7 virtual onboarding ideas to welcome new hires

Your HR team is delighted with their final list of new hires—a talented, smart lot who aced their interviews and show considerable promise. In less than a year, however, the two best performers among them have quit and you are left wondering what went wrong. This is not an uncommon development in our times. But what does it take to avoid such situations? 

A good onboarding programme, for one, is key to helping you retain talent. However, virtual onboarding—now a given in post-pandemic times—presents its own set of challenges, lacking the all-important human factor that helps new employees integrate deeply with an organisation. Here are seven tips to help you put together an effective virtual onboarding process and get past this concern.  

“Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. Companies with weak onboarding programs lose the confidence of their candidates and are more likely to lose these individuals in the first year. “

(from The True Cost of a Bad Hire, a study by Brandon Hall Group)

  • Jumpstart your onboarding

An employee’s first day at a new job is typically a mixed experience. Understandably, a jumble of emotions are at play: anxiety, eagerness, doubts and more. If showing up in person at an organisation generates such mixed feelings, imagine what it is like for an individual who has to “join” remotely. Stripped of the familiar, touchy-feely traditions of face-to-face introductions, handshakes and early bonding experiences with new colleagues, Day One on the job is not likely to be an engaging experience. However, with virtual onboarding gaining ground, it is essential that you seek ways to replicate the warmth and familiarity of a human encounter, ease tensions and build confidence in your new recruits from the get-go. Here are some ideas:

Build links before onboarding. Start the bonding process as soon as a candidate says yes to your job offer. Some consumer companies, for instance, put together a gift pack of their products with a welcome note and send it to their new hires’ homes before their first day at work. Other “survival kit” ideas for new hires: a water bottle, company giveaways, stress balls or a snack pack. 

It is never too early for new employees to start learning about the business; in this “pre-boarding” phase, consider emailing them a welcome package that would include links to information on the company’s products and services, industry-related webinars or video-based training programs.

  • Provide good tech support

Ahead of your new employees’ first day at work, coordinate with your IT division to have any hardware delivered to their homes, loaded with software subscriptions they will be using on the job. You should also communicate the login information they will need. 

One way to make new recruits feel like a part of the team even before they start work is to set them up with the software you use for video chats and messaging. Add them to relevant groups so that they can “meet” their colleagues online before Day One.

  • Ensure strong, interpersonal connections across company divisions

In a remote-working set-up, employees miss out on ways to bond with co-workers as they would if they were physically present, for example, during coffee breaks, meetings or walking down office corridors. In the absence of these organic ways to develop relationships, it is necessary that you proactively create opportunities in a virtual environment for your new hires to mingle with others. 

Keep it light and make it fun. A key function of onboarding is to lower the new employee’s anxiety. One way to accomplish this is to introduce informal and fun activities in the onboarding process. Ice-breaker games like Dumb Charades, online quiz programmes and charity events, for instance, can help to foster bonhomie, enhance communication among team members and lessen feelings of isolation. 

Millennial video conference

One quick and fun way to get new hires to learn about their workplace is to create an online “Scavenger Hunt” during their first week, where they must seek out several types of information. Here are some examples of topics for the game: 

  • About the company: Year of inception, names of current senior management, countries of operation, first client, organisational values
  • About team members: Employees who (a) have been with the company since its founding (b) have a specific talent or hobby (c) work as volunteers

Tweak these prompts as applicable to your company.

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Encourage formal and informal interactions. To get past the absence of spontaneous and organically occurring communication, encourage both existing and new employees to connect over video, both for formal discussions on company rules, responsibilities and business targets as well as informal conversations during coffee or lunch breaks. 

Consider providing a small stipend to team members to share a first-day lunch together… remotely, of course! Pre-select a few online team-building games that the group can play over lunch or moderate an informal chat session for members to get familiar with the new hire.

  • Spell out your company culture

The sooner your new employees understand and learn to “fit” with your company’s ethos, the happier and more productive they will be. Schedule video sessions to explain how office systems work and what is expected from the staff in terms of performance and behaviour. Encourage your new team members to ask questions and clarify their apprehensions. 

Take the guesswork out of cultural norms. Clue in your new employees on the nuances of company culture from the time they join instead of leaving them to find out on their own. The company website, for instance, could capture your organisation’s history and ethos through images and videos. Provide documents that clearly communicate expected norms of dress, etiquette, work hours and other dos and don’ts. This simplifies life for new hires and leaves no room for vague anxieties or doubts. 

Assign a buddy or mentor.  A “buddy”, as the term suggests, is a person whom new hires can approach informally to resolve their concerns about office culture. Ideally, this should not be the employee’s immediate superior. The new hire should feel comfortable enough to have frank conversations. 

A buddy should be knowledgeable about the company and willing to spend time helping new employees adjust to their work environment. The buddy should also be proactive in seeking the perspectives and thoughts of new employees. Such interactions can take place over video calls or informal chats. A capable buddy can effectively sensitise new employees; for instance, at the end of a team discussion, he can privately counsel a new employee on any inappropriate actions or behaviour that may lead to negative perceptions among team members. 

HirePro’s customisable onboarding platform introduces your new hires to your company philosophy, culture and important organisational policies. On this platform, you can enable a buddy system to make new employees feel comfortable.

  • Define job expectations

Give your new employees a clear idea of what is expected of them in their initial months and later. State their responsibilities and show them how their individual productivity will contribute to the company’s overall performance. The clarity and purposefulness you bring to this part of onboarding will help your new workers to understand their priorities and quickly come to grips with their assignments. With this, you will be laying an ideal foundation for talented employees to grow and move forward. 

Additionally, at a more inspirational level, your HR team could share presentations and communication materials that enable new employees to understand and link their efforts to the company’s mission, values and broad objectives. 

Provide support and encouragement with thoughtfully designed schedules. A few weeks into a job, new employees typically begin to worry about the adequacy of their skills. Young workers can feel intimidated by more experienced and confident colleagues and doubt their ability to “fit” into the organisation. To help them through these early difficulties, list tasks that they must accomplish over scheduled time periods. Set simple targets for the initial months and step up their responsibilities gradually to push up their confidence. Be generous with positive feedback.

  • Build on your early onboarding initiatives through the first month and later

As your new employees settle into their assignments, your onboarding initiatives must continue to sustain them. The following tips will help you remain in touch with them as they expand their connections and get into the groove of their tasks:

One-to-one discussions. Schedule individual weekly chat sessions to catch up on any shortcomings you may notice in a new team member’s skills or performance. If you have online training programmes that can help overcome these concerns, point them out to the individual. 


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Make these sessions more than just about work. Enquire about the individual’s feelings. Provide specific feedback on where he or she is doing well and which areas need improvement. Finally, set clear goals for the forthcoming week. 

Your discussion should be a two-way interaction. Encourage your new team member to speak up about workplace challenges and seek honest feedback on how they have aligned with workplace reality. 

  • Stay in touch with your new employees

Think of your virtual onboarding initiatives as a process that extends well beyond the early months of an employee joining the company. Do not wait for a year to pass to gauge its effectiveness. Rather, keep checking regularly (without overdoing it, of course!) with your employee to know whether the onboarding is satisfactory or if any intervention is needed. 

Talent acquisition today is a challenge with multiple organisations vying with each other to recruit skilled candidates. In this environment, there is a real need to keep your hires from switching to other employers before their joining date. HirePro’s onboarding platform can help you combat this risk by delivering a rich brand experience where new recruits will be able to quickly learn about your company culture and crucial policies and work on projects and assignments that will build a connect with your company even before they start work. Find out more about our AI-based onboarding platform