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Encompass® Agency Insights

5 Steps for Virtual Onboarding

Your company may already have an established process for in-office onboarding. Many of these same elements - a first-day welcome package, a mentorship program, and a timeline for recurring monthly check-ins — are still applicable to remote onboarding. They may just need a little adaptation for a more virtual environment.

As you adapt your existing onboarding process for remote employees, here are some elements to keep in mind:

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  1. Welcome the new hire. You may not be able to decorate their desk on the first day of work or take them out to lunch, but you can still find ways to welcome them to the company. Mail them a small welcome kit with a company shirt, mug, and thoughtful items for a home office. You could arrange for lunch to be delivered to their home on the first day of work or have a virtual Zoom happy hour to introduce them to the team. Doing so kick starts camaraderie, setting the stage for strong employee relationships.

  2. Designate an "onboarding buddy." When everyone is together in the office, it's much easier for a new hire to stop by a coworker's desk and ask a question or for a manager to check in quickly during the workday. When teams are remote, new hires may feel disconnected and unsure about the next steps. This is where an onboarding buddy can help. The new hire can feel comfortable contacting the onboarding buddy throughout the day with questions about everything from finding files on the shared drive to handling a client problem.

  3. Set clear communication expectations. New employees have limited insight into your team's communication norms, which may lead to misunderstandings. Imagine being in their situation and wondering the best way to ask a coworker a question: Should you send them an instant message, send them an email, or wait for the team's afternoon video call? How quickly should you expect a reply, and how quickly do others expect you to answer their questions? Give new hires a head start by outlining how teams use different communication channels (phone/video calls, emails, and instant messaging platforms like Slack or Hangouts) and how quickly people typically reply. Understanding communication norms makes it easier for your new hire to have a voice in the workplace and build long-term coworker relationships that matter for success, reports the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

  4. Schedule virtual briefings and meet-and-greets. You won't be able to walk your new hire around the office for introductions on the first day, but it's still important to introduce them to the company beyond their immediate team. An all-hands video call is one option and senior leaders can each speak for a few minutes about their role and goals for the upcoming year. This helps your new hire better understand how their day-to-day work fits into the bigger picture.

  5. Establish a structured learning process with measurable short term objectives Harvard Business Review recommends a structured learning process that errs on the side of over-communicating to avoid confusion and conflict. One part of this is setting very specific short-term goals, such as completing all training modules within a certain time frame. A second part is creating a master list with links to key documents, like marketing plans, product overviews, or client summaries, so your new hire can go to one single place to review the most important information. Your new hire will have a clear plan for what to do and where to find the info they need to succeed.

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