June 10, 2020

'Virtual onboarding' can be tricky and uncomfortable. Here's how to do it right.

Daily Briefing

    A new employee's start with your company is a defining moment, and an opportunity to lay the groundwork for success. While the Covid-19 epidemic has made some parts of onboarding especially challenging, there's still plenty you can do to help employees get off to a great start.

    5 tips to make telework work for your team

    Whether in person or virtual, a great onboarding experience should focus on two things: developing a strong connection to the organization and empowering the employee to feel purposeful and productive.

    Below we outline tips on ways to foster those keys to onboarding success.

    4 ways to cultivate connection among new hires

    A new employee's sense of connection to your organization is essential to his or her engagement. Despite the current physical separation, there are many things you can to do help new hires feel more connected to the organization and to other new hires.

    • Make virtual experiences interactive. Even though the content will be offered virtually, you can still make it interactive. Encourage new hires to use their webcam during orientation if possible. Call on participants by name throughout onboarding and host breakout sessions for participants to discuss the content where applicable. You can find quick tips to make virtual meetings more engaging in our resource, "Eight ways to work from home successfully." 

    • Facilitate personal connections. Connect new hires with their manager and a peer on their team for virtual 1:1s and/or coffee. Peers can be a great resource for new hires to learn about their team and work expectations, so be sure to make those connections as soon as possible. Managers also should plan to have their standard first day check-in with new staff, as well as follow up conversations at 30, 60, and 90 days—and more often if they have fewer direct reports.

    • Don't do it alone, tap multiple channels to check in. To mitigate the potential downsides of a virtual working environment and onboarding, tap someone within HR or a senior leader to check-in with new hires more often than they regularly would. This will help to make sure that questions, needs, or concerns don't fall through the cracks.

    • Build a sense of community. Schedule time for new hire cohorts to connect virtually on a regular basis, even after the onboarding experience is over. The goal is to ensure all new hires feel they have colleagues they can connect with. If you have employee resource groups or service efforts, make sure to connect these new hires with those employee groups as well.

    Help new hires feel productive

    After the initial onboarding formalities have passed, you may be tempted to check the box and move on. But to maintain engagement for the long haul, it's critical that you empower your new hire with the tools, direction, and information they need to be productive.

    • Keep them in the loop. To make a meaningful contribution, your new hire will need to understand the context of their work. Ensure the manager includes them in all ongoing team meetings and informal chats. While teams are working remotely, it will be harder to remember that there is a new team member to include in pre-existing events and meetings. Remind leaders to forward all existing events and meetings as soon as the new hire starts.

    • Create a work plan. Ask managers to have a work plan in place for the new hire so they can hit the ground running. In a time of chaos, it's easy to leave new hires with nothing meaningful to do (or nothing to do at all). Connect with new hires' managers to guarantee that there's something the new hire can work on in their first few weeks so they can feel as if they are contributing to the team. Give managers a point of contact if they are struggling with creating an onboarding plan for the first 60 days.

    And remember, although the Covid-19 epidemic has changed the way your organization onboards new hires, it doesn't need to change the impact onboarding can have on a new hire and their future career.

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