, and access. Whether you’re sending your new hire hardware or operating under a BYOD program, make sure you give them instructions to set themselves up before Day 1. You’ll need to provide them with information for downloading software and provision account access for critical systems and programs like email, Slack, Teams, Salesforce, or any applications they will be using daily.
4. Plan and share a Day One agenda in advance. Prepare and share a schedule for your new hire with what they will do on their first day. Ideas could include a welcome call, an icebreaker activity with the team, an intro to company platforms and applications, and sitting in on some critical meetings. Be sure to book any meetings well in advance (bonus points if you can book a welcome call with a leadership team member!).
The First Week - Keep them informed, included, and connected.
5. Run a brief company orientation session. Introduce your new hire to your company and team by giving them an overview of essential business functions, key stakeholders, current goals, and any critical upcoming deliverables or milestones. Remember, it should be an informal discussion instead of a death by PowerPoint session!
6. Give them a list of important resources. There’s nothing worse than working remotely and not being able to connect to the right applications and programs. If a new hire has a technical or HR issue, they need to know whom to contact. Slack even recommends creating a #new-hires channel with FAQs, access to essential documents, and a place to meet new hires.
7. Pair them up with a mentor or buddy. Not only for school, but mentors and buddies can also be great for the office. They can be an excellent resource for the new hire. For the first week, get the buddy to book in daily check-ins, so the new hire has the opportunity to ask any questions about people, culture, systems, and more.
8. Have brief daily manager check-ins. Research shows the importance of regular 1:1 meetings between managers and direct reports. They improve engagement and communication within a team, and they’re crucial for a new hire. Now is the time to bring them into the fold for at least 5-10 minutes a day, not leave them fending for themselves.
10. Make introductions throughout the week. Social capital is critical to a thriving workplace, so it’s important to continue to connect the new hire with people throughout the week. It could be a brief intro at the beginning of each cross-team call, a Slack shout-out, or an invitation to shadow another team member. These small connections, in the beginning, will help the employee gain awareness of who’s who and provide the basis for future networking.
The First 90 days - Regularly connect to strengthen relationships and inter-team bonds.
11. Organize a fun team-building activity. Regular virtual team-building activities like a virtual escape room or a virtual chocolate-making experience are a great way to help welcome a new team member and get them to bond with the rest of the team. It’s also a great excuse for your team to step away from their day-to-day responsibilities and have some fun. Here are some of our favorite team-building activities for remote teams, some common pitfalls of organizing remote team events, and how to avoid them.
12. Maintain regular check-ins with managers. As the new hire starts to adapt to the culture and understand their role and responsibilities, it’ll be time to focus 1:1 catch-ups more on goal-setting, expectations, and ongoing performance.
13. Have an initial formal feedback session. Solicit feedback from team members, managers, and your new hire and sit down for a ‘light’ feedback session. If they’re struggling to connect with the team or their work, it’s better to discuss an action plan at the beginning instead of one year in.