Virtually Onboarding Staff: How to Engage and Welcome New Employees.

The goal of a virtual employee onboarding supports the new hire getting familiar with the company and its mission and values. 

 It is the same process as onboarding employees in-person, making them feel welcomed and included, facilitating connections with the team and providing tools and training to start making an impact.  

Onboarding principles

Without being able to meet in person, it can be challenging to make your new employee feel like part of the team. Here’s how to build a personalised and engaging virtual onboarding experience that will set up the new hire for success. 

 1. Pre-onboarding paperwork

Onboarding starts with the signing of paperwork, such as the employment contract, tax documents and other documents via an online tool and/or using an e-signature tool, so your new employee can view, edit and sign remotely.  

 2. Onboarding Fundamentals

Think about the fundamentals of why the onboarding process is established in the first place. The documentation shared with the new hire should be based on the following principles:  

  • Compliance, policies and procedures: mandatory documentation and information.  
  • Inclusive material, feeling a sense of belonging: Clarification, objectives settings and job responsibilities.  
  • Culture and engagement: insight and knowledge to build relationships with colleagues and understanding the company’s ways of working.

It is important to reflect on how information will be delivered to employees, as information can be shared via email or by leveraging video conferencing platforms. Make use of visual cues or features to support the new hire in getting familiar with the team, and recognising colleagues during online meetings. 

 3. Welcome message & package

Include relevant information, such as when to expect equipment, the agenda for their first day and week, and links to join initial video conferences and the HR intranet to explore. 

Make your new employee feel valued, appreciated and part of the team by sending a welcome package that includes flowers, a notebook, a pen, a charger or other personalised unique welcome gifts on the first working day. 

 4. Deliver work equipment

Send new hires the tech equipment such as laptop, mouse, keyboard, monitor and headset. If possible, download and install company-specific software and programmes before sending any equipment to your new hires. 

Include IT instructions to help them get logged into their computer and work email for the first time. Let IT organise a virtual tour to get the new hire familiar with the workspace, set up of VPN and other requirements.  

Consider working with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies or provide company equipment for new hires to be successful in their work.  

5. Onboarding plan

The onboarding plan/checklist or agenda, should be shared upfront with the new hire, so that way the conversation might be more high-value, as it will focus on questions and impactful conversations.  

For creating the plan, the main questions are: “What would you like your new hire to learn and do during the first week, the first month and within 3 months?  

Come up with a schedule, making sure to build in breaks between video calls and enough check-ins and touchpoints. Build in actions for the new hire to complete, such as arranging meetings to get to know their new colleagues. 

Construct the onboarding as interactively as possible to support the new hire in learning and retaining information. Include polls, quizzes, and other game elements in the onboarding sessions to make the information stick. 

Include a session in which the new hire meets the colleagues/team online, so that everyone can introduce themselves and briefly explain their job roles, including perhaps a fun fact about themselves. 

A suggestion is for HR to put together a toolkit for managers which outlines the typical personality archetypes, and go beyond just classifying employees as introverts or extroverts. In this way, the manager can align their online support during the virtual onboarding and beyond.  

6. Internal Communication – new hire

Send a new hire announcement to inform the organisation and team of the new hire’s arrival. Make sure to include the new employee in the email so they can see any replies to the welcome message. 

7. Meet the team

Traditionally, a new employee is introduced to their co-workers and new team members on their first day. To do this virtually, set up a video call introduction with the new hire’s team or department. Have current employees go around and briefly explain what they do, including a fun fact about themselves. 

8. Hold a company orientation

Develop a new hire orientation course that covers the company information, such as the history, organisational structure, mission, values, HR policies and procedures. Loop in stakeholders to present or share the vision:; CEO, managers, Chair Works Council and others.  

9. Collect virtual onboarding feedback

Send an online survey to collect feedback about the virtual onboarding process and improve your process.