The COVID-19 pandemic has seen organizations realign to working remotely — making virtual onboarding skills a need-to-have for learning and development (L&D). The challenge of creating a seamless virtual onboarding experience, however, can be daunting. While most organizations are trying to figure ways to tackle the roadblocks that come with it, it would be fair to say that operating in the virtual mode broadly requires enhanced digital intervention, coaching, mentoring and a structured approach to retain a semblance of the in-person experience.

The remote version of onboarding, while retaining the essence of the traditional onboarding process, leverages the help of digital tools, thereby offering the employee an exciting and inclusive experience. Effective employee onboarding helps with making the right first impression. The stress of the first day for a new remote hire can be overwhelming as he or she is expected to assimilate and process new information coupled with meeting a lot of new people, documents to sign and more. That’s why a smartly structured and well-organized onboarding plan can help with workplace efficiency and the outlook of the employee toward the company. So how does one make that possible?

The Way Forward

Digital workplace experiences are different from the conventional in-person workplace experience — hence, it is extremely important that the virtual onboarding process is on-point in terms of inclusion and integration. Leveraging technology can help with creating an effective employee onboarding process. Facilitation of remote onboarding is possible by using digital tools, such as video calls, and other collaborative tools, such as shared documents. The focus should be on the delivery of the brand promise that was made while hiring. The key to onboarding is a strong pre-boarding module that includes information on aspects of company culture and communication. Feeling plugged into the workplace without an in-person experience is an important first step for your new hire.

Assigning a Mentor

Given that a large number of companies now are hiring remotely, the onboarding task mandatorily involves the use of digital tools and dedicated onboarding software to make the task at hand immersive and seamless for the employee. Deploying live speakers and facilitators, video conferencing software, and guides who can potentially walk the hire through a virtual onboarding program can ensure an optimal onboarding experience. Appropriate and timely functioning of all these tools becomes extremely important. Assigning a mentor for the first few weeks can keep the process personalized. Higher levels of interaction with all departments will lead to more immersive and collaborative experiences.

Remote Onboarding Challenges

Here are some of the challenges to look out for with your remote onboarding processes:

    • Keeping new hires engaged before their first day: The challenge here is to keep the enthusiasm and anticipation of a job role intact to ensure that the process is immersive and engaging. This can be facilitated by communicating with the new hire with relevant updates days before their first day.
    • Keeping remote employees fully engaged during the process: The uninspiring processes of mundane paperwork and policies drains the hire of both time and productivity. Brevity and clarity on procedures are integral here.
    • A disorganized onboarding processes: This keeps the hire from being productive as they get caught up in the introductory meetings, paperwork and the like. It is important therefore to keep the process and procedures streamlined and simple.

A Step-by-Step Process for Remote Onboarding

So, how will you avoid the challenges listed above? Here is a step-by-step approach to the remote onboarding process.

Step 1: Engaging Communication Prior to Day 1

Plenty of engaging digital communication prior to the first day throws light on the company culture, while also making sure that the hire feels included and engaged.

Step 2: Leaving Nothing to Chance

Automated reminders to all people involved in the onboarding process will keep the onboarding seamless and trouble-free by ensuring that all parties involved are doing their share when they need to.

Step 3: Creating a Roadmap for the Future

Charting a road map that throws light on both short-term (the first six months) and long-term (the next three to five years) goals lends clarity on what the organization expects of them and their performance goals. This helps with keeping motivation high and being more productive. It also helps the employee envision career growth and goals to align with the company’s objectives and vision.

Key Takeaways

For organizations:

    • Create flexible policies related to remote onboarding and train all personnel involved in the process. Eliminating stringent, one-size-fits-all approaches can help personalize the process and bring about a smooth transition for the new hire into the workforce.
    • A step-by-step approach that combines the requisite resources needed by the employee, a checklist on the how and why of getting set up on company platforms and channels, with information and insights into the company’s vision and values, will foster a healthy and productive work environment.
    • Creating a remote onboarding checklist (while factoring in the inability to connect in person with the employee) calls for incorporating video chat platforms, clearly defining roles and expectations and creating a remote culture that helps instill a sense of belonging.
    • Welcome the new hire and help him or her understand organizational policies and procedures irrespective of geographical boundaries. This helps new hires gain a better understanding of the company’s vision and values.
    • Upgrade your organization’s skills, capabilities, processes and systems. The remote onboarding process is perennially evolving in its attempt to ensure a smooth and seamless transition for the employees, thereby contributing to maintaining the company’s performance and productivity.

For the employees:

    • Employees get the option and flexibility to join an organization remotely and smoothly slip into their respective roles.
    • Employees exhibit flexibility and adaptability, and feel connected to the new organization, thereby proving to be a long-term and effective contributor to the company.
    • The focus is on training and empowering new employees, elevating long-term employee engagement and making the overall experience enriching and collaborative.

In conclusion, it’s important for organizations to invest in the right strategies and procedures to implement remote onboarding processes. The best way to do this is to factor in the skills, capabilities and processes the company needs to refine in order to be successful.

An effective remote onboarding program unfetters the employee’s ability for success, thereby enhancing the business’ overall well-being.