Bringing Originality And Structure To Onboarding New Employees Virtually

Posted on August 14, 2020 by BWBacon. Tagged: Resources for Entrepreneurs, For Clients

(Updated September 2023)

Onboarding new employees virtually can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, traditional and informal ways of onboarding new team members when they come into the office are no longer available, which throws a wrench into what companies are used to. On the other, it presents an opportunity for hiring teams to codify, organize, and get creative about their onboarding process.

To understand fluctuations in onboarding this year, we explored how hiring teams and HR departments in tech are fine-tuning their procedures. Re-inventing onboarding to suit remote work is a strength that extends beyond the coronavirus crisis, as a successful program is foundational to retaining new hires.

Why Designing New Onboarding Techniques Is Crucial

Generally speaking, onboarding is not only to educate a new hire on company processes, workflow, and expectations but also to ingrain company culture and a sense of rapport. Information from a Bamboo HR study discovered that new employees with good onboarding experience were 18 times more committed to their employer than those with a poor experience.

Think of onboarding new employees like dating during the pandemic. You’ve searched high and low, even across the nation for a great match, for someone with which you can do great things. As top tech talent is in higher demand than ever, making a lasting first impression on your new employee is crucial. It’s well known that turnover is far more costly than implementing better employee engagement programs.

What’s more, remote onboarding and creating a feeling of connectivity will take even more precision without in-person spaces. With over 58% of companies solely focusing on paper-work in their onboarding process, it’s time to bring more ingenuity and humanity into onboarding.

Adapting Traditional Welcome Methods To Virtual Experiences

A productive virtual onboarding program requires building a digital tool kit of assets for new employees. Use a collaborative document tool, like Google Docs, to make a reference page for tidbits about the company and how your teams work to cover details that might not be in the employee handbook. Add visuals, video training clips, or links to company resources to cut down on lengthy presentations, as starting a new job usually means taking in a lot of new information.

Designing a virtual experience for onboarding new employees does not need to be overly complicated. In reality, during this time where everything is a little sideways, new hires will likely appreciate your candor, brevity, and eagerness to dive into the real work. Focus on what are the most crucial pieces of information someone starting at your company needs to know, and make it easy for them to access.

Establish a point of communication for new employees, so it is clear who they can go to for questions they may have. Another impactful onboarding technique is the buddy or ambassador system.  New hires are paired with a mentor figure that checks in on a regular, scheduled basis for the first several months. A study from the Human Capital Institute found that while 87% of organizations with this type of program say that it's an effective way to speed up new hire proficiency, less than half of companies surveyed actually used this method. Ask more senior engineers to take on this mentoring role, it’s as simple as a weekly line of connection. As a bonus, this practice is great for team building.

Why It Matters To Distinguish Onboarding VS Orientation

The difference between onboarding and orientation is that onboarding new employees goes beyond the legal paperwork of starting a new role. Orientation, as in paperwork, training, setting up technology hardware and software needs, is just covering the basics. Most organizations do not move beyond one week of onboarding tasks, which often leaves new hires feeling disconnected and discouraged.

If such paperwork can be done digitally ahead of time before the employee starts, this benefits all parties. This year, the federal government loosened restrictions around the Employment Eligibility Verification I-9 document, making it easier for companies to hire. Learn more about the details of the new I-9 regulations here.

Go the extra mile to help your new hire connect with people on LinkedIn and other social media before their first day. Give them a run-down of how your team communications, and add them to company Slack channels to get the virtual mingling started. For a truly welcoming experience, someone’s first day should include a personal touch like an email from the CEO.

This is where the fun, original aspects of onboarding begin, like sending a welcome package with all the company swag. Setting up this relationship for success starts with making a celebratory moment out of this new person joining your team. Host a preliminary video call with your team, so each person can introduce themselves and their role with the company. Distinguishing onboarding from orientation may seem like negligible details, but personalizing this experience ensures people feel secure, valued, and excited about what’s to come.

Let Your Culture Speak For Itself When Onboarding New Employees

To get people feeling connected and comfortable, lean on technology resources to ensure your virtual onboarding experience is as good or better than your in-person experience. When someone’s only connection to their new job is through a screen, delineating exactly how your culture comes through is the difference between someone buying in or checking out. Consider new ways to use technology to ease the challenges of getting a new hire up to speed.

Being inclusive as a means of onboarding involves relaying how your company practices its values. Do you have a monthly appreciation meeting for employee recognition? If your company claims to promote openness and authenticity, are there avenues for employees to express themselves? The main goal of onboarding is for people to absorb and really invest in your values and culture.

Culture also means keeping up the light-hearted parts of working on a team. Celebrations for birthdays and recognizing personal achievements should not fall by the wayside just because we’re all at home. Is it weird to eat cake alone in your house while watching other people eat cake on your computer? Maybe, but it’s also something worth smiling about, and those moments matter.

Another way to elevate company culture through is to focus on outcomes, rather than rigid deadlines and schedules. A list of tasks and smaller goals to start is important, but reiterating the big picture and the desired outcome builds a mutual understanding.

And finally, sharing your company’s story humanizes the sometimes awkward exchange of starting a new role. After all, everyone loves a good story. Emphasize your company’s origins and narrative with a lively tale, include as much detail in as possible. Creating an origin story about your passion for the product your new employee will be engineering generates that excitement.

The Long-Term Benefits Of Re-Vamping Your Onboarding Process Benefits

Altogether, adapting your onboarding process to better suit our virtual world is worthy. The pay-out of creating a holistic onboarding process goes beyond reducing turnover and saving money. This re-invention of hiring better prepares companies for a cultural shift into dynamic work, or a “framework where the physical office is no longer the center of the company, schedules are more flexible, and technology enables employees to be productive anywhere.” This is the future.

As it turns out, an unexpected benefit of remote hiring could be a greater opportunity for hiring more diverse people. Some new HR data indicates that virtual interviewing and onboarding may reduce unconscious biases in the hiring process. Better developed evaluation techniques, paired with greater structure in the interview process, allows hiring teams to view candidates through a wider lens. This is great news for the tech industry, that is historically unbalanced, yet slowly improving.

Once passed the initial shock-wave, many companies are feeling more comfortable standing up on their surfboards. Onboarding new employees may be changing, but we sense it is for the better. Virtual work will have lasting effects, but we hope it can positively impact recruiting new employees, implementing diversity, and team building.

Here at BWBacon Group, we know and live what you are experiencing as an employer or job seeker in Denver, Boulder, Dallas, San Francisco, New York City or any of the other cities we work in. We believe great recruiting starts and ends with understanding people.

If you have any questions about living, working or playing any of the areas we serve, please contact us. We are happy to help. Seize the day, every day, that’s what we say!