Virtual onboarding: How to welcome new hires while fully remote

Onboarding new employees when everyone is working remotely has special challenges. Consider these best practices and tips to make your virtual onboarding process succeed.
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This year, businesses across the globe (including my own company, LogMeIn) went from talking about remote working plans to rapidly putting them into action. As a result of the pandemic, millions of people – including many who had never regularly worked from home – have been suddenly forced into their home offices.

With no physical office to welcome and connect new employees, how should the onboarding process adjust to match the times?

Organizations that were already equipped with remote work and collaboration tools have managed to continue many business operations as usual. However, many face the daunting task of having to fit processes such as hiring and onboarding new talent into this new environment. With no physical office to welcome and connect new employees, how should the onboarding process adjust to match the times?

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Virtual onboarding: Best practices and tips

Let’s look at some tips for how to onboard new employees in a fully remote work environment while ensuring that they are set up for success and feel like part of the team.

Establish personal connections

Traditionally on an employee’s first day, they would be shown around the office and introduced to their coworkers and new team members. Establishing these connections is an integral part of the onboarding process and should not be forgotten just because there’s no physical office to tour.

Use virtual meetings to their advantage: By leveraging virtual meeting tools, welcome introductions can be just as seamless and effortless as they would be in person, allowing new hires to connect and engage with their managers and teammates.

Consider a "welcome buddy": To provide even more direct support on the first day, the HR department can assign new hires a virtual “welcome buddy.” This might be an existing employee of similar rank, or a friendly face from the office who has gone through the traditional onboarding process and can advise on how to have a successful start at the company.

We’re lucky to be able to lean on our own technology, GoToMeeting, to facilitate these introductions. But whatever your platform your organization uses, encourage video during these introductory meetings to kick-start deeper connections and limit any feelings of isolation new employees might have.

Additionally, “face-to-face” interactions can help bridge potential communication gaps by providing the ability to express tone and body language. These seemingly simple benefits can help convey a company’s workplace culture in more meaningful ways than written communication or corporate assets.

Design a roadmap for success

After the first day or week, it’s important to not let the onboarding process fizzle out.

Establish a “meet-and-greet” roadmap: One that stretches out several weeks can help connect new employees with other individuals they should know to build their internal networks while remote. This also helps them learn more about the company by talking to employees in other departments and gain a deeper understanding of the roles and responsibilities of their colleagues.

Consider a virtual mentor: Additionally, assigning new employees a virtual mentor who can build them a customized learning path can speed up the onboarding time and allow for more learning and growth. Taking time in the beginning to fully immerse new employees in any available educational resources sets them up for success and gives them a strong foundation to build on. In the long term, a mentor can be an invaluable resource for advice and feedback and can help define their career path at the company.

Don’t be afraid to adjust the new hire learning journey: Consider rolling out information and training to new hires at a slower pace. It can be overwhelming to be onboarded in a completely remote environment. By spacing out learning, you will give the new hire a chance to absorb the information and ask questions instead of inundating them with content all at once.

Let your new hire know they can work their way through onboarding information at their own pace and in their own hours.

In these unusual times, when many people are responsible for children at home as well as their work, you can add some much-appreciated flexibility. Let your new hire know they can work their way through onboarding information at their own pace and in their own hours.

Signal upfront that you are aware of variables such as children or roommates in a shared apartment. This shows empathy and sets a positive supporting tone that can create strong loyalty for the new company.

Document onboarding process changes: Lastly, it's important to document process changes and design remote onboarding guides to keep managers informed. While everyone is transitioning to working remotely, things can become more ambiguous. Having access to documentation that outlines roles, responsibilities, and changes to onboarding in a remote environment helps keep everyone informed and accountable.

Build an engaging virtual culture

Remote working doesn’t mean company culture goes out the window – in fact, corporate culture expands well beyond the walls of an office and is even more critical during the transition to a remote environment. But for new hires, explaining a company’s values and organizational behaviors can be difficult when they’re secluded at home.

Establish ongoing touchpoints and check-ins: This is critical to maintain culture and keep remote employees engaged, motivated, and connected, especially for new hires. For smaller companies and departments, this can mean office-wide virtual meetings or daily standups; for larger organizations, it could translate to regular video updates from the CEO, virtual team celebrations, or requirements for managers to have daily or weekly check-ins with their teams and direct reports. The key is to develop a regular schedule for interaction and communication, so no one feels isolated or alone.

Adapt programs and groups to a virtual environment: Also, encourage new hires to join, even if they haven’t met everyone involved. At LogMeIn, we’ve rolled out virtual mindfulness and wellness classes and happy hours, and even hosted themed virtual meetups. We also encourage our employees – new hires and tenured employees alike – to share their best #LogMeInlife experiences and #WorkFromHere tips with each other and with their networks. That creates a shared sense of camaraderie and community that can be built even before a new hire sets foot into our physical buildings.

Highlight positivity: Without traditional perks such as team outings or bagel Fridays, maintaining a positive workplace culture will be one of the main considerations for how new recruits judge their experience.

Create a clear onboarding path 

Successful onboarding ensures a clear path for employees as they enter a new company. Even in this unprecedented time, the shift to remote work shouldn’t prevent new employees from the traditional experience, and organizations should be prepared for onboarding more employees in this remote setting. By implementing new practices to support the remote working model, employers will make themselves more attractive to prospective employees, while maintaining business continuity.

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Jo Deal serves as LogMeIn’s Chief Human Resources Officer. She is responsible for leading global people strategy with a focus on attracting, developing and engaging world class talent by expanding LogMeIn’s reputation as one of tech’s most desirable career destinations, and by providing a collaborative learning environment where employees can grow their careers.