According to a study done by IBM, new employees are 42% more likely to stay when receiving the training they need to do their job properly. This means that providing a positive onboarding experience is essential to increasing retention. However, when you’re onboarding remote employees and you can’t fill their schedule with office tours, meet and greets and happy hours, you need to think outside the box.

Compared to workers in the office, remote workers are at a higher risk of getting left behind because they don’t understand the social climate of their new teams and leaders. It can be hard to make connections and understand where to go with questions when working remotely.

Remote workers lack the advantage of water cooler conversations or catching a busy executive in the hallway for a quick chat. This is why many remote hires can become disconnected from their team and company, leading to a loss of interest in their work.

A structured remote onboarding can help hybrid teams feel more connected to each other. The key to virtual onboarding success is embracing technology like collaboration apps, and even virtual reality. A well-rounded program also should cover each facet of the employee experience, from understanding the company mission to addressing long-term development goals. These topics are no different from what would be covered during an in-person onboarding, however the approach needs to be different.

Let’s take a look at these best practices for building a successful virtual onboarding to promote connectivity and engagement on your hybrid teams.

Introduce the Company

Helping new hires understand the company’s products and processes is essential. Your first instinct may be to send over a PowerPoint presentation outlining all your work processes. Don’t.

Instead, think of ways to make it interactive. Solicit subject matter experts (SMEs) and instructional designers in your organization to design a mobile-friendly trivia game that educates new employees on company products and work flows. Repetitive game play has been shown to increase knowledge retention.

Take things to the next level with a virtual reality (VR) game that helps learners explore each product in a “choose your own adventure” experience. For a personal approach, include a welcome video from your organization’s chief executive officer that covers company culture, the mission and goals and products or services.

Grow Their Career

Use an effective onboarding experience to show new employees how they can grow and develop with your company. Coaching and mentoring can be very useful for helping employees grow into their careers.

Invest in your new hires future: Assign a coach or mentor to every new hire and ensure they have periodic video chats to connect. Have the veteran employee ask open-ended questions about the new hire’s goals and what they want to get out of the onboarding program and their position. Outline their career path and provide continuous learning opportunities to further their professional development.

You’ll need to make sure you can “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk.” Tailor upskilling and reskilling training to fit individual employee’s interests with a user-friendly learning management system (LMS) or learning experience platform (LXP).

Showing interest in their future development during onboarding can help remote employees feel more engaged and connected to the company.

Unify The Team

Feeling confident and fitting in at a new job means building friendships and networking with peers. But how will your new employees find their next “work wife” if everyone is remote?

“One big miss I’ve noticed across virtual onboarding programs is the lack of warmth and excitement when getting a new team member. Ensure empathy, proactive communication and multiple virtual meet ups to introduce the new [hire] to internal teams,” said Saurabh Goenka, the CEO and co-founder of MindMap Digital, in a Forbes article.

There are many ways to encourage virtual team bonding. Popular icebreakers for virtual teams can include people trivia, sharing memes or expressing highs and lows from the week. Getting to know each other better creates more open lines of communication and collaboration in projects. Team building is an ongoing process that should continue long after onboarding.

Ways to build connectivity with continuous team building:

  • Schedule periodic manager check ins to touch base with remote new hires.
  • Include time for social chat at the beginning of video calls.
  • Create a general channel in your collaboration app to take the place of “water cooler” chats.

Promote A Healthy Self

Employee well-being — both physical and mental — is critical for career success. What you cover during onboarding can have a long-lasting effect on worker productivity, engagement and wellness.

For example, employees who work from home are often surprised by how little they move during the day. Having each department compete against each other to achieve the most steps as a team over one month is a great way to build camaraderie among remote employees while also promoting employee wellness.

It’s important to cover mental health during onboarding. For some, the transition to remote work is easy and they can remain productive and contribute to their team effortlessly. However, not everyone falls into a good remote work groove right away.

Source tips from more experienced remote workers on how they can stay motivated and engaged while working remotely. You could share these as short video clips or create fun motivational poster-style graphics.

By introducing remote new hires to the company, furthering their career, unifying a hybrid team with icebreakers and providing well-being opportunities, you can provide a well-rounded onboarding experience while keeping productivity steady. Use virtual conferencing technology and modern learning technologies to take your virtual onboarding to the next level.