The WHAT, WHEN, WHY, and HOW of virtual onboarding

The WHAT, WHEN, WHY, and HOW of virtual onboarding

Recently, many companies went from thinking about remote work plans, to implementing them. Remote working has numerous benefits, including the ability to hire skilled workers from other locations. One question that arises, as remote working becomes a norm and companies need to start looking at how to manage it going forward, is how to make new employees part of the team if you have never met face to face? It is clear that remote work is here to stay and as such, so is the virtual onboarding of new staff.

WHAT is virtual onboarding?

Firstly, what exactly is virtual onboarding? It’s the process of introducing and integrating a new remote employee into a company, virtually. Using video conferencing, webinars and various other online resources, virtual onboarding familiarises the employee with their new role and equips them with the tools and information they need to be a productive team member. Successful virtual onboarding also socialises the employee with the company’s culture, values and goals.

WHY is virtual onboarding important?

If you’re wondering why companies should invest in virtual onboarding, here are two compelling reasons:

  1. Onboarding has an impact on the bottom line.  Onboarding gives new employees the tools they need to quickly and effectively contribute to your company’s goals.
  2. Onboarding affects employee retention. It only takes new employees days or weeks to decide whether they are going to stay or leave in a new position. In short, onboarding matters.

HOW to implement virtual onboarding?

It is even more of a challenge for remote employees to feel part of a team and correctly implemented virtual onboarding can help with team integration. However, It’s not effective enough to take your existing onboarding system online. Changes will need to be made. Companies can consider making use of one of the various virtual onboarding software packages available.

It’s important to remember when hiring remote staff, your new employee’s needs may remain the same but your approach has to be completely different. “New hires want virtually what they wanted in person. How you’re going to offer that is drastically different.” Says Kate Pavlina, Amazon's HR Business Partner, “Instead of trying to translate the on-site experience, try curating a distinct, intentional virtual experience that is aligned with your organsation’s culture.”

Three quick steps to help simplify virtual onboarding:

  • Train and coach your managers:  don’t make the mistake of assuming they will know how to integrate new staff remotely. Give them the tools they need to virtually onboard new employees.
  • Implement a virtual buddy system: that way the new employee has someone they can connect with during the virtual onboarding process. Someone they can ask the questions they might not feel comfortable asking a manager.
  • Don’t information overload: it’s easy to bombard a new employee with information when it’s done digitally as opposed to face-to-face. Bear in mind everyone works at a different pace and new staff will need for time and space to process new information and systems.

Another of the key levers for successful virtual onboarding which Kate Pavlina has identified, is remote staff member’s desire for empathy and understanding from their employers. Good news for women who are natural communicators and will easily be able to foster meaningful connections with their teammates.

WHEN should I implement virtual onboarding?

If you are hiring remote staff, the time to re-look and adjust your onboarding system is now. The good news is that virtual onboarding is an ever-changing process. No company has ever ‘arrived’ at a perfect system. There is always the opportunity to gather feedback and implement changes. In the words of Jennifer Quirk of Enboarder, “Your company should be striving for progress, not perfection.”


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