Onboarding new employees in person can be a challenge, taking that process virtual presents all sorts of new obstacles. Onboarding is more than logistics, such as making sure your new employee has a computer, it’s about getting that new employee off to a fast start with comfort and confidence.
Identify, appoint, and communicate a dedicated onboarding liaison. Even in the office, it’s a good idea to have someone fill the role of informal mentor to support a new hire, but it’s even more critical remotely because the new leader won’t have colleagues around to spontaneously ask questions as they come up. It’s important that this informal mentor be a different person from the person’s manager, so that the new employee feels comfortable asking any question, large or small. Ideally, the onboarding liaison will proactively reach out to the new employee prior to the first day and establish themselves as the new individual’s go-to person.
Create a connection to the company before the first day. As soon as a candidate accepts the job offer, find an opportunity to make them feel a part of the family. Also, set up technology before the start date. Offering each new employee a session with IT to show him or her how the videoconferencing platform, communication channels, and other company systems work can alleviate first-day anxiety.
In a virtual setting, you can’t rely as much on the organic and spontaneous relationship-building that happens in hallways, over lunches, and at office events. That’s why it’s best to be proactive and intentional about setting up a mix of formal and informal one-on-one interactions between the new hire and other individuals. Additionally, it’s important to organize a mix of different group discussions so that the new hire can develop contextual understanding of team dynamics.
New employees must learn about the company’s culture from the outset. Spend more time than you generally would in a face-to-face environment talking about what is typical and atypical across various cultural dimensions. Create the space for your new colleagues to ask about the way things are done as well. Designate a culture buddy. Assigning an individual whom the new employee can go to with questions about the culture can be especially effective. The buddy might debrief after an important group discussion, flagging to the new employee on actions that aren’t in line with the culture or how his or her style may be perceived by others.
Onboarding is one of the most important drivers of employee success. Getting off to a strong start creates momentum. Your onboarding program should just be the beginning of an ongoing developmental foundation that continues to strengthen your employees’ cultural alignment, relationships across your organization, and performance in their role.
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