Remote work has become an essential adaptation for the majority of business across the country. While COVID-19 will not remain forever, some of the work practices that have been instituted as a result are likely to persist long after it’s gone.
With these new processes, come new challenges that need to be overcome. One of these new challenges is hiring and onboarding new employees within an entirely virtual context.
A critical stage in building a strong and efficient team is the onboarding process for new team members. It is a crucial moment where responsibilities and daily expectations are established, but it’s also an opportunity for new employees to learn behavior from their co-workers.
Traditionally, a great deal of this process could happen organically through interaction during the work day, but how do you facilitate a successful onboarding process when no one is in the same room?
How do you ensure that new employees are properly equipped to tackle their new job?
How do you encourage collaboration between people who have never physically met?
This article will provide a series of tips that are key to building a successful virtual onboarding process!
In remote work settings, it’s infinitely easier for the small details to get missed. This is even more true with new employees.
However, with proper preparation and an overabundance of supporting resources, virtual onboarding will be much easier. Preparation will equip your leadership team with a strong sense of direction for where they need to take new employees, which can then be reviewed in detail by the new employee through supporting onboarding resources.
For example, here are a few practical ways that you can prepare for virtual onboarding:
- Create a detailed itinerary with daily goals and tasks
- Prepare a company handbook for new employees
- Plan scheduled activities to encourage engagement between existing staff and new employees
This keeps everyone on the same page and diminishes the chance of missing key details during the onboarding process.
Define Daily Onboarding Steps
Do you remember your first few days on the job? You were probably nervous, maybe you felt a bit unsure what to do from one moment to the next, and you likely had dozens of answered questions by the end of it.
On average, it takes employees up to 3 months before they feel comfortable in a new role, so it’s not difficult to imagine the results of cramming an onboarding process into a single day. Unless the job is overly simplistic, it’s better to break the process into smaller sessions that are hyper-focused on specific aspects of the role, as well as to provide adequate time for the employee to learn how it all fits together.
In a virtual setting, onboarding takes even longer. It’s realistic to expect onboarding sessions to extend at a minimum of a few days, but be prepared to design a program that could even last weeks.
This gives the new employee enough time to adapt to the new role and to critical think about the different priorities that they will face on a daily basis.
Take the extra step of reaching out to other team members who may work with your new employee and encourage them to reach out, schedule introductory meetings, and offer their support and a warm welcome to the new teammate.
There’s No Such Thing as Over Communication
In a normal work setting, it’s much easier to bounce questions off of a co-worker or to check in with a manager for clarification on a task.
However, in a virtual setting, it’s just not the same. Communication needs to be done through video calls, messaging tools like Slack, or email. The reality is that not every communication channel is as effective for one employee as it is for another.
For this reason, it is always better to over communicate, particularly during the onboarding process.
When you are sharing information with a new employee, send it to them by email, review it with them on a conference call, and then ask them through team communication tools if they have questions or if they need any clarity on a task.
Not only does this ensure that your message is delivered, it also teaches the new employee all of the different ways that they can connect with the team.
Purposefully Design Interactive Sessions
No matter how well you map out your onboarding process, it can sometimes be difficult to hold on to the attention of your participants. Droning on about company culture, roles and responsibilities, work expectations, and all of the other important parts of a job can quickly become too much to handle during the onboarding process.
It’s simply too much for a person to learn only by listening to a presentation. It’s also an easy way to lose their attention.
Instead, design interactive sessions within your onboarding program to ensure that the monotony of a massive information download to new employees is broken up. This also provides a key opportunity for them to reflect on what has been shared and creates a dialogue that further embeds them within a team.
Establish Self-Study Times and Resources
Different people have different learning methods. Some people respond better to listening to a manager explain everything, others prefer to read over the key details on their own, and some learn only by doing or practical experience.
Virtual onboarding processes should be built to accommodate different learning styles so that everyone has the chance to arrive to the same place at the end of it.
Establishing self-study times and developing resources for new employees is a strong method for facilitating this. Regardless of learning style, it gives new employees a chance to review and reflect on what they’ve learned, which will in turn stimulate better engagement and faster learning during other aspects of your virtual onboarding program.
Review and Refine
The reality is that onboarding programs are rarely perfect. No matter how much information you share, there will always be a question that was left unanswered.
In remote settings, it’s even more challenging to establish a process that is streamlined and effective. Managing a remote team requires compassion, understanding, and quick adaptation to challenges, particularly in times like these.
Use every onboarding as an opportunity to improve your process and stay focused on helping a new employee become a reliable team member to ensure that the essentials are covered.
Need help from an experienced onboarding expert? Meet with a mentor who can offer guidance