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5 tips for virtually onboarding your new hire

Onboarding has historically been a process where a new starter is given the knowledge and skills to become effective within their new role. Last year, companies and recruitment businesses moved the hiring process online, where virtual interviewing and assessment became the norm.

With physical handshakes long gone, successful online onboarding is vital for new starters who are unlikely to meet colleagues for the foreseeable future, or indeed enter a physical workspace.

Studies show that effective onboarding reduces the time it takes a new employee to effectively contribute to the business:

  • 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience great onboarding. (SHRM)
  • Glassdoor Research found that organisations with a strong onboarding process improved new hire retention by 82% and improved productivity by over 70%.
  • Organisations with a standard onboarding process experience 54% greater new hire productivity. (Urbanbound)


How do you set up a virtual onboarding process?

Whether your organisation has a formal online onboarding process, or you are a line manager, here are five top tips:


1. Preboarding:

This is the time between your new hire accepting a job offer and their first day. Onboarding should start as soon as they have accepted the job offer. Communicate regularly, opening with a welcome email. This is a good way to inform them of when to log in for their first day and ask if they have questions. Also, be clear on what you need from them, such as any paperwork. Provide key diary dates if there are any online training courses scheduled. This can be useful for the employee to know before joining, in order to arrange childcare if they are home schooling. Could your new starter access their company email and payroll prior to their start date, to ensure everything is set up and ready to go on day one?


2. Get the tech ready:

Contact your IT department to set up the new email account, and deliver computer equipment in advance. Have all the login information, company ID and security key cards ready, so your new employee can work from home easily. A new starter sitting at home waiting around for logins and equipment does not create a welcoming impression!


3.Plan the week(s)

As you map out the first weeks, keep in mind what their actual experience will be like. It sounds good on paper to receive training by Zoom, but no one wants to sit behind a camera seven hours a day for a week. According to the Human Capital Institute (HCI), 58% of organisations say their onboarding programme is focused on processes and paperwork, so keep these to a minimum where you can.

Follow any large reading tasks with a mini quiz, to aid comprehension. Where possible, see if there is any online content, such as a video, that the new starter could watch. Everyone learns differently and visual or interactive elements can be more engaging, particularly to the younger workforce.

Have colleagues from the new employee’s department or team give overviews of their fields, tasks and responsibilities. This will ensure you have some time to do your daily tasks and don’t forget to schedule a team coffee morning, or Friday drinks as a      social element within the first week.

Remember, the idea isn’t to fill in every minute of every day, but to provide a self- serve menu of focus areas and milestones. Provide variety in tasks that require virtual meetings, quiet concentration, and pen-and-paper work.


4. Assign a Virtual Buddy or Mentor:

Orientation and laptops are only part of broad onboarding efforts. A ‘virtual buddy’ from the team or organisation can be a go-to for help with any issues that crop up. The buddy should be experienced, willing to help, offer advice and share the way they approach their work.


5.Regular catch-ups:

Pre-pandemic, managers and team members could easily stop by a new hire’s desk to talk, but the virtual environment makes this challenging. In these check-ins, go beyond just that day’s priorities – ask how they are doing, and try to include social aspects that enable an understanding of the new starter as an individual. These meetings allow you and your employee to change your approach if necessary, helping them to stay motivated, happy and productive. Making regular online ‘one-to-ones’ part of the onboarding process will let you track how well it's working. Ask for feedback, too!

Remember that onboarding isn’t just for the first day, week or month, as experts recommend onboarding takes at least one year. A ‘congratulations on passing your probation’ note or ‘welcome to the team’ gift can also be a nice touch in a virtual world.


Onboarding - Not just for new starters

Finally, onboarding isn’t only for new employees, but returners to work too (think those returning from parental leave, illness or long-term furlough). As companies continue to adjust to remote working environments, onboarding new (and some existing) employees will remain a challenge. We hope these tips help you to feel more comfortable and confident in virtual onboarding. If you need any advice, Meraki Talent are always here to help!

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