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Virtual Onboarding 101


Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

In light of the current global situation with COVID-19, the majority of tech companies have instituted mandatory work from home policies. And as they aim to support their teams and keep their communities healthy, they also try to minimize the business impact, not only to survive the current crisis but to continue to grow. While it might seem easier to delay start dates indefinitely, this is often not feasible as certain roles are critical to the sustainability of the business. And for individuals who are already in possession of an offer, they may be unable or unwilling to wait.


Virtual Onboarding is new territory for most of us - but presents an opportunity now and in the future. We’re grateful that we can share some learning that we’ve gathered from your tech company peers. Onboarding is an important part of the employee experience, as it sets the tone for employee engagement, team dynamics and ensures effective learning and a quicker path to productivity.


The goal is to create an experience for new hires where they feel welcomed. You need your new teammate to know that they’ve joined an organization where their voices are heard, their contributions are valued and where they’ll grow and be successful.


Here are a few tips to help you build your very own Virtual Onboarding plan*:


The Welcome Package!


Mail a care package containing everything that you would typically give to your new hire on their first day. This would include their laptop pre-configured and loaded with all necessary software, t-shirt & other swag etc. and maybe even something for their spouse or kids, an employee handbook. In lieu of an in-person welcome, include a handwritten note from their manager or HR saying how excited you are that they are coming onboard and a letter explaining what to expect on their first day.


Including an organizational chart with photos is a great idea - to put faces and context to all of the new names they’ll be trying to soak in remotely.


Prep for Video Welcome and Onboarding Meetings


This may seem like a no brainer but use video conferencing instead of voice calls for all formal and informal meetings and conversations. Whether it’s Zoom, WebEx, Google Hangouts etc. this will give an extra feeling of connection with the team.


Have someone (perhaps someone from IT) do the first session to set employees up with their video system and to walk them through your tools so that technical issues don’t disrupt the rest of your agenda.


Our partners have shared a list of some useful tools that might help if you’re new to working remotely. Karbon as a project management system, Guru for knowledge sharing, Teamwork Desk as a helpdesk platform, and Polly for collecting feedback from teams.


Schedule Virtual 1:1s and Group Chats.


Schedule time for new hires to meet with key people within their teams and the broader organization. Include a bio or link to the teammates LinkedIn profile to give a little extra background. Sometimes video chats can be awkward or feel more formal, so set the expectation that it’s just a conversation. And if the individuals didn’t meet during the interview process, create a sample agenda with some topics to trigger a discussion (eg. This is my role and how I typically work with your new team. This is the project I’m working on now. etc.)


Virtual Tour


Whether you have an Academy award winning video or a quick selfie stick video, try to give new hires a sense of what the office looks like.


Have a Buddy System


Have a main point of contact who your new hire can go to with questions. Have the buddy check in with them in the morning and afternoon and show them the ropes.


Ideally, the buddy has made a connection even before day 1, ensuring that the new hire feels they have an inside connection.


Schedule “Coffee Chats”


In the absence of random water cooler or coffee room connections, find time for your new hires to connect informally with people from different teams across the business.


A neat idea is to utilize the Donut app on Slack to randomly pair your new hires with someone


Check In and Gather Feedback - often


Whether it’s HR or the Hiring Manager (or both!) check in with your new hire. You can gather feedback formally or informally and tweak your virtual onboarding plans to fit your needs.


Schedule Gaps on the Agenda to Soak It In


Remember that your new hire is likely overwhelmed with new people, information and excitement. Give your new teammate space to soak it all in, review systems, make notes and think about questions.


Create a Slack channel where new hires can introduce themselves to everyone else on the team - turn it into a fun game! Like asking them to share their favourite meme.


*if your office is closed, some of these ideas may not be feasible. So as with everything, doing your best is all that can be asked.


We’ll keep adding to this as you send in your own stories!