You have a brilliant new hire that has just signed their offer letter. The role has been open a long time, and after a long, thorough recruitment process, the right fit has finally been found. They start on Monday, but there is one very big catch - everyone in the company is working from home. 

In these times where entire offices are remote - spread out across the city, region, or even country, how can companies approach onboarding? And how can they ensure that professionals feel prepared, informed and well-trained to do their job when in-person meetings just can’t take place?

It can be done, it just takes a little creativity, a lot of adaptation and a willingness to think outside of the box, or office, as it were. Here is some advice for onboarding new hires remotely. 

First, use your existing process

To start, the team should sit down and do a review of your company’s existing onboarding process. Evaluate each step of the process determining which parts can easily be converted to a virtual setup. This would include: 

Meeting colleagues and key stakeholders

Introductions to the team can still take place, just that they will likely take place over Zoom, Skype Microsoft teams or other meeting software. Be sure to encourage use of video, as the next best thing to meeting in person. 

Tools and software training

Most software programs already offer online training sessions, either live or in person. Seek out those trainings and schedule online webinars or conference calls for the missing pieces. 

Handovers and other important documents 

Instead of using printouts, or local files, put all handover and training documents on a cloud-based file sharing platform, so they are easily accessible. Ensure they can be updated by multiple people, making collaboration easy. This also ensures documents such as handovers are up to date. 

Keeping these changes in mind, companies can create an updated onboarding process that meets both needs of making sure new hires are well-prepared to do the job in front of them, and do it all virtually.  

Once you have a new process set up for your company, here are a few more tips for successful virtual onboarding.

Make advance preparations

Before starting any remote onboarding with the employee, take time to make preparations such as testing software that you’re using, confirm virtual appointments with everyone, and mapping out the exact track for onboarding. With everything being virtual, it can be easy to lose track of what’s going on - being organised and prepared at the beginning can make a big difference. 

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Now, more than ever, it’s essential to openly communicate. Ensure that the new employee has regular meetups with their direct manager, and a clear line of communication for the entire team. Suggest specific team members to direct questions to, and ensure they know who to contact for various technical needs that might come up, such as HR, the finance department, and IT. 

If the company is large, there may not be time for new hires to arrange one-on-one calls with everyone. Consider making videos consisting of welcome messages from CEOs or other stakeholders. 

Don’t forget the team building

Between formal trainings, and serious work conversations, be sure to schedule some time to make up for the lack of in-person welcome lunches, happy hour drinks and other team-building activities. These are essential to helping the new hire bond with a team. Schedule hangouts, lunches or virtual happy hours over Zoom. With the virtual barrier, it can be even more challenging for new hires to get the culture of the team - make sure they have it. 

In situations of virtual hiring, team managers should prioritise team engagement overall. 

Be transparent

When they start, lay out the onboarding process and leave plenty of room for questions. Transparency in the digital context has taken on a whole new meaning, so this will be essential for success. 

Get ready now 

Don’t wait until you have a new hire to make plans for virtual hiring. As part of making changes to your standard hiring process, lay out a plan for onboarding new hires in the future. If things are slow right now, business will pick up sooner, rather than later. 

Currently, virtual onboarding is being adapted by companies out of necessity. However, when looking ahead, getting these processes right means preparing for the future workplace - one in which finding the right team isn’t limited by physical geography. This opens up possibilities to a new type of work, and a new level of global collaboration that creates a workplace that’s ready to meet the challenges of the future. 

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