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16 Ways Employers Can Create An Effective Virtual Onboarding Experience

The business world is migrating online. As a result, companies will need to develop new onboarding practices that cater specifically to remote workers.

With shelter-in-place orders requiring myriad workers to start telecommuting, several businesses have found this preferable to having employees come in.

A problem arises when a company decides to hire someone new, while still relying on the in-person onboarding exercises that they’ve utilized for so long. It’s impossible to onboard a new hire virtually using an in-person methodology.

As a result, companies will need to develop new onboarding practices that cater specifically to remote workers. Sixteen experts from Forbes Human Resources Council offer their insight to how employers can establish practical onboarding experiences for virtual employees, and explain how this would make things proceed more smoothly.

Members offer tips for employers looking to translate their onboarding experience into the virtual realm. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.

  1. Focus On Cultural Immersion

A key component of an effective onboarding experience is cultural immersion. Similarly to visiting a new country, employees need to experience the company culture in a variety of ways. This includes virtual lunches, video meet-and-greets, invites to key meetings with a debrief immediately after, virtual office tours and more. One by one, these experiences can drive engagement and retention. - Takiyah Gross-Foote, LexisNexis Risk Solutions and Reed Business Information (both RELX Group companies)

  1. Ensure Clarity And Consistency

Communication is key for virtual onboarding. Usually overlooked as the key solution, there is a need for clarity and consistency across designated platforms. We use Workplaces as our virtual workplace. New employees are interviewed on our “Meet the Ph’amily” program. We use an iPhone to record, which allows the interview to be easily posted. Team members globally get to know a new team member. - Cher Murphy, Ph.Creative

  1. Leverage Well-Being Platform And Programs

Employers can create a positive virtual onboarding experience by introducing new employees to their digital well-being platform and programs as part of the process. Well-being platforms are great communication tools — they help employers reinforce company culture, promote benefits and launch healthy challenges to encourage social connection and team building, even as employees work virtually. - David Osborne, Virgin Pulse

  1. Use Short Instructional Videos

By shifting traditional onboarding content to short instructional videos, you allow new employees to engage at their own pace. Couple this approach with pre-scheduled appointments where new hires and their dependents can meet with HR and Payroll to have their questions answered for a high-touch virtual onboarding model. - Cassandra Rose, Sprinklr

  1. Create A Sense Of Belonging

Examine the standout experiences and key cultural attributes an employee would typically encounter in their first 90 days and bring them to life in a variety of ways using online videos, collaboration and communication tools, home deliveries, and even good old snail mail. A sense of belonging through these outreach efforts can really accelerate the integration of new hires into the business. - Jennifer Bouyoukos, Entertainment One

  1. Spread Onboarding Across Several Days

Instead of having one day of onboarding, consider spreading activities across several days or even a week. This will create a natural structure for the new hire while they become familiar with your company. Stretching out onboarding activities does not mean it has to be more time-intensive. Messages from company leaders can be pre-recorded and scheduled throughout the week. - Curtis Grajeda, LevelUP Human Capital Solutions

  1. Set Up Casual Virtual Meet-And-Greets

Remove the formality of the onboarding process and set up casual virtual meet-and-greets to immediately welcome employees. Immerse them through access to onboarding tech and corporate intranets before they walk in the door. Above all else, regular communication with them throughout the process is a must. The less connected new employees are from colleagues and leaders, the less engaged they’ll be. - Susan Tohyama, Ceridian

  1. Have Virtual Coffee Chats With New Hires

I love the idea of implementing virtual coffee chats with new hires throughout their time with the organization. This can be done with each cohort to check in on how things are going and provide employees with a chance to network and stay connected to an inclusive group that started at the company around the same time. - Lotus Buckner, NCH

  1. Launch A Virtual Buddy Program

Match new hires with seasoned employees who can answer questions and provide advice. Because it’s virtual, you can make matches based on interests rather than just put two people together because they’re in the same office. Encourage communication by video so new hires get to see a friendly face. And screen sharing can help mentors talk through new processes. - Kim Pope, WilsonHCG

  1. Prioritize The Human Connection

Going digital does not mean the onboarding process must lose the human connection. Mail welcome cards signed by the team, employment forms, benefit brochures or physical documents that are normally distributed on the first day to the new hire’s home address. This is a way to maintain physical and human connection in the absence of handshakes and on-site welcome sessions. - Jessica Delorenzo, Kimball Electronics Inc

  1. Have A Personalized Multichannel Approach

An exceptional virtual onboarding experience should include a planned, personalized, seamless and fun multichannel approach — text, video, surveys, chatbots, email and phone are all an essential part of the mix. Make sure your writing is clear and effective by using digital tools like https://rephraser.ai/, especially if you’re a non-native speaker. Keeping the human touch, assigning a team “buddy” to amplify the micromoments and sustaining a continuously engaged mindset sets everyone up for success no matter what comes next! - Jay Polaki, HR Geckos

  1. Use A Video Platform With Breakout Rooms

For the best virtual onboarding experience, it is helpful to use a cloud-based video and web conferencing platform that allows for individual breakout rooms. New hires especially can be reticent to speak up in a large group of people they do not yet know. Setting up small breakout groups, with a facilitator, allows everyone to feel more comfortable and to start engaging. - Sherrie Suski, Tricon American Homes

  1. Leverage Mobile Technology

Employers can leverage mobile technology to ensure a smooth and hassle-free onboarding experience for new hires. Launching an onboarding app is a step in the right direction as it helps reduce cumbersome, back-and-forth paperwork, as well as numerous phone calls from recruiters. Integrating text or SMS functionality with the onboarding app would further expedite the hiring process. - Nish Parikh, Rangam Consultants Inc.

  1. Create First-Day Game Boards

Stress causes anxiety, but a bit of fun can channel adrenaline as a positive moment. Uncertainty and lack of control are big factors for a new hire, so we created a first-day game board. It maps the day, how to get help, meet people and set up for success. The intimidation is now positively channeled into an adrenaline-filled game. They control their destiny and are able to contribute quickly. - Ashira Gobrin, Wave Financial

  1. Invest In On-Demand Feedback Solutions

Onboarding, traditionally a face-to-face opportunity to learn about a company’s culture and build a network, has a new set of challenges. Take this opportunity to invest in on-demand feedback solutions so that trainers can pivot quickly and continue to engage and build a community for your new hires. It’s a worthwhile investment and fosters a culture of feedback post orientation. - Yvette Kennedy, Explorance

  1. Convert Traditional Training To Shorter Bursts

Convert traditional onboarding classroom training to shorter bursts where course material is “flipped” so learning is more engaging. Going virtual raises the bar on content, which needs to be visual, interactive, on brand and available for reference during/after class via simple search. Make sure employees have easy access to the training they’ve completed so they can refresh and apply things they learned. - Jeff Carr, Inkling

Adapted from an article on https://www.forbes.com/ first published September 4, 2020