How to improve virtual onboarding for new hires?
February 24, 2021
min read

How to improve virtual onboarding for new hires?

Ana Gospodinova
Ana Gospodinova

Tech departments move incredibly fast and usually require an infinite amount of promising talent to keep up with the tech development pace. When a new hire is confirmed, the HR department must obtain an effective onboarding program for candidates to quickly reach their full potential and be productive inside their tech department.

Well-developed onboarding programs have to boost productivity, engagement, and retention, especially now when remote working and hiring are dominant practices.

These are our learnings and learning from our partners on improving the virtual onboarding program inside your company.

Virtual onboarding misconceptions

First impressions are everything. The first couple of weeks are crucial as employees have to acclimatize fast and feel belonging to a company to reach their full potential and productivity.

When organizations hire remote working employees, they are eager to get them working immediately. That can be a potential problem, as best practice says that it takes up to 12 months for some candidates to become fully onboarded. Expensive tech teams can’t afford to withstand that amount of time, which means the first months invested into onboarding make all the difference.

It's a common misconception that the virtual onboarding process starts on the new employee’s first day in the company. We believe that a successful virtual onboarding program begins during the recruitment and hiring process or even before!

When employees aren't aligned with what their company stands for, it puts their company's reputation on the line.

"Right now, we have different videos that explain our company's history and give insights about our product," says Mina Golesorkhi, Senior Talent Partner, ready2order GmbH. "Furthermore, new employees get to know every department in introduction meetings during their first weeks."

How do you immerse new hires in your company’s culture and help them make personal connections if you can’t meet face to face? Think of an engaging virtual onboarding experience without stepping a foot in an office.

The engaging virtual onboarding experience

We believe that orientation, especially for remote working companies, should start before a potential tech candidate is formally hired. HR professionals can achieve this with the company website’s clever design (e. g., integrating information about company culture and workplace into your website’s careers section).

As a result, orientation starts on the very first interaction with your website, employer branding, and overall company culture. By the time potential candidates decide to apply to a specific position, they have already formed a big picture of the company.

remote employee

Usually, HR departments try to equip remote employees with technology as fast as possible. Technology can be an effective way to socialize new hires by preloading company cloud space with various videos, audio, or podcast walkthroughs explaining strategic goals team-wise and the overall company picture. Receiving a new laptop preloaded with apps will elicit a smile on a dev's face.

Steps to improve virtual onboarding program

Using technology during virtual onboarding has an additional useful dimension as it stays close to new candidates and reduces potential oversights compared to the traditional “paper process”.

Regardless of the approaches mentioned above, HR professionals should keep the process as human as possible. We are all experiencing life with limited personal contact now, but we can still obtain face-to-face communication thanks to technology.

Make sure to organize a couple of video calls and introduce new employees to their teams, other important departments, and company leaders. First impressions will be great, as new candidates will feel how much they are needed and respected as professionals.

“We want to give an inclusive and cross-departmental onboarding experience by providing joiners the opportunity to introduce themselves at the monthly company meeting and ensures touchpoints with different departments throughout the onboarding process.” - Mina Golesorkhi, Senior Talent Partner, ready2order GmbH.

To help new employees navigate your organization’s everyday workings and get to know their teammates, assign personal buddies (peer coaches).

According to GitLab, besides helping someone who has just started working for your company, buddies provide help during the transitional process to a designated new role. Make sure to keep encouraging them to include new hires in meetings.

Tech companies and startups are well known for their welcome swag packs. This practice shouldn’t be abandoned during the remote working era, as it can prolong with simple gift boxes delivered by conventional post to remote employees.

When the onboarding process is over, it’s essential not to forget your recently hired remote employees. Train your HR team or keep reminding yourself to frequently contact new candidates through whatever communication method is the most efficient. E-mail, phone call, video tool, you name it!

Eventually, one-day remote employees will have a chance to come and work in the real office. When that comes, take a moment to align all new hires to the organization and office environment. Book plane or train tickets, organize accommodation and design an agenda to ensure that they blend in with ease.

Quality of onboarding reaffirms the decision to join

Virtual onboarding is the process of introducing a new employee to their role, organization, and team in a very specific state. Doing it well is essential for companies as it creates the first impression that new hires form an organization and reaffirm their decision to join.

"Compared to others, we have a lot of hires during the pandemic, says Arta Shpejti, HR Generalist & Recruiting Specialist, Celum GmbH. "Practice makes perfection, as we learned most of our lessons on the job. Organize feedback sessions, and ask for feedback from new hires during the first weeks and even months, that way, you make sure that your 'newbie' has all the tools and know-how to get tasks done."

Sufficient to say, remote work is here to stay. Having an effective virtual onboarding can edge companies that are competing for tech talents today.


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