Welcome to your virtual employee onboarding checklist

Date: 03 Sep 2020

The world and how we work is changing around us. As working-from-home (WFH) becomes increasingly mainstream, your traditional HR processes now need to support your virtual employees and those in the office. And getting off on the right virtual foot starts with a great onboarding process.

But before checking out your virtual onboarding checklist, what’s the difference between a traditional employee onboarding process and a virtual one?

 

A woman sitting on the floor with a laptop and a cup of tea

First, what part of your employee onboarding stays the same?

Whether face-to-face or virtual, each onboarding process has the same big picture objectives:

  • To make a new employee feel welcome and help them become productive as quickly as possible
  • To share your company values, culture, goals, and processes
  • To ensure a new employee has the tools, knowledge, and support to do their job

Note: Most businesses already have a series of strategically timed ‘welcome to the business/things you need to know’ emails that they send out before an employee’s commencement date. These can be tweaked, enhanced, and extended for remote workers.

Next, what’s different for a virtual employee?

When an employee works from home, sometimes 100 km may as well be 1000 km.

The emotional distance: It’s easy for a remote employee to feel isolated from the business and their team. And if they’re new to WFH, they can feel unsupported, unappreciated (out of sight, out of mind) and unmotivated. There are no companionable chats over coffee, no friendly ‘good morning, how was your weekend?’ in the lift, and no ‘let’s grab lunch’ moments.

The physical distance: WFH shouldn’t mean an employee is under-resourced. Their home office needs to be well-equipped. They should have fast and unfettered access to the information they need to do their job, and ready support when things go wrong – just like an on-site worker.

Our virtual employee onboarding checklist suggests ways you can build a robust and inclusive relationship between your remote employees, the company, and their team.

The Checklist

  • Send a welcome gift. You will probably need to equip your remote worker with equipment such as a laptop, mobile phone, monitor, headset and perhaps even an office chair. Take the opportunity also to send a welcome pack. How about a branded coffee mug, a desk plant, stationery and even a handwritten welcome card from their new team.
  • Make like a Scout. Be prepared! Please don’t leave it until your employee’s first day to get their technology set up and working. And if they haven’t used virtual meeting software before, provide a quick tutorial or links to ‘how-to’ videos. Ditto for your company-approved messaging platform. Provide early access to the company’s online resources and help desk.
  • Dot the ‘i’s, cross the ‘t’s. Get the digital paperwork done. Upload all the paperwork that needs to be completed to a collaborative workspace in your HR platform, and enable virtual document signing so that come their start date, your new WFH employee knows that you are organised and on the ball.
  • Send a schedule of virtual events. Set expectations so your employee knows what’s coming up, and send virtual meeting invitations to lock them in. Nothing makes someone new feel like they belong more quickly than a booked calendar!
  • Make their first day a great one. Yes, you will have first day HR processes to tick off, but make sure you set up a welcome chat with their new boss, followed by a virtual morning or afternoon tea, or even a lunch with their immediate team.
  • Over-communicate. Include new remote workers in all-company and team emails and messages from Day One. Point them at internal interest groups, scheduled video company updates, virtual team celebrations, daily or weekly check-ins with their teams and direct reports. Even if they opt-out of some of the comms and non-essential events, your employee still feels like part of a wider team.
  • Have them introduce themselves. Ask for a bio (and any personal information like interests and family they are happy to share) and a photo to use on the intranet, comms channel or team emails.
  • Set up and stick to buddy calls. As you would any new hire, assign a buddy to guide your WFH employee through those first few weeks. However, as out-of-sight can mean out-of-mind, schedule in set chat sessions and make sure they happen.
  • Set up a virtual social schedule and share your culture. Host online events that celebrate your company culture and team achievements, birthdays. Hold themed hat days. Why should on-premise employees have all the fun? Adapt health and wellness programmes (think after-work yoga, meditation) and social clubs (think book clubs, quiz groups) to virtual environments.
  • Inspirational events. When an employee is permanently ‘out of office’, it can be challenging for them to get a handle on company culture. Senior management time is precious, but a three-monthly company culture event for new employees, virtual and otherwise, can increase employee engagement without over committing contributors.
  • Connect employees. Design a 2-3-month roadmap to help new remote workers connect with other WFH or on-site workers so they can build a wider network than just their immediate team. This can include inviting them to meetings in different departments, so they gain an appreciation for and understanding of the wider team.

 

Many of these suggestions may already be part of your existing in-person onboarding programme. But by taking the time to adapt them to meet the needs of a hybrid workforce, you ensure that your remote team members are as integral to your business as those who sit in the office.

Once you’ve designed a virtual onboarding programme, all it needs is the right technology and automated HR processes to make it a seamless part of your ‘welcome’ process.

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