A virtual onboarding process is a way for an organization to introduce new employees to their company, culture, and colleagues remotely, typically through a combination of online tools and virtual meetings. The specific components of a virtual onboarding process will vary depending on the needs and resources of the organization, but they all have some of the same common themes.
While we’ll look at the process from a managerial point of view, but will be very helpful for the remote worker that was just hired as well.
What’s typically included in the remote onboarding process?
Introduction to the company: This is typically a brief overview of the entire onboarding process. It should include a general description of the organization’s mission, values, and goals, as well as its products or services, history, and culture.
Company policies and procedures: Virtual onboarding may include training on the company’s policies and procedures, such as code of conduct, benefits, and expectations for performance.
Orientation to the role and responsibilities: New employees will need to understand their specific job duties and how they fit into the overall structure of the organization.
Technology training: Virtual onboarding may involve training on the tools and systems that employees will need to use in their new role, such as email, messaging platforms, project management software, and so on.
Meeting with key stakeholders: New employees may have virtual meetings with their manager, team members, and other key stakeholders to help them understand their role within the organization and how they can contribute to its success.
Cultural integration: Virtual onboarding may also include activities designed to help new employees get to know their colleagues and feel connected to the company culture, such as virtual social events or team-building activities.
Introduction to the company
Ideally, the hiring manager will take the lead on this part. A basic overview of the company’s history should be provided on the call, as well as company brochures sent over for the new employee to review. It’s important that the vision of the company is sculpted “correctly” from day one. This helps the remote team member understand what’s expected, and it also makes a great lead-in to the culture portion of the virtual onboarding process.
This shouldn’t take a long time, as it’s just an overview. Once everything is covered, it’s essential to go into detail on each item that you covered. If you’ve already sent over documentation ahead of time for some of these items (policies and procedures, etc), all the better.
Company policies and procedures
There are two ways of getting this done: go over all necessary information with the employee personally, or give all the documentation to the remote employee with the responsibility to read everything.
Personally, I like a hybrid approach. I prefer to send the employee all necessary documentation before the virtual onboarding and then hit the high points with them over the call. This ensures that the time spent on the onboarding call is as productive as possible. They will have already looked over the documentation and will have questions ready.
The times that I have used this approach have resulted in answering the necessary questions, and not having to worry about the boilerplate questions that often come up without said documentation. Finite items like vacation time, insurance, and work hours are easy enough for them to read through. Similarly, this also gives them time to read any documents that they need to sign before the virtual onboarding process begins.
Granted, you may still need to have some type of pre-boarding process that includes shipping a work laptop or other hardware.
Lastly, if your company is organized enough, video tutorials that go over basic company policies might also be a worthwhile option. Regardless of the route you take, as long as they have all the information and get their questions answered, it’s a win-win.
Orientation to the role and responsibilities
There will have already been some review of this in the interview process, naturally. However, this needs to be a more intimate and granular view. For instance, they already knew that they were going to be in charge of the marketing budget, but this step will tell them what that budget actually is, as well as what it’s being spent on currently.
Along that same vein, they should be made aware of any goals that they are expected to hit, any timelines associated with that, and if applicable, any consequences if they aren’t met.
With any new company, there will be a new technology stack that’s used. These tools could be for project management, communication (i.e., Slack), email providers, etc. That doesn’t even include any role-specific tools either, like Quickbooks or Salesforce, for example.
It’s possible that other employees/managers might need to be involved here, especially if the new role incorporates sensitive information.
In either case, it’s important that the manager has a checklist or specific agenda to use here. That way, the employee can finish the virtual onboarding process knowing exactly how to use the most important tools for their role. If this is treated with an off-the-cuff attitude, key items will certainly get missed.
Meeting with key stakeholders
This could happen at the beginning of the virtual onboarding process, or immediately after it. Either way, it should happen soon. Ideally, the new employee meets an HR contact, their direct report, and any team members that will be working with them or for them.
A new employee’s last desire is to feel alone or on a workplace island. Making sure they have the basic knowledge and rapport of people to go to in specific scenarios will be an important part of them feeling welcome.
Admittedly, this step will almost always be left out in not-so-great companies. They don’t typically put an emphasis on culture in the first place because they need warm bodies first and foremost. But I digress…
The best way for a hiring manager to give a new remote employee a full picture of the company culture is to share examples and stories. These should be stories about socialization, previous team-building activities, and positive interactions with C-level leadership.
You can read brochures from HR all day long, but positive stories help translate all the company jargon on that brochure into a more personal feeling. It will also be a living anecdote about what kind of culture they will be expected to participate in.
I would highly recommend a work-appropriate social event soon after they go through the onboarding process. It could be a virtual meetup, online game, etc. Whatever it is, the purpose is to set the tone by lowering walls ever so slightly as soon as possible.
It’s important to note that these items don’t necessarily need to be done in this same order. With the exception of one or two, they can probably be moved around according to what works best within your company and staff.
Happy virtual onboarding!
Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.