In Human Resources terms, onboarding is a series of activities carried out to introduce new hires to the people, processes and culture of an organisation. In keeping with changing dynamics globally, remote onboarding has pretty much become the norm for most organisations. An established virtual onboarding process has, thus, become a necessity for the recruitment cycle.
Why Onboarding is Important
When done right, onboarding helps unlock long-term employee potential and increases the chances of employee retention. Going far beyond paperwork and employee orientation, it builds excitement for new hires, making them look forward to immersing themselves in the organisation.
Virtual onboarding especially assumes importance in remote recruitment, as employees don’t have access to a physical office space and coworkers. Traditional onboarding processes are not effective for remote workers, and this means that they need to be restructured and well-defined to cater to virtual hiring.
Organized onboarding helps cement the right first impression of the organisation. Inefficiency in the initial days can lead to employees feeling frustrated, and a sound process helps to create the right perception. New hires are eased into team and organisational culture, while being made aware of expectation. Also, a streamlined process results in lower HR workloads, but with higher employee engagement.
However, remote onboarding comes with a different kind of challenge – how is it possible to welcome new hires virtually without face-to-face introductions, office tours and team lunches? To keep remote hires engaged, a plethora of structured activities need to be conducted, so that enthusiasm levels remain high, and the new employee stays committed. Given that the person does not have any physical connect with the workplace, any kind of delay and disorganisation, especially with regard to approvals and required infrastructure, can quickly lead to frustration..
A virtual platform can completely automate all aspects of post-offer engagement and onboarding activities. Besides, coordination with different teams who need to interact with the new hire becomes a breeze.
Make it Smooth Sailing
Remote working has made it necessary for organisations to re-strategize onboarding. There are several considerations while virtually onboarding a remote employee. These include:
- Clear establishment of rules and regulations to ensure compliance
- Keeping audit trails of important communication
- Defining roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders
- Defining values and policies that need to be shared with the new hire
- Emphasizing relationships with peers, team leads, mentors and managers.
Using a virtual onboarding platform to create structured processes which also easily integrates with existing Application Tracking Systems (ATS), and connects with other Learning Management Software (LMS) in your organisation, results in a seamless flow of information.
Onboarding is not just about orientation and paperwork. Connecting with the new hire before the joining date, and maintaining a relationship well after they are absorbed into the system leads to the complete immersion of the employee in the organisation.
Branding and Pre-boarding
Once the candidate has received and accepted the offer, a period of excitement can often be marred by second thoughts and what-ifs. This is the time to jump in and build your brand, create the right impression, and keep candidates engaged. This can be done during pre-boarding, and it could start even a month before the date of joining.
Make the candidate feel welcome by reaching out via messages, portals and well-crafted answers. Enquire about any challenges that the candidate may have with remote work – for example, internet connectivity, or any other infrastructure. Maybe something as simple as the lack of an ergonomic chair! Request relevant departments for any devices the employee would require to be delivered at the remote location and ensure creation of email and mandatory application authorization. Doing this in advance with sufficient lead time lets the employee hit the ground running on Day 1. Make plans and checklists for different phases and follow up later.
An onboarding portal can be used to share digital forms and pre-recorded messages from the CEO and marketing head about the company brand. Identify policies and procedures, and ensure that relevant teams create or modify content and courseware for new hires that can be shared during onboarding. Sharing information will lead to higher engagement.
Set up an initial plan
It takes longer to onboard remote employees, given that they are not present in the physical workspace. Consider planning a complete fortnight of activities, so that the new hire is engaged. This could include informal meets, fun ice-breaking sessions and a range of activities for cultural immersion – team building, virtual office tours, informal video meets and greets, breakout rooms, and virtual coffee breaks. Invite new hires to join a few relevant meetings to help them understand work processes. Make a list of mandatory and optional courses to be taken by the employee, which they can pursue and complete during the onboarding phase.
Coordinate with other departments, explain policies to the candidate and help raise any requests and get approvals for access authorizations to various applications. Onboarding systems can easily automate the workflow for a seamless employee experience, and reduce HR workload.
Assign a virtual buddy from the same team, who functions as a mentor and provides advice. Also, onboarding people in groups creates a sense of comfort, and creates a community of new hires. Encourage video chats and friendly discussions, so that new hires feel assured that there is someone they can reach out to for any clarifications.
Establish collaboration early-on
A collaborative environment helps the new hire ease into the organisation. Welcome calls from team managers, and both formal and informal interactions, establish a level of comfort.
Team interactions via video conferencing should be encouraged. Team Leads can set up a project that the employee can be involved in for the first month or two. This can help set expectations related to the role, establish familiarity with processes, and encourage collaboration with other teams.
Provide employees access to portals and knowledge bases where they can add value. Empowering employees early-on boosts confidence, trust and a sense of belonging.
Keeping track of remote employees during the onboarding phase can be challenging. To monitor progress, consider using checklists and planners. Create separate checklists for pre-boarding, Day 1, and then for the next fortnight or month. This ensures that you cover all bases.
Collective “to-do” lists are helpful for shared accountability. These can be updated by the employee as well as the manager. For instance, courses that are mandatory can be put on priority, which the employee updates upon completion, and a weekly follow-up by HR and managers would ensure that things are happening as per plan.
Encourage peers to keep in touch with new hires, so that informal chats may reveal any problems faced in the completion of activities. Regular checks and video conferences with the mentor will help resolve any challenges during virtual onboarding.
Successful onboarding requires that organisations are cognizant of employee experience. A consistent and scheduled feedback mechanism is necessary for virtual onboarding scenarios to understand if the processes are working. It also helps ensure that any corrections can be implemented quickly.
Soliciting feedback proactively is also indicative of an open culture and makes employees feel valued. Use short surveys and polling at periodic intervals, besides garnering informal feedback over one-to-one chats or video calls.
Set up a process to gather feedback and plough it back into the system, so that the onboarding process can be refined with every cycle.
Measure success with metrics
The success of onboarding processes needs to be measured, and remote onboarding demands that organisations need to gather and analyze Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to understand the strategies that are working, and those that are not.
New hire voluntary turnover is a measure of whether the onboarding process went right. When new employees quit too quickly it indicates that there was a mismatch – either during onboarding, or the hiring process itself. At the same time, higher retention rates indicate that things are going right, and that employees are happy with the experience.
Track satisfaction levels using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) mechanism. Ask new hires a simple question: “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how likely are you to recommend this company to a friend or colleague? ” A higher score indicates higher levels of satisfaction, which means that employees are less likely to leave.
Measuring the time taken for new hires to become productive, calculating employee engagement scores, offer acceptance rates and new hire absenteeism are all indicators of onboarding effectiveness. The organisation must identify the metrics to be measured precedently, and then roll out surveys, capture data and analyze it.
Tailor the onboarding experience for employees
Rather than conducting a mass onboarding drive, personalize the employee experience for onboarding. This can largely be data-driven, by capturing employee skill sets such as work experience, education, soft skills, certifications, etc. Use data insights to match them against role requirements and identify the gaps to recommend custom programs for new employees. Eventually, these data aggregates can lead to deeper insights in terms of skill sets, gaps and effectiveness of onboarding procedures.
Using virtual onboarding software ensures a seamless flow of information. While AI-enabled systems can respond to employee queries, don’t forget to maintain a human connect with personal interactions and relevant content.
Onboarding does not last just a week or a fortnight. Even when the employee is well-ensconced in the system, HR teams need to be connected and prescient of their needs. Conduct meetings to understand employee satisfaction, what worked and what did not, and garner a few suggestions.
Remote and hybrid workplaces are here for the long-term, which means that virtual onboarding will be the norm more often than not. Companies need to scale up from traditional practices and adapt to remote onboarding to ensure that new hires do not feel lost or drop off due to a disconnect. Keep the processes nimble and flexible, while monitoring progress and feedback to make quick changes.
HirePro’s virtual onboarding platform offers convenient automation of existing onboarding processes, branding, AI-driven candidate engagement, paperless mechanisms for document verification, integration with backend systems, and advanced analytics and reporting features.
A positive onboarding experience for employees leads to higher retention rates, and ultimately lays the foundation for sustained success.
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