(2022) Virtual Onboarding 101: Ideas, Tools, Checklist & Best Practices

Chris Carnduff
Chris Carnduff
May 24, 2022
(2022) Virtual Onboarding 101: Ideas, Tools, Checklist & Best Practices

Remote work has become the ‘new normal’ for most organizations around the world. Statistics show that 49% of HR managers plan to hire fully remote workers. As a result, there will be a greater need for virtual onboarding. 

However, 37% of enterprises do not have a virtual onboarding process, and 4% of new employees leave their jobs after a poor first-day experience. At CoffeePals, we understand the importance of having a cohesive remote team, which is why we’re passionate about helping employees feel more connected to each other. 

So, what is virtual onboarding, what are the known challenges, and how can you improve virtual onboarding and the new hire experience? We provide answers to these questions and more.

What Is Virtual Onboarding? 

Onboarding is the action or process of integrating a new employee into an organization or familiarizing a new customer or client with your products or services.

Typically, this process is carried out in person, but when it is done remotely, various platforms are used to facilitate the process. The virtual onboarding process involves using video conferencing tools like Microsoft Teams, online chat apps like CoffeePals, and other resources and webinars. 

During this process, you introduce the company to the new hires and familiarize them with its operation. This is quite important as the new employees do not have the luxury of conversing with a colleague as they would in a physical setting. 

However, providing a remote onboarding experience helps new hires bond with existing colleagues, improving workplace engagement. Your employees will also learn about different online tools and resources and take part in webinars and interactive sessions. 

How Effective Is Virtual Onboarding? 

Employers often question the effectiveness of the virtual onboarding process. However, statistics show that onboarding is quite productive and improves employee retention by 82%. Also, 70% of employees with exceptional onboarding experiences say they have ‘the best possible job.’

This rings true for both onsite and virtual onboarding. However, you must create the onboarding process to meet the needs of your remote workforce. Invest in communication and engagement tools during the pre-boarding. 

Statistics show that employees who complete the pre-boarding process prior to starting are 83% more likely to refer others to the company. CoffeePals is an excellent platform to use while onboarding new employees, as it encourages communication among new employees and helps them get acquainted with the team!

Are There Challenges to Virtual Onboarding?

Similar to non-remote jobs, there are challenges you’ll face when onboarding new hires virtually. Here are a few of the most common challenges.

Employees May Feel Uncomfortable 

One problem employers and HR managers face are employees feeling uncomfortable. This is mostly because they do not have the one-on-one physical interaction with their co-workers that a physical office offers. To make new hires more comfortable, organize virtual team bonding activities and get them mentors/buddies among more experienced colleagues!

Gap Between New Employees and Their Managers

Due to the lack of physical interaction in a remote environment, there’s usually a gap between new hires and their managers. When hiring managers and new employees see each other daily, they interact between work, making getting accustomed to their new role and work environment more manageable. 

However, the reverse is true with virtual onboarding. Communication between managers and new hires happens through video call meetings and conferences. As a result, you cannot directly observe how the employee progresses. 

Miscommunication

One of the biggest challenges of the virtual onboarding process is miscommunication. Communicating is easier and more effective when employees see their managers physically. In addition, they can observe their colleagues and learn from how they perform their jobs.

This is not possible with remote onboarding. New hires can't easily shadow their colleagues, and may not understand the meaning behind a typed message. 

This affects how new hires do their job, potentially impeding their career growth or leaving them unsatisfied. To promote communication during the onboarding process, you can use CoffeePals to help remote workers connect with each other over a virtual cup of coffee (or tea!).

Lack of Harmony and Teamwork 

A company thrives on harmony among employees and teamwork. But unfortunately, there might be a disconnect during the virtual onboarding process. For instance, they may not understand each other due to a lack of connection, impeding harmony in the workplace. 

When there’s no cohesive teamwork, the company’s output and profit suffer. The best way to improve harmony among remote teammates is by using collaboration tools. 81% of employees rate peer collaboration apps positively, and they scale productivity by 30%. 

Learn more about remote collaboration tools and the best practices for virtual collaboration.

Virtual Onboarding Best Practices 

When new hires work in a physical office, they have the equipment they need, and on-site offices mean available tech support. But this may not be the case when working remotely. Therefore, you must ensure new employees have all they need during the onboarding process. 

These includes:

  • A laptop or monitor with audio and cable equipment 
  • Digital and physical onboarding materials
  • Properly setting up accounts for email, project management software, etc
  • Access to any additional workspace equipment, e.g., chairs, desks, keyboards, etc. 

During the first few days, consistently check in on the new staff. Ensure they know they can ask questions and create less formal moments to converse. For example, you can introduce virtual lunches, where you and the new hires talk about non-work-related topics. 

Virtual Onboarding Ideas

Generally, companies onboard new employees in groups, but this may not work with virtual onboarding. Here are some virtual onboarding ideas to ensure your employee makes a smooth transition into their new role.

  • Create a question and answer session where new employees make inquiries about how the company works and its culture.
  • Ask team members (existing staff) to conduct regular check-ins with the new employees.
  • Plan virtual coffee breaks, lunches, and happy hours. 

Be sure to schedule these events over a few days or weeks, as doing too much at once can be overwhelming. Avoid the following:

  • Giving new hires too much information to absorb. Instead, aim to gently introduce them to company policies, work culture, communication protocols, etc.
  • Communicating excessively
  • Fixing back-to-back meetings 

Create a Virtual Onboarding Checklist

A virtual onboarding checklist is a document outlining the steps you need to take when onboarding new employees. Each company’s list varies based on its needs and should alternate between proactive and reactive tasks. 

For instance, on the first day, you can add to your to-do-list: 

  • Go through the meeting calendar with new hires 
  • Examine the benefits package
  • Fix two meetings weekly with the new employees 

In addition, a virtual onboarding checklist should contain the following:

  • Project management tools and protocols 
  • Company values 
  • Tech and equipment 
  • Reporting system, goals, and key performance index (KPI)
  • Benefits and human resource policies, etc.

How To Have a Seamless Virtual Onboarding Process

It is essential to have a great virtual onboarding experience. Studies show that 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience great onboarding. Let’s check out some of the best ways to make onboarding a seamless process.

Schedule Meetings Properly

The first thing to do when setting up the remote onboarding process is to schedule meetings properly. Set up video conference calls between the new staff and the current workforce. This allows both sides to meet each other and engage. 

Note that it is essential for the new and old employees to connect from day one, so make it happen! Finally, send recorded messages to the new hires, welcome emails, and schedule group virtual calls before the first meeting.  

Communicate the Company’s Vision and Goals

The primary aim of virtual onboarding is to introduce and integrate the new hires into the company. There’s no better way to do this than to communicate the organization’s vision and goals. 

Create Spontaneity 

One of the advantages of working in a physical location is the spontaneous encounters with colleagues. For example, there are informal coffee chats, meetings in the elevator, walking from the parking lot together, etc. However, having these spontaneous moments is challenging when working remotely. 

So, what do you do? 

Create spontaneous moments by leaving subtle cues and having social discussions. Start meetings with check-in or ice-breaking conversations. For instance, if one of the new hires loves basketball, talk about the game that happened over the weekend. This helps everyone relax and sets the mood. 

Be Professional and Approachable 

When onboarding new employees virtually, keep in mind that they cannot read your body language as they would in a physical setting. Therefore, be professional but approachable. 

Professionalism lets the new employees know you’re in charge but ensures you exude warmth. The latter makes you approachable and someone they can talk to about their challenges. 

Create a Seamless Virtual Onboarding Process

With the growing number of remote workers, it’s important to have an effective virtual onboarding process. This means having the right tools in place to ensure a seamless process.

CoffeePals is a tool helping remote teams connect and create meaningful relationships—promoting a happier and more efficient work environment. Contact us today to learn how we can help you improve the connection among your staff!

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