The Modern Manager's Guide to Virtual Onboarding

Posted by Muhammad Talha on Sep 8, 2022

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Congrats on recruiting the perfect candidate for your remote role. However, the work is far from over. There’s still a crucial phase that will determine the immediate future of your company’s new remote employee: virtual onboarding.

Employee onboarding is tough. From making sure the new employee has all the support they need to consistently checking in on them, there are a lot of boxes to check. Add the layer of doing all of that virtually, and you’ve got yourself a whole new challenge.

Remote onboarding doesn’t offer the context of social cues, which an in-person experience does. If not approached correctly, the new team member won’t get the attention they need to feel welcome and thrive in your organization.

The key to successful virtual onboarding is proactive planning, using technology effectively, and being closely involved with the new employee as they get ramped up. This 4-part guide will help you in this journey.

Part 1: Create and Maintain a Virtual Onboarding Plan

Onboarding doesn’t have to be a new struggle each time, where you execute its different phases at random and risk creating a broken employee experience. You need a robust virtual onboarding plan that any manager can turn to whenever a new employee joins.

The more comprehensive your plan, the better since it will result in fewer assumptions and bottlenecks arising from a lack of clarity. At the very least, it should include:

  • Detailed Processes — What exactly does a new employee need to do to get ramped up? A typical experience includes signing up for different tools, meeting with team members, and completing training courses. Make a list of all the required processes, and break each of them down into detailed steps. This will help serve as a roadmap for both your managers and employees.
  • Duration — The average onboarding experience lasts 90 days. Consider the time needed to complete your processes and lean on any data from previous onboarding surveys to determine a reasonable timeframe. Consider virtual and in-person onboarding journeys differently if you follow a hybrid work model.
  • Schedule — Break the entire journey into timeframes and milestones to set clear expectations. Determine the suitable time needed to complete each of the processes.

Save everything into a living document and make it accessible to everyone in your company. Then revisit your plan from time to time and tweak it if needed.

Part 2: Set the New Virtual Employee Up for Success

It’s your job to enable the new remote employee to finish their onboarding and succeed at their job. Here are some things you can do to make that possible:

Manage the Paperwork

Finishing the necessary paperwork is essential to onboarding from a compliance perspective. Make sure you have your new employee complete and sign all tax forms, benefits enrollment paperwork, and any non-disclosures. Ideally, this process should begin before their first day.

Make it as convenient as possible for employees to finish the paperwork. Email them soft copies of everything and use an electronic signature service. That way, they won’t have to complete these formalities on-site, and your company will save money on mail.

Equip Them with the Essential Technology

Technology is what enables remote work. Ensure your employee has access to all the tools needed to support their work. This entails looking after:

  • Hardware — This typically includes a laptop or desktop and peripheral devices. Either reimburse the employee or deliver your own equipment to their address.
  • Software — Create your new employee’s work email and invite them to sign up for the relevant tools your company uses. These primarily include remote collaboration software, such as an asynchronous communications tool (like Slack) and a video conferencing platform (like Zoom). It should also include other software specific to the job, along with generic platforms such as your HR and payroll tools.
  • Internet Connectivity — Arrange a faster internet connection for the new team member if needed and agree to reimburse them for at least some of their monthly bills.

Share Your Knowledge Base

Work-from-home employees don’t have the luxury of simply walking over to their co-workers to ask for help. The best solution is to create helpful resources that cover all of the onboarding and job-specific processes one step at a time.

Save everything on the cloud and provide access to all relevant employees. They can dive into this knowledge base and find answers to their questions without depending on another team member.

Part 3: Get the New Employee Settled In

The new remote employee has completed their paperwork, set up all the necessary tools, and is now ready to officially start their job. Make them feel welcome and give them room to ease into their role.

Cue the Introductions

Start off by giving the new employee some much-needed face time with the company. A person from human resources should book virtual meetings on their behalf during their first week with the following:

  • An HR Professional — This is an opportunity to welcome them and share helpful information regarding their onboarding expectations.
  • Onboarding Buddy — Assign an existing employee to be the new employee’s onboarding buddy. Have them meet earlier in the first week for introductions. The buddy can help answer some initial questions to make the new employee feel at ease.
  • Manager — The employee’s team lead should put some time on their calendar for a one-on-one video call with their new direct report. They should use this opportunity to get to know the new employee better, answer job-related questions, and set expectations for their first few months.

In addition, allocate some time in the next team meeting where you give your new employee a chance to introduce themselves to the rest of the crew. Turn it into a fun ice-breaking session to make them feel like a part of the team.

Start the Training

The new employee is highly motivated to make an impact. It’s your job to show them how to do that in the context of your organization. Share all the necessary training resources with them through your learning management system (LMS) so they can get started.

Set a schedule with clear deadlines for each training session, lesson, or course. This will help ensure that the employee doesn’t take too long to complete their training. Encourage their manager and peers to help answer any questions as they go through the learning material.

Check in From Time to Time

The first few months at a new job can be nerve-racking. Therefore, it’s important for an HR person, their manager, and their onboarding buddy to consistently check in on the newcomer to make sure everything’s alright and that they’re meeting expectations.

Ask them how they’re settling in and if there’s anything you can do to make their lives easier. They’ll appreciate the gesture, and rest assured knowing you have their back.

Part 4: Evaluate Your Virtual Onboarding Process

There’s no such thing as a “perfect onboarding program.” There will always be room for improvement. To that end, evaluating your virtual onboarding program, getting insights, and improving are crucial. Here are two actionable ways to do that:

Survey the New Employee

The best way to evaluate your onboarding is to speak directly with new employees and ask them for their opinion. The potentially unbiased feedback may provide valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your program. Create a survey and ask them to complete it at the end of their onboarding period. Here are some potential template questions worth including:

  • Did you receive all the information and help needed to thrive during your first few months?
  • Did you feel comfortable assuming your new role?
  • How was the training experience?
  • What could’ve been done differently to make your onboarding better?

Add more questions that matter to your business. Get insight from the survey results, and take action to make things better for future employees.

Look at the New Employee’s Performance

Tapping into the performance metrics of the new employee can also help provide valuable insight into your program. The employee’s manager and a performance management system can help provide this information.

Was the employee able to meet their expectations during the first few months? Did they finish their training on time? Can you confidently say they’ve assumed the role they were hired for? Ask yourself these questions to help you evaluate the most relevant areas in your program.

Let Inova Handle Your Virtual Onboarding Program

Your virtual onboarding process will make or break your remote recruitment efforts, so make it count. But creating, executing, and maintaining a robust plan is challenging, especially on top of the numerous HR initiatives on your shoulders. Inova’s HR outsourcing service helps ease the burden by overseeing your onboarding process from start to finish.

Our certified HR experts will get to know your business, company culture, and specific onboarding requirements. Then, we’ll devise a suitable strategy to effectively ramp up new hires into your organization.

Interested? Book a meeting with our team to learn more and get started.

Topics: Employer Basics, Human Capital Management, Human Resources, Employee Communications

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