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4 Tips for Onboarding New Employees in a Virtual World

Onboarding!

The word sparks feelings of joy as it evokes the beginning of something new. A new teammate, a powerful fresh start and a clean slate. However, with great power (and joy) comes great responsibility. You’ve just deemed this person worthy of joining your team and company. Now it’s your job to ensure they feel welcome, know what they’re doing and settle in nicely. 

Below, I outlined four steps to make this tall order seem much more manageable in a virtual world.

1. Give them the tools they need

Connect with your new employee before their first day to discuss how they’ll receive their computer and other office equipment. Whether you’ll be mailing it or doing a contactless handoff, it’s important to make sure your new hire has the physical tools they need to make their early days a success. Make sure that all applications they need are loaded on their computer and that their email, chat and other key services are set up and running. You may want to attach a sticky note with their login credentials. You may even want to send their equipment in advance, giving them an opportunity to familiarize themselves with it before day one.

2. Plan the first week

Try to imagine what your new hire’s first days should be like. That first week is a crucial—setting the tone for the weeks and months to come. Plans can of course change, but having an idea of how your new teammate should spend their time will ease anxiety all around. Think about shadowing opportunities for your new hire so that they can get real-world experiences under their belt. Your new employee will be bright eyed and bushy tailed this first week. Capitalize on this by throwing them in the deep end and exposing them to meetings right away. Ask for feedback. Or give them an assignment, such as “observe this meeting and share your thoughts with me”. It’s a great, low-risk way to get them actively engaged in your business.

Remember that your new employee likely came from knowing everything about their job to starting over at ground zero. Simple exercises like the one above will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment right off the bat. It may even give you some fresh insights into your processes and meetings. 

Here are some other meetings you might want to include in their plan:

  • HR/finance meet and greet/paperwork finalization
    • Send paperwork to your new hire ahead of time so they can come to the meeting prepared and ready to ask questions.
  • Technology check in and troubleshooting
    • Server overview and shared drive orientation
  • Meet and greet with:
    • Manager
    • Core team
    • Office buddies

Of course, in these modern times, all of these meetings are likely to be virtual.

3. Over Communicate

Open communication is important in a normal office setting. In today’s COVID world, it’s critical. Don’t assume that your new hire knows what they are doing. Check in multiple times and encourage their peers to do the same. Encourage your new staff member to ask questions, no matter how basic. They have to feel safe and motivated to adapt to their new, largely abstract, environment. If you’re not getting any questions, you should absolutely probe for them.

You can also set new hires up for success by assigning them office buddies. Select the three to four people in your office who “know it all.” This way, if you’re stuck and can’t help, you have back up. The last thing you’d want is for your new teammate to suffer alone when they don’t know the answer to something. 

4. Set short- and long-term goals

You hired this person because they would bring something of value to your organization, so don’t lose sight of that fact in the onboarding process. Before they even start, identify specific achievable goals and expectations for them—tasks and metrics you can review together  on a 30, 60 and 90 day basis. It’s important for the new employee to know where they can turn for support, so make sure those are identified, as well. These can be things like FAQ docs, process documents, teammates, consultants and other resources that will help your new hire be successful.

Long-term goals will help your new hire understand what success looks like. Include attainable KPI’s and metrics so that you can measure success. Seek input from your new hire, as well, so that you’re both aligned and headed in the same direction. Check in on these goals on a regular basis—at least monthly, and perhaps more frequently at first. These meetings will be your opportunity to course correct and offer ongoing guidance.

A thoughtful onboarding process will make your new employee feel excited to get started in their new role. Your job is to set them up for success by providing a strong foundation. Ensuring that your new hire understands company basics and has a strong support system is a surefire way to guarantee their success. Structured onboarding provides valuable experience for all and makes it far more likely a new employee will stick around for the long haul. Happy planning! 

Rachna Raniga

Author: Rachna J. Raniga Rachna brings exceptional business instincts and a wealth of experience to her role as account director. Relentlessly helpful, she has an exceptional ability to establish and nurture relationships with her clients and teams. Creative and quick on her feet, no challenge is too big or small.

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