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 In Employee Engagement, Leadership Tips, Recruit and Retain Talent

You’ve got the right person for the job, now how do you set your new employee up to succeed while starting the new job remotely? This is a question many organizations are asking as social distancing measures remain in place across the country and could continue for months. A virtual onboarding process will be critical for many organizations as the crisis continues, and for some, even beyond.

Despite the challenges that come with not being able to work side-by-side with new team members, you can create a memorable and effective onboarding experience that’s virtual. However, with the distance factor, you’ll need to be intentional in your approach so new hires don’t feel like they’re alone on an island. “You want to serve those new members of the team so they’re feeling supported, connected and that their time is of value as they get started”, explains Studer Education Coach Dr. Pat Greco, who shares tips for making your new employee’s virtual onboarding experience a success. And—as a new employee at Studer Education who was interviewed remotely, onboarded remotely and has been working virtually since, I will also include some notes based on my own personal experience with virtual onboarding, which you may find helpful.

1. Have a strong communication plan

You can establish strong communication with your new hires right away by letting them know what they can expect as their first day approaches. Communication can begin as soon as they’re hired. Look for ways to include them in team correspondence, especially regarding any developments related to working from home. Before the first day on the job, provide an agenda of onboarding tasks to accomplish— within the first week, the first two weeks, the first month and the first 90 days.

I was impressed by the communication I received leading up to my first day. I received emails letting me know when I would receive the equipment I would need to work remotely, how to prepare for my first day on the job, as well as dates for upcoming events. Additionally, I received several welcome emails from team members, which was so nice! I really appreciated the gesture of them checking in and telling me they looked forward to working with me.

2. Have a plan for support

Just as important as getting your new employees the equipment they need to work virtually, you’ll want to make sure your new team members have IT support as they get started. This will especially be important in a virtual work setting.

Another aspect of support you can consider are mentors who can assist in training new employees. Mentors can show your new hires the processes for getting things done. They can also help point new hires in the right direction if they have questions or get stuck. Having a good mentor in place who is responsive can help the new hire be more productive faster.

I definitely appreciated the IT support I received when I first started. Their assistance helped me avoid getting hung up on things that would have taken me much longer to figure out on my own. Also, having a mentor help train and walk me through the processes for getting work done has been incredibly valuable. Not only did she show me how to do things via video conference meetings, she provided me with guides that included thoroughly listed steps as well as additional helpful resources. She is highly responsive and I have always felt that it’s okay to ask questions.

3. Schedule frequent check-in’s

Face-to-face connections via video conference can help a new team member feel connected right off the bat. Be sure to add them to virtual team huddles and weekly meetings. Take the opportunity to connect with them beforehand, explaining what to expect for those meetings. Also, make introductions. Connect them with various members of the team he or she will work with and have them schedule brief video meetings together. Regular, brief video check-in’s are a good idea early on, as these meetings offer an opportunity to answer any questions your new hire may have and also a chance for some interaction, which would be normal in an office.

I enjoyed connecting with team members via video chat and appreciated that my leaders introduced me to others I would be working with. In those meetings, I got a chance to get to know my colleagues and more about the work they do. The face-to-face connection via video meetings helped me feel connected as a new person. They helped me place a name with a face. I never felt like I was isolated or on an island alone. Having connected with many of my colleagues in that way helped me feel included and a part of the team early on.

4. Look for Opportunities

Finally, whether you’re rolling out your system for virtual onboarding, or you’re already in it and looking to refine the process, remember to keep your eyes open for the unique opportunities this crisis may yield. Could now be an opportunity to stop doing certain things that are no longer working? Is there any noise—any initiatives or actions that don’t align to our organizations’ goals— that can be cut? Are there opportunities you can take advantage of during the crisis?

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