8 Virtual Onboarding Best Practices You Need to Know

Since the COVID-19 crisis accelerated trends towards remote working, the world of work is now more virtual than ever before.

But with remote working more widely accepted and face-to-face meetings no longer a necessity every time, many companies have had to adapt to new ways of working, including onboarding new hires. Enter, virtual onboarding.

Virtual onboarding has proven its mettle as a viable alternative for bringing in new hires in recent years. But what is it? And how does it differ from regular onboarding?

Read on to discover what virtual onboarding is, what it looks like in today’s workforce and how to conduct a remote onboarding process that actually works.

What Is Virtual Onboarding?

Virtual onboarding, also known as remote onboarding, is a process of onboarding new hires without an in-person orientation. It’s become an important consideration for employers as many people choose to take up positions that allow them to work from home. But can it match up to face-to-face time?

Virtual Onboarding vs. In-Person Onboarding: What's the Difference?

Virtual onboarding is similar to regular onboarding. Instead of holding onboarding meetings and training in person, these activities take place via video conferencing, webinars, online interactive exercises and other virtual activities.

Whether you’re welcoming a hybrid or remote employee to your organization, virtual onboarding can be efficient for both employers and new hires. And it doesn’t have to feel cold or impersonal either.

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The Importance of Virtual Onboarding

Though the methods of virtual onboarding differ from regular onboarding, the importance remains the same.

Virtual onboarding presents a prime opportunity for employers to acclimate new employees to their team by:

8 Virtual Onboarding Best Practices

Great virtual onboarding begins before a remote worker’s first day on the job and continues for as long as it takes them to get fully up to speed.

As soon as a candidate accepts your offer, start building their enthusiasm and engagement. Then, maintain that momentum by guiding them along the path to success during their first few months. Well-designed employee onboarding software can automate parts of the process and help you keep things well organized and moving forward.

If this process sounds a lot like conventional onboarding, it should. The principles are the same. The difference is, you need to consider if and how each step needs to be modified for a remote worker.

A good virtual onboarding process should be customized to your company’s culture and deliver the information and skills remote workers need to thrive in their new role. If you’re ready to welcome remote employees, here are eight virtual onboarding best practices:

1. Send An Electronic Preboarding Packet

Make a great first impression as you help them get oriented. Be sure to include:

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2. Make Sure They’re Properly Equipped

Plan equipment needs well in advance. Will your new hire need a company laptop? What about other equipment such as a tablet, smartphone or accessories? Make sure to order everything in time for IT to check it out, install any necessary software and ship it to the remote worker before their first day.

Also, be sure to provide a phone number for your company’s tech support in case they have questions or problems.

3. Send Them Some Company Merchandise

Invite remote workers to identify with their new brand by sending them some cool company merchandise, such as a T-shirt, backpack, coffee mug, etc. For a more personal touch, why not enclose a friendly card or note signed by their new teammates?

4. Open The Communication Channels

Make sure your remote employee will be able to connect with everyone and that they have everything they need to do their job. Have IT set up their accounts for email, chat, project management software, etc. Also, make sure they’re invited to all relevant department and company meetings and can attend online.

5. Spread the Word

Tell teammates and other workers who will interact with the new hire when they begin work and what their role will be.

6. Help Them Settle Into Their Role And Form Relationships

There’s a lot to do in a remote worker’s first weeks to help them feel welcome and bring them up to speed.

Depending on employee and company circumstances, this phase of remote employee onboarding might include providing:

7. Get The Most From Performance Management

As a remote worker dives further into their new job, strong performance management helps foster success. But improving performance requires much more than the traditional annual employee review.

The remote worker and their manager should communicate regularly throughout the first year to set goals and performance milestones, monitor progress and solve any issues before they become a bigger problem.

Well-designed performance management software makes it simple to give and receive employee and manager feedback online. Both formal meetings and informal check-ins can take place through video conferencing, chats, phone calls, emails — whatever is most convenient.

8. Help Remote Workers Continue To Grow

Great virtual onboarding that lasts through a worker’s first year helps increase job satisfaction and cement a positive and rewarding relationship. One of the things remote employees say they want most is learning and development opportunities to help them strengthen their skills and further their careers.

Once they have mastered the basics of their new role, you can begin offering these opportunities. Since onboarding remotely means you can’t invite remote workers to train in your workplace, look for online training opportunities instead. This might include creating classes taught by your in-house experts or providing links to training videos, to name a few.

If you’re hiring remote employees, it’s important to get the virtual onboarding experience right. But don’t stop there. Wise employers nurture retention by continuing to provide appealing learning and development opportunities for as long as an employee stays with the company.

What Are the Benefits of Virtual Onboarding?

If you’re a HR professional and you’re considering virtual onboarding, but are not yet convinced, here are three ways that virtual onboarding can benefit your business:

1. Increased Employee Retention

A good virtual onboarding experience shows employees that their workplace will be supportive and encourage their professional development. It also helps them learn how to complete basic job functions and settle into their new role. These experiences can have a long-lasting effect on employee retention.

In fact, a recent study by Brand Hall Group found that organizations with a strong onboarding experience boost new employee retention by up to 82%.

2. Better Engagement

Effective virtual onboarding can enhance employee engagement. Businesses that have effective onboarding strategies in place see a 54% increase in employee engagement. Why? Because engagement starts from day one.

3. Greater Productivity

Effective remote onboarding helps provide employees with all the necessary information and resources they need to thrive. This reduces the stress of them having to learn independently and allows them to focus all their attention on the tasks at hand. It also reduces the risk of error and increases the quality of their work.

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