Virtual Onboarding

April 8, 2020

By Shawna Rosner, Director Legal Solutions Group

While we navigate a crisis and pandemic to the likes of which we have not encountered before, some work must go on. Firms and companies across the country are moving forward with hiring and starting new hires remotely. Last week, I had two attorneys begin their jobs remotely which required virtual onboarding. I thought it might be helpful to give some tips and insight into this new but real phenomenon. How can your company start strong with a new hire during this time or at any time when working with a remote candidate?

For many new hires, the first day is the first time they get to meet their full team and other colleagues. Let’s face it, the first day of a new job is the start of a new relationship, with your firm or company but also the start of many new relationships, with colleagues. It is essential to make a great first impression regardless if it’s in person or virtual.

To start, there are a few key factors to consider when onboarding someone virtually. Take some time to plan and create an agenda for the new hire. Try to do your research and think about what the candidate will need to know about joining your company. Having the manager involved as much as possible is likely to lead to more success.  Being overly communicative to the candidate before the start date and throughout the process is a good practice to keep him or her engaged. Additionally, ensure that all material, onboarding documents and forms that need to be signed are all digital and the new hire can view and/or sign things virtually. The hiring team should also prepare any company-issued technology needed and set up a plan for the new hire to pick this up safely. I have also heard of needed technology and paperwork being personally delivered by IT or other administrative staff to the new hire’s home to avoid having to come into the office at all.

The first week is a crucial point in virtual onboarding. Where normally a simple email to a team telling everyone to stop by and meet the new hire, now is the time to circulate more personal questions during a virtual email introduction to the team. A client of ours began the onboarding process before the actual start date by sharing emails within the team introducing the new hire and sharing a couple of things about themselves. The candidate shared the email thread with me. I was happy to see the humor displayed. It made me, an outsider, feel like the team was a real family just through this short series of emails and I know the new hire was more than excited and relieved by this virtual introduction to his new work family. Another welcoming idea during the candidate’s first week is, if available, coordinate a way to send the new hire your company ‘swag’ to his or her home as a welcome gift.

In addition, integration calls (conversations with the supervisor or manager) are key to making the new hire transition at a time when popping in the office to ask questions can’t be done. Get creative with you integrate your new hire.  Zoom can be used for coffee dates with individual team members and happy hours with the whole team. Meeting with departments like Human Resources and IT should be set up through video calls with the ability to screen-share and go over any operational systems, platforms and tools the company uses.

For some companies, virtual onboarding isn’t a whole lot different as they may already have new hires watch video trainings or utilize Skype or the like for orientation. For others, this is completely novel and a bit daunting to tackle but it is successfully being done.

One factor in virtual onboarding is company security. In this time of stay at home and shelter in place orders around the country, only essential businesses are operating. For those businesses that remain essential in their state, new hires may still be required to come into the office for a brief amount of time to pick up a laptop, connect their phones to company email and complete employment verification. They are then free to work remotely and do the remainder of their onboarding online. Some companies do not allow employees to use their own laptops or desktops because of security risk. As I previously mentioned, this can also be done via personal delivery.

As virtual onboarding is new for so many, it makes sense to adjust the process based on feedback.  At this time of crisis all of us are challenged to be more flexible and roll with the punches, the same will hold true with hiring.  The pandemic at hand is going to require new hires to fill current and projected needs. Virtual onboarding may be a new process to many but measures can be taken to make sure an employee’s first days with a new company are inclusive, positive and successful!

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