The COVID 19 pandemic and other relevant challenges have forced many Indian companies to resort to virtual onboarding. Without a doubt, this is a more challenging way to recruit new talents as traditional onboarding processes require face-to-face interactions.

However, there’s a right way to approach virtual onboarding and recruit new talents more effectively. Here’s a guide tackling the rise of demand for virtual onboarding during a pandemic and lockdown measures. We provide the top tips for onboarding your new starter.

virtual onboarding: explained

Virtual onboarding is traditional onboarding made digital through remote interaction. It’s the preferred option of companies that want to acquire new talents remotely as virtual onboarding can assess and train potential employees anywhere in the world.

Studies show that effective onboarding reduces the time it takes a new employee to contribute to the business effectively.

  • 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience great onboarding.
  • Research by Glassdoor has found that organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.

how long is the virtual onboarding process?

The consensus among HR professionals is that onboarding should take at least three months. However, research suggests companies can increase employee retention by extending onboarding throughout an employee’s entire first year.

who can be part of a virtual onboarding process?

When we think of onboarding, the tendency is to think of new starters as graduates straight from university or the experienced professional joining from a competitor. Onboarding can help set people up for success at any time of change in their careers.

Large organizations might invest in an online portal with bespoke content and learning to achieve this, but there are still areas that, as a manager, you can develop.

  • Returners to work
  • Building an agile workforce
  • Moving in management

As for age groups, you’ll mostly encounter new generations of employees. Gen Z (workers aged between 18 and 24) and millennials, or Gen Y (those aged between 25 and 34) are likely to make up a significant number of new hires.

Millennials are no longer the new kids on the block. The latest iteration of generation categories is generation alpha, which, like its dominating sounding title, comprises those born 2010+. Although not yet job seekers, they will soon become the next phase of candidates with even greater demand for flexibility, instant responses, virtual learning, and digital experts. Virtual onboarding will be the norm to alphas, as they stream a video game, make a TikTok video and simultaneously conduct an interview.

As many of these generations of workers are now in their mid-30s and have successfully integrated into the workforce, you may likely be onboarding Gen Z who are often new to the workforce and can be unclear about what to expect.

While Gen Z sometimes gets a bad name for job hunting or looking for a quick promotion, managers should consider that in these early stages of their careers, younger workers and recent graduates tend to be focused on learning and growth. Meanwhile, 36% of millennials leave organizations if they lack career opportunities.

how to onboard employees virtually and remotely

Starting a new job is a hopeful, exciting time. In a typical workplace, managers meet their new employees with a hearty welcome, a round of introductions, and an orientation to prepare them for their new role. In many workplaces, that tradition has evolved. More of us are working remotely, particularly lately, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Managers who have never onboarded an employee remotely are often unsure where to start. What tools and resources do you need? How can you make sure new employees feel supported when they’re working on their own? Onboarding new employees while working remotely requires a unique approach. Here’s a guide to help you start your relationship with new employees on the right foot when you can’t onboard them in person.

create a digital onboarding package

Set everyone up for success by making sure new employees are well-prepared to dive in on their first day of work. Connect with HR to create a digital onboarding package and provide it to new hires several days before their start date, so they have a chance to absorb all the material.

Things to include:

  • Documents, forms, and information they need to sign, i.e., offer digital copies of their ID, non-compete, benefits forms, etc.
  • Employee handbook, data privacy policy, help desk information
  • Access to tools, software, and their email account

If you’re providing hardware, such as a laptop or phone, take care to have it shipped well in advance, so they have everything they need from day one. It’s also a good idea to set up a virtual or phone meeting with HR the week before their start date to give them a chance to ask any questions about the onboarding package.

start with basic information

Why not contact your new employee before they start and share important information to help them feel prepared and excited for their first day? Information could include:

  • working hours
  • mobile numbers and emails of core team members.
  • intro to working from home. A re-cap of the online systems the business uses and how often people run video calls.

build a training plan and schedule

Most employees are more confident and perform better when they feel prepared and know what to expect. It’s helpful to create a training plan that they can begin on day one.

Best practices include:

  • planning and scheduling training sessions. Identify the people who will be training the new hire and put a schedule in place starting their first week.
  • creating meeting invites in their calendars. A pre-populated calendar with all the right information at their fingertips can help them feel purposeful right away.
  • making sure trainers are briefed. If various people will be training a new hire, be sure they know what they will be teaching and that they have their materials ready.
  • preparing training documents and cheat sheets. Include key information that the new employee can refer to as they begin to work on their own.
  • splitting training sessions over multiple days. Too much information at once is overwhelming.
  • using a secure video conferencing program. Make sure the software allows the trainer to share their screen and draw on a virtual whiteboard, if necessary. It should also provide two-way communication.

start with a face-to-face interaction

It’s hard to feel like you’ve officially started a job if you don’t cross a new threshold and immediately begin putting faces to names. Managers can recreate this experience for new hires by scheduling a face-to-face meeting via a video conferencing platform first thing on their first day.

It’s a good idea to start with a 1:1 video meeting with their direct manager to welcome them and explain the training and onboarding plan. Follow up with a video meeting with the team, so they can meet their colleagues in a relaxed way before getting down to business. You might even take the time to share a little about each other so meaningful connections are made.

use tools to streamline training

Amp up your training efficiency by preparing pre-recorded videos for some of the more straightforward processes or skills most new employees need to learn. This step gives the new hire a breather from the intensity of 1:1 video conference or phone training by allowing them to take it at their own pace and pause when necessary. Be sure to connect with the new employee afterward to see if they have questions.

Although pre-recorded videos save time, it’s important to avoid making them the only way you train employees. While recordings are convenient, they can also be seen as isolating and impersonal. It’s best to find a good balance between video training with interactive video conferencing training.

prepare activities that reinforce learning

Sometimes new employees need a transition between “learning” and “doing”, particularly if they work remotely and don’t have the benefit of seeing others do a similar job. To help make learning stick, create exercises that involve skills and processes they’ve learned in training.

It’s important to outline your expectations and objectives for the tasks clearly and make sure colleagues are available to support and answer questions. Depending on the complexity of the exercises, you may even assign someone to work with them via video conferencing for the first few tasks.

Are you hiring a team of remote workers at one time? Try group training or a buddy system. You can create a sense of camaraderie by conducting group training or pairing employees to learn together. Small group training via video conference allows people to learn more deeply by sharing observations and discussing what’s being learned.

Another way to make sure new hires feel welcome and supported is to connect them with an experienced colleague who can act as a point of reference and check in with them from time to time. Seeing a task being completed via screen sharing makes it easier for a new employee to operate a new system. It also helps them to get to know their colleagues and build rapport among the team.

communicate often

When it comes to onboarding remotely, there’s no such thing as over-communicating. As helpful as phone calls, emails, video conferences, and in-app communications are, they can’t take the place of a face-to-face conversation and body language.

If you want remote workers to feel welcome and part of the team, it’s important to show it—and often. This might mean:

  • asking managers and colleagues to go out of their way to be friendly, helpful, and supportive
  • setting up a regular team and 1:1 video chats
  • inviting new employees to reach out with questions and new ideas
  • providing a list of contacts available to answer questions
  • checking in often

make team building and employee engagement a priority

Nurturing a cohesive team and ensuring employees are plugged into the organization requires a new way of managing. In the absence of spontaneous water cooler chats among colleagues, it’s important to create the conditions for working relationships to develop and prosper.

Regular video conferencing meetings shouldn’t end when a new hire has been successfully integrated into your team. Encourage team members to set up weekly meetings to discuss projects, but also connect on a personal level. You might organize virtual social gatherings, clubs, and learning opportunities where employees can discuss things that matter to them that are unrelated to their professional roles.

Special attention needs to be focused on helping employees feel connected to the values and goals of the organization. Regular email newsletters, social networking channels, videos, and even short podcasts can form the basis for remote staff to feel involved in the bigger picture.

ask for feedback and evolve

It’s natural to refine your remote onboarding process over time. The best way to ensure you’re hitting all the right notes is to ask for feedback from employees who have gone through your onboarding program. Be honest with them about your learning curve and ask them to be candid with their responses so you can improve the process for future hires.

Most importantly, be prepared to act on what you learn quickly. Set up your remote onboarding processes to constantly evolve. Using file-sharing programs like Google Docs makes it easy to be nimble in changing, adding, or removing portions of your training documents.

dos and don'ts of virtual onboarding

There is no denying the importance of good employee onboarding. It improves employee acquisition and retention and prevents new hires from leaving. Businesses with poor onboarding processes could see their new employee leaving before the end of their probation. New starters who experience poorly planned and executed introductions sometimes get the impression that the business is poorly managed and may reconsider their choice to develop in the role.

As such, it’s to ensure new employees make the best possible start to their career with you. Here are the top dos and don’ts when virtually onboarding contingent workers.

do make flex workers feel welcome

Contingent workers shouldn’t feel that they are coming into your company as an outsider and are simply there to do their contracted tasks as quickly and quietly as possible. They should be welcomed into the business by everyone, from senior managers to the team members they will be working alongside.

Offering a warm welcome helps new arrivals feel comfortable in the working environment and eager to do their best for the company, which contributes to efficiency and productivity.

They will also be keen to return and work for you again in the future, laying the foundations for a long-term, mutually rewarding relationship.

do give enough information

Whether they are with you on a permanent or temporary basis, one of the best ways to integrate new employees into your organization is by giving them plenty of information about their role, the company, and what it does.

As well as helping them feel at home in the workplace, this helps to provide a picture of your culture, goals, and overall employer brand.

Failing to give contingent workers a thorough introduction to the business raises the risk of them feeling disengaged from their work and potentially making mistakes due to lack of awareness.

don’t treat temporary staff differently

Someone coming into your organization on a flexible or short-term basis should be made to feel like part of the team from day one. No one wants to feel like an outsider in the workplace, so it’s good practice to set policies that encourage all employees to treat every one of their co-workers with equal respect, even if they are on a short-term contract.

Contingent workers who instantly feel like part of the team will be more productive and will also feel comfortable enough to ask questions and request help if they need it.

Do provide dedicated support

Just like any other recruit, contingent workers should have access to all resources and avenues of support they need to do their job properly.

One of the most common pitfalls employers fall into when using temporary staff is expecting them to get straight to work and deliver what is expected of them, with little dedicated guidance or relevant information.

An experienced IT contractor, for example, could have all the core skills required to do the job but might still need a run-down of your company’s software and systems before getting started.

don’t set unrealistic expectations

You want to gain maximum results from the money you’re investing in your flexible workforce, of course. Still, you must be realistic in what you expect contractors and contingent staff to deliver during their time with you.

Setting goals that are simply unrealistic is likely to result in the worker feeling stressed and unhappy from the start, and the quality of their work will suffer. The same result could arise if they have to work excessive hours to reach their targets, running the risk of burnout and mistakes being made.

randstad’s stand in virtual onboarding

The latest HR and workforce trends suggest that contractors and flex workers will become an increasingly vital source of skills in the coming years. With that, we believe that adopting positive practices and investing in proper onboarding of contingent staff will help to ensure you gain maximum benefits from this portion of the talent pool.

about the author
yashab giri new
yashab giri new

yeshab giri

chief commercial officer - staffing & RT professionals

yeshab is responsible for leading the development and expansion of randstad India’s value added staffing services which currently encompass field force, engineering and technology roles.