What Can Employers Do to Prepare for Virtual Onboarding?

Eric Mochnacz
November 12, 2020

Congratulations!  You’ve identified the top candidate from your most recent round of interviews.  They’ve accepted your offer and are excited to start their work with their company.  Whether you’ve always operated as a remote work environment or you’ve had to adjust to remote work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential for your business to be prepared to run your employee lifecycle processes virtually.  A business’s ability to successfully implement virtual onboarding for new team members is critical to their employee brand, the employee experience and their ability to retain top talent.  If you’ve invested time in recruiting this person, investing in a strong remote onboarding program means you will be able to keep them.  

Before we take a deeper dive into how you can make your virtual onboarding process unique to your company, you want to make sure you have the basics covered.  Any successful onboarding program has clearly outlined learning outcomes that explain what the new employee will know at the conclusion of every phase of the onboarding process.  You also have a working checklist to guarantee the new hire has everything they need to be successful and the employer has completed all the necessary paperwork to guarantee a smooth transition.  This level of granularity may seem cumbersome, but it helps ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.  Make sure all key players who will be interfacing with the new employee have a detailed schedule and understand their role in the onboarding program.  Those employees should all have access to phone numbers of webconference information to make the process as smooth as possible.  Onboarding and new employee integration should be treated as a priority, not an afterthought.  Having organization leaders show up late to or completely forget meetings with your new hire can have a long-lasting and detrimental affect on an employee’s experience with your business.  Finally, once an employer recognizes that onboarding isn’t just about an employee’s first day, but about their ongoing integration into the company, it provides the opportunity to foster a worker with a life-long commitment to the company and it’s brand.  

Incorporate Your Culture Into Everything

Your company culture should drive every business decision you make.  Traditionally, your company culture is an extension of your core values.  Even if you aren’t able to meet your new employee in person right now, their remote onboarding should still focus on integrating the new hire into your company’s culture.  If there were certain in-person traditions that were part of an employee’s first day, determine how you can effectively have them be part of your company’s new virtual experience.  Sure, we’re all Zoom fatigued, but if happy hour is always part of the new employee experience, hop on a virtual happy hour with your favorite adult beverage and share a “Cheers!” to your new employee at the conclusion of their first day.

As a business transitions to remote processes, it’s also a key time for company leadership to determine if the culture and core values are sustainable in a remote environment.  If your employee’s ability to be successful in the organization is tied solely to their physical presence in an office, it may be time to reevaluate business operations in the context of your company value.  If your onboarding processes can’t work in a virtual environment, but that is the long-term reality for your employees and your business, now is the time to partner with your managers and HR team to create a more robust and scalable onboarding program for your employees.

Build Connections and Be Inclusive

One of the things we can all acknowledge we are missing in this virtual world of work is the in-person communication we are used to.  There is something about not being able to walk to a co-worker’s cubicle and talk through a project.  Now, we have to send an email or hop on another Zoom call to feel like we are being effective.  This requires more time and intentional planning, which can be a drain on our energy and our resources.  

However, in a world where we feel disconnected, you need to double down on building intentional connections with your new employee during their onboarding.  It is important, now more than ever, for a new employee to feel integrated into their work environment and connected with their colleagues.  Managers and colleagues should devote time to scheduled check-ins to make sure the employee feels like they are welcome as a new addition to the team.  One way you can also connect with your new hires is sending them a new employee questionnaire before they start.  The survey provides them an opportunity to share more personal information about themselves that wouldn’t be appropriate to put in a resumé in a cover letter, but is information they want their new colleagues to know.

Consider DISC Assessments

One of the essential elements to a successful remote workforce is the ability for all team members to communicate effectively with each other.  One way to effectively understand your team’s preferred communication styles and the forces that drive the work they do is to work with a trusted partner to administer DISC assessments to your team.  Having a Red Clover consultant interpret the results of your DISC assessments with your team can help better establish communication rhythms in a newly remote environment.

Integrating DISC into your recruitment and onboarding process is an essential tool in understanding your new teammate and communicating with them in a way that will support their initial transition into your organization.  For example, someone whose DISC Assessment reflects they are a direct communicator thrives with clear and concise directions.  When this individual’s manager is equipped with this information, the manager can refine their own communication style to match the new employee’s for a more effective onboarding.  Also, DISC results provide individuals insight into communication methods that work best for them.  A member of your team, based on their DISC profile, may prefer bullet pointed emails whereas another one may prefer phone calls that allow for immediate questions and responses.  Again, this allows a manager to adjust onboarding in a way that is more conducive to employee learning and integration.  The schedule and learning outcomes are the same, but having an understanding of DISC allows the participants to adjust the deliverables and interactions in a way that works for the new employee.

Think Beyond the First Week

When we talk onboarding, we aren’t just talking about giving all the attention to a new hire in their first week and then leaving them to their own devices beyond week one.  We recommend employee, manager and HR check-ins set every 30 days, over the span of an employee’s first three months.  These conversations are intentional with set agendas so the manager and employee can have productive, developmental conversations about an employee’s adjustment to the business.  The manager is able to give feedback to the employee and vice versa.  The manager should be especially attune to any performance challenges or gaps in learning and work directly with the employee to address those, while also sharing feedback with HR so they can refine and evolve the onboarding process.  These devoted checkpoints with remote employees are even more crucial to employee engagement and retention.  It’s easy for managers to develop an “out of sight, out mind” mindset with remote employees, but if anything, those employees require more attention to remaining engaged and connected to the workplace, especially if the employee is still within their first 90 days with the company.  

And when Human Resources is determining how culture will influence the ongoing onboarding process, think beyond the first week when considering the acknowledgement of employee milestones.  How your company acknowledges completion of onboarding, an employee’s first sale, or a year at the company can go a long way in supporting investment in the company culture.  Onboarding isn’t just a moment in time, it’s a comprehensive approach to kicking off your employee’s entire career with your company.

How Red Clover Can Help

Our skill, SHRM-certified team of consultants is ready to bring change to your business with innovative and progressive solutions.  We have experience building onboarding processes from scratch and implementing them in your workforce.  We have helped a number of small and medium sized businesses transition their employee processes to a virtual environment without losing the employee interaction that is essential to a new employee’s development.  If your organization’s managers are struggling with keeping employees accountable in a newly remote environment, we can leverage DISC in your teams to enhance communication.  We also offer in-person and virtual management development training to skill up your managers to get the best results from their workforce.  We do this by rolling up our sleeves with your people and learning more about your company culture, so we can execute on our work with your business’s unique core values and business needs in mind.  Reach out to us today if you’re interested in learning more.

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