Did you know that organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and increase new hire productivity by over 70%? These statistics, cited in a study commissioned by Glassdoor, highlight the impact of a well-planned and executed onboarding program.

Onboarding sub-contractors is just as important; no one wants subcontractor turnover or poor productivity.

If you are responsible for onboarding in your company, you may be thinking you can’t afford to put more time into the onboarding process. The one-on-one time needed for a successful onboarding experience can sidetrack you from your other job responsibilities.

The length of the onboarding process can be overwhelming in itself: more and more research is finding those effective companies onboard new employees through the first year at a minimum.

Add on the additional complications of onboarding a new employee virtually, and the planning and execution for effective onboarding can become overwhelming.

Goals of an Effective Onboarding Process

A successful virtual onboarding process will increase employee engagement, boost productivity & job satisfaction, and increase employee retention. A successful virtual onboarding process will also help the new hire feel excited and welcomed, and will create virtual substitutes for office tours, team outings, and meet-and-greets with the company’s employees.

These virtual onboarding tips will help you develop an onboarding plan that accounts for the unique needs of hiring a virtual employee.

Before the Onboarding Begins (Pre-Onboarding)

Define the individuals who will be involved in the onboarding process and define their roles

Map out the roles of any employees who will be a part of the new hire’s onboarding process. These people may be responsible for training, mentoring, or be a part of the day-to-day team the employee interacts within the process of doing their job.

Coach these team members on their role with the new individual and how to achieve these goals in a virtual setting.

Schedule a video call with this key onboarding team to review and discuss the roles so everyone is on the same page.

Creating an Effective Virtual Onboarding Experience

Successful virtual onboarding involves thinking outside the box. In addition to creating a thorough onboarding program that supports, educates, and integrates the new employee, you need to find ways to make that employee feel welcomed and part of the team using virtual tactics.

The following items are key components to creating an employee onboarding process flow that will maximize the success of your new hire and your company.

Use Video. Always.

Using a video for each training session, call, or team interaction is a critical component of virtual onboarding success.

Video sessions increase engagement and help team members pick up on non-verbal cues that they might miss on a phone call.

Record Your Virtual Training Sessions

Recording your virtual sessions and filing them in a library available to that employee can make it easier for the employee to refer back to the session when clarification is needed. This can be as simple as using the recording feature in Zoom then saving the recording in a file for the employee to access when needed.

Create Connection Opportunities

Being a virtual employee can be a very lonely experience. You can simulate the in-office feeling of connection and belonging with intentional activities:

Schedule “face-to-face” virtual team Zoom meetings with different company teams early in the onboarding process

Choose 2 or 3 icebreaker questions and have each employee answer them, along with giving a brief description of their work responsibilities. This will help the new employee begin to forge connections and get to know their coworkers in various areas of the company. 

Schedule one-on-one virtual meetings with the employees your new hire will interact with on a regular basis

Again mix a few icebreaker questions with nuts-and-bolts information about what the new hire will be working on with that employee.

Assign a Mentor to the New Hire

The mentor is a person that the new hire can go to with questions or if they need support. Choose the mentor carefully; they need to be approachable and outgoing enough to engage with the new hire and help them through the onboarding process.

Ask the mentor to schedule virtual coffees and lunches with the new hire to create opportunities for conversation. Mentors should check in with the new employees once or twice a week.

If your company is spread across time zones, try and choose a mentor in the same, or similar, time zone.

Create a “Virtual Employees” Discussion Group

If your company is a mix of in-office and virtual employees, create a virtual employee loop and schedule social activities similar to the ones scheduled for the in-office team. 

Lunches or happy hours for in-office employees can translate to a virtual event: give each your virtual employees a budget to spend for the event, then have them pick up and enjoy their meal or happy hour beverage on a virtual team get together.

Create an Interactive Onboarding Program

Virtual onboarding programs can get boring and monotonous – fast. A well-designed virtual onboarding process keeps your new employee engaged and connected by intermixing various virtual onboarding activities. 

If you are onboarding multiple employees at once, have them break into small virtual groups to discuss topics after they are presented. Give each group a question to discuss, then have employees come back together to present their group’s answers.

If you are onboarding a single employee, create a virtual scavenger hunt of items found in the company’s website or online employee resources. 

Create a List of Online Training, Required Reading, and Competitor Research

One of the challenges of a new hire is knowing what to do with downtime in the first month. Giving the employee a list of tasks to complete in downtime not only accomplishes training objectives, but also helps the employee stay busy when they are not yet self-sufficient and have breaks in their schedule.

This will also add variety to their days so they are not constantly on calls or watching videos.

Check-in Regularly

Be sure to schedule regular video check-in meetings with the new hire. They will need this more often than an on-site employee; virtual employees lack the day-to-day interaction with coworkers that happens naturally in an on-site office environment so do not get those opportunities to raise questions or discuss how things are going.

Create a Varied Onboarding Schedule That is Spread Out Over a Week

Trying to fit onboarding into one or two days is overwhelming for the employee. It will be less effective as retention will be diminished due to information overload.

Make sure each day has a mix of activities. A schedule that mixes Zoom meetings, online training modules, forms, virtual social interactions, and daily check-in video calls will keep the employee engaged and allow them to process all the new material and procedures.

Sprinkle a little fun into each day, whether it be a group or individual get-to-know-you meetings or virtual scavenger hunts that familiarize the employee with various website areas or employees.

Don’t Forget to Highlight the Company Mission, Culture, and Values

A 2018 LinkedIn study showed that 71% of the 3000 U.S. workers surveyed would take a pay cut to work at a company with values and a mission that the person believes in. Similarly, 70% would leave their company if it had a bad culture. 

This highlights the importance of company culture and values for employee attraction and retention. You need to make sure your onboarding process helps the new hire learn about the company, what values it is built on, and what the workplace culture is like.

Schedule Regular Follow-Ups

Once the formal onboarding week is complete, schedule regular follow-ups to help the new hire stay connected and supported. These follow-ups need to be more frequent at the beginning, then can space out as the year progresses.

In addition to follow-ups with you, schedule some with various company departments such as HR, training, and others that the employee interacts with on a regular basis.

Comprehensive Onboarding Can Increase Employee Retention

Onboarding is no easy task. It requires time, organization, and consistency, along with the flexibility to tweak each employee’s onboarding process to match their needs as well as the requirements of their job.

If you do not have a virtual onboarding experience or the time to complete the process with new employees, hiring an OBM to handle onboarding can not only increase employee retention but increase new employee productivity as well.

Robin Kramer is an expert in virtual onboarding and has developed a thorough and engaging onboarding process that engages the employee and sets them up for success. She can do as little or as much as the onboarding process as you want and will work with you to determine your needs.

Her 23 years of experience working with small businesses gives her the knowledge needed to efficiently and successfully handle business details, thus creating time in your schedule for you to focus on your business.

To learn more about Robin’s skills and discuss her onboarding packages, contact her for a free consultation today.