The COVID-19 pandemic has all but enforced remote recruitment as the new normal among companies seeking to onboard fresh talent. For new employees, their early days on the job spell both excitement and stress. How do companies bring in the much-needed human touch to their experience? A thoughtfully structured virtual onboarding process eases their entry, allays apprehensions, and attunes them to your company’s standards, expectations, and culture.
Studies show that nearly 7 out of 10 employees are more inclined to stay with a company for three years or more if they experienced an optimal onboarding experience. Without the traditional options of on-site training and onboarding programs, companies must find creative ways of providing new employees with an immersive and engaging experience during their formative first days on the job.
What is Virtual Onboarding?
Unlike conventional onboarding, there is no in-person interaction during virtual onboarding. Remote onboarding employs video conferencing tools, online resources, webinars, text resources, and interactive exercises that new employees can access and revisit via their desktop, tablet, or mobile device. Typically, remote onboarding and in-person onboarding complement each other. However, as companies find innovative workarounds to deal with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, several companies are shifting to a 100% virtual onboarding process.
Glassdoor reports that a robust onboarding process improves the retention of new hires by 82% and enhances their productivity by over 70%. Thanks to virtual onboarding, new employees, who typically learn about their company haphazardly from coworkers and superiors, can get a comprehensive overview of your company’s mission, vision, values, business goals, internal policies, and more in a virtual format that can be accessed at their convenience.
How does Virtual Onboarding Work?
A typical virtual onboarding process consists of the following elements:
The first step in the virtual onboarding process is to schedule a video conferencing session between the new employees and their colleagues. This allows the team to introduce themselves and meet their new team members. Since employee engagement is key, it is essential to coordinate with the team in advance and factor in their availability. The aim is to set the stage for the team to bond and to make regular interaction with new employees a priority from day one.
A blend of professionalism and warmth
New employees are often anxious during their initial days and require handling with tact and sensitivity to put them at ease. Striking the right balance between professionalism and warmth goes a long way in inducting them into the team. Providing adequate training and ensuring an open and conducive environment for interaction with team members encourages the new hires to participate in decision making from the get-go and helps them assimilate quickly.
Remote and distributed work do not always lend themselves to productive communication. In the absence of in-person interactions, clear and comprehensive communication during the crucial first weeks of the virtual onboarding process alleviates the uncertainty faced by new employees, boosts their self-confidence, and enables them to reach optimal efficiency more quickly.
Instilling company values and interpreting company culture
It can be difficult for a new employee to gain an understanding of the company culture and values in a virtual environment. Hence, it is crucial to explain the company culture and employee code of conduct to new employees right from day one. This helps them to quickly imbibe company values and implement them in organizational activities.
Defining goals and expectations
Every employee contributes to the growth and success of a company. Defining goals and objectives, setting expectations, and informing new employees about how their performance will be assessed helps them clearly understand their roles and responsibilities. In addition, ensuring transparency in communication builds trust and prevents future complications.
Challenges of Virtual Onboarding
Virtual onboarding comes with its own challenges. The absence of familiar, face-to-face interaction increases the scope for confusion and miscommunication. Hence, making anxious employees feel comfortable while solely relying on online interaction is one of the most difficult aspects of remote onboarding.
The physical distance between old and new employees creates a social gap; the lack of direct interaction can lead to a disconnect between them. New employees may lack an understanding of their role. Teamwork may suffer. Managers’ inability to directly observe new employees may reduce the newbies’ chances of promotion.
These, and other challenges of virtual onboarding can adversely impact a company’s reputation. Adopting best practices can mitigate these challenges and enhance the company’s image.
Tips for Successful Virtual Onboarding
Here are some best practices to consider for a trouble-free virtual onboarding experience.
Fix the virtual onboarding schedule in advance
Decide whether to conduct the virtual onboarding program in one day or deliver it in short bursts over a longer time frame after taking stock of other technical training programs in which the new employees may have to participate. Select the main points to cover in the orientation program beforehand. These could include congratulatory messages, inspirational words about your company’s vision and mission and how their roles align with it and helping them make connections and build relationships. Follow this up with the remaining information via emails, guides, or follow-up videos. Maintain a virtual onboarding checklist to plan the process and create a memorable experience for the new employees.
Provide an in-depth introduction to technology and essential software and tools
Every company uses a customized set of advanced technologies to conduct its activities. During virtual onboarding, it is vital to deliver your company laptop to the new employees as quickly as possible, preferably a week in advance, to allow them to learn the relevant software and set up the tools they will be using. A test calls a few days prior to their first day of work helps make sure that all the software and platforms are correctly installed so that your new hire hits the ground running.
Provide an immersive training experience
It can be a challenge to deliver immersive learning experiences to new employees over a screen. Since pre-recorded video tutorials do not favor audience engagement, companies can create interesting, engaging, and interactive virtual learning experiences using innovative technologies such as live virtual seminars that replicate the dynamism of an in-person training event and provide an opportunity for real-time engagement between the trainers and new employees. Another training innovation is the integration of virtual reality (VR) in remote onboarding procedures for a simulated and immersive training experience.
Employ the latest strategies and tools to share your company’s
cultures and values
Distance makes it challenging for new hires to foster strong relationships and truly feel like they are a part of your team. Some of the tools used to inculcate company values and ethos are branded company “welcome packs” containing company merchandise and knick-knacks like mugs, t-shirts, and key chains; asynchronous virtual onboarding classes and presentations, including assignments and exercises, for teams working across multiple time zones; and employee survey software that measures employee engagement from the first day and beyond. These strategies and tools make remote employees feel heard and valued. Besides, the feedback received by new hires can help further develop the virtual onboarding process for future hires.
Assist with completing onboarding documents
Filling out paperwork is a time-consuming task. To speed up the process, companies could consider sending in advance, the documents to be filled out by the new employee. Documents that could be sent ahead of time include policies and procedures, financial forms, job expectations, and emergency contact details. Offering digital signatures aids the signing of the soft copy of official documents remotely. A well-organized documentation procedure that preempts potential constraints reflects favorably on the level of organization in executing company procedures. HirePro’s AI-driven automation checks and verifies documents and provides auto-responses to queries for express documentation and compliance.
Deploy advanced communication technology
Virtual onboarding requires an assortment of communication technologies such as video conference meeting rooms to parallel in-person meetings; social messaging apps to develop personal connections; Human Resource (HR) automation technology for tracking the status of each new hire during the course of the virtual onboarding program; and Learning Management Systems (LMS) with employee onboarding features to ensure every new employee receives the same standard of training. Keeping up-to-date communication technology in your toolbox makes the virtual onboarding procedure smooth and frictionless.
Nurture personal connection
Since remote workers are bound to have fewer in-person interactions with their colleagues, fostering positive relationships helps establish and maintain high employee engagement. Making a conscious effort to provide new hires with virtual bonding opportunities such as regular video calls, office-wide virtual meetings, daily standups, and virtual team celebrations nurtures a sense of belonging and promotes solidarity.
Assign a buddy
Some new employees may take longer to fully acquaint themselves with your company and its culture before beginning to contribute substantially to its progress. To accelerate their learning curve, provide constructive feedback, and increase their comfort levels, a buddy—a senior or experienced employee—should be assigned to the new employee. The buddy could be contacted virtually by the newbie throughout the onboarding process to attain a working-knowledge understanding of your company and its terms. The duration of a virtual buddy program can last between 3 to 5 months for remote staff.
Check progress frequently
Zoom-fatigue is a condition experienced by employees when they switch between prolonged video conference calls and work. Their body and mind get exhausted due to design flaws in the video conference platforms, and this reduces their focus and productivity while working. Encouraging team members to assist new employees and troubleshoot such problems leads to their quick resolution. It also improves the overall productivity of the team. Besides, keeping tabs on employee engagement and tracking their progress helps in taking timely corrective action. HirePro’s accurate in-built analytics and reports help recruiters and hiring managers to track the status and progress of new employees.
Ensure that the process is enjoyable
The virtual onboarding process becomes more enjoyable when the training session introduces the new hires to exciting ideas and opportunities that are in store for them. Hiring Managers and Talent Acquisition Executives can conduct virtual sessions to make new employees aware of the ample chances they will be given to showcase their talent and skills on the job. This motivates them to be more involved and committed from day one.
Benefits of Virtual Onboarding
A well-organized and structured virtual onboarding process offers several benefits. It introduces new employees to the company, the management, and the staff. By giving them a comprehensive picture of what their job entails, it improves their performance. Virtual orientation programs enhance engagement, increase information retention by new hires, and tap into their potential. They also shorten the time span after hiring until the new employees are fully productive.
Virtual onboarding saves time. Virtual meetings held to engage new employees are much shorter when compared to in-person meetings. Besides, they are more efficient as the presenter can cover all the important topics without any physical distractions or interruptions. Online submission and processing of documents are much faster than doing it in offline mode. Thus, virtual onboarding can help bridge the digital gap and effectively emulate a traditional in-person onboarding experience.
First impressions matter. And this holds true in the context of remote hiring too. Providing new employees with a robust, structured, and personalized virtual onboarding experience is essential to boosting engagement, productivity, and talent retention. Rather than conducting virtual onboarding in an ad hoc manner, going the extra mile to nurture new hires with a well-thought-out virtual onboarding process goes a long way in making them feel valued and welcomed. It is important to note that both the quality and duration of the virtual onboarding process influence its efficacy.
As virtual hiring and remote work rapidly become the new normal, companies that aim to stand apart from their competitors and position themselves for success in the post-COVID era will have to reconsider, restructure, and adapt their branded virtual onboarding strategy accordingly. A new employee’s virtual onboarding experience has an immense bearing on their job satisfaction, productivity, and passion for the role. It determines their desire to be an integral part of your company and inspires them to become brand ambassadors of your company in the long run.
HirePro’s SaaS-based platform automates post-offer engagement and virtual onboarding activities. It can be easily and seamlessly integrated with any Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that has an Application Programming Interface (API) support. With HirePro’s advanced AI-powered and highly customizable platform, your brand can be at the forefront of the virtual onboarding process and deliver a human and seamless experience to all your new employees. Welcome remote hiring with open arms. Try HirePro’s virtual onboarding today!