Tips for Virtual New-Employee Onboarding

Mitchell_virtual onboarding November 23, 2020 By: Barbara Mitchell

Whether you’re bringing new hires into your organization in person or—more likely these days—virtually, the goal is the same: Set them up for success. Here are tips for doing it right in a remote workplace.

Q: We’re struggling to onboard our new hires since we’re mostly working virtually. Do you have any suggestions for successful remote onboarding?

A: The goal of onboarding is to make the new employee as productive as possible as quickly as possible. This means onboarding should start before the new hire’s first day.

There is a critical period between when the applicant accepts your offer and when they start work. Use this time wisely to keep in touch with them and keep them informed of what’s happening in your organization. You should do this regardless of whether you’re onboarding in person or virtually, but bringing a new employee into a remote work environment requires a little extra effort.

Here are several steps that I recommend you take:

  • If you have an all-hands meeting, send them a recap.
  • Put them on the distribution list for your organization’s press releases.
  • Send paperwork like benefits sign-up information ahead of the new employee’s start date and have someone call to walk them through it. With the paperwork done in advance, you’ll have more time in the first week for activities to help them learn about your culture and their coworkers.
  • Assign a “buddy” in the new hire’s department or wherever makes sense in the organization. The buddy should email, call, or meet virtually with the new hire before day one to welcome them and answer any questions they might not want to ask their manager.
  • If your organization has branded merchandise (mugs, T-shirts, hats), send something to help the new hire start to feel like part of the team.
  • If your employees are reading a leadership or other business book as a bonding strategy, send a copy so the new hire can join in the discussions.
  • Be sure the new employee has the equipment they need to get started. Send the virtual platform link they’ll need for day one, and have IT or the new hire’s buddy walk them through how to sign into your network.
  • Have the new employee’s manager connect at least weekly before the start date. If possible, the manager and new hire should set some goals for the first 30, 60, and 90 days.

When the time comes for the new employee to start work, the manager should send a detailed list of activities on day one and throughout the first week. The first day should start with a virtual call with the manager, followed by a department call where the manager introduces the team.

A nice idea is to set up a virtual lunch for the first day. Have a meal delivered to the new hire’s home 10 minutes before the start of the lunch meeting (if budget is tight, everyone else can be on their own).

With a little planning and creativity, virtual onboarding can be every bit as successful bringing a new employee into your organization in person.

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer? Send it to [email protected]