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Welcome Aboard! Trends in Virtual Onboarding

Virtual Onboarding

Would you have guessed, just a couple of years ago, that at least some of your new employees would be hired and onboarded remotely—many still waiting to meet their colleagues face-to-face more than a year after being hired? And yet, here we are. And it appears we’ll stay here for a while.

If you’re still onboarding new employees virtually, it’s time to refine the process strategically. It’s critical because the stakes are surprisingly high. BambooHR research found that 31% of people have quit a job within the first six months. The onboarding experience was a common reason—including unclear guidelines and responsibilities, inadequate training, and a lack of friendliness and helpfulness from coworkers. Fix onboarding problems, says Glassdoor, and you can improve new hire retention by 82%.

To help refine your virtual onboarding process, consider the following trends:

Include A Welcome Letter From The Top

Daniel Grzelak, head of security at major Austin employer Atlassian, has learned that a good welcome letter can make all the difference right now. He offers a template here, which includes encouraging affirmations (and their rationales) that are universally true once someone makes it through their vetting process:

  • We believe in you and know you’ll do great things.
  • You’re unique, and that’s important.
  • You were hired to make changes.
  • We’re going to disagree.
  • Hold me accountable just as I hold you accountable.

“You want your new employee to be excited on their first day,” Grzelak explains. “Given that they were probably envisioning spending their first day in an office that isn’t also their home, this takes a little extra effort right now. And for their part, they want to know more about what you’ll expect of them. A good welcome letter can both calm their first-day jitters and inspire them to do the best work of their lives.”

Embrace Them With Brand Love

“Perhaps most important to your remote onboarding plan is introducing a new hire into your company’s culture while also spotlighting its values. The most effective way to do this is by putting your brand in their hands – literally,” says Nick Holloway of Austin-based promotional product company Boundless.

Welcome kits with company swag were popular before the pandemic, but the switch to 100% remote hiring accelerated the trend. Most welcome kits include a branded t-shirt, water bottle or coffee cup, and notebook and pen. With permanent hybrid work entering the picture, a branded backpack or laptop bag is an emerging necessity. After that, employers are getting creative. Austin-based Boundless offers choices to add an unexpected element to your welcome kits, like a branded self-watering desktop planter, webcam covers, or blue-light-blocking glasses. Tucked inside that package is usually a gift card for lunch on the company, too. Just because the employee isn’t in the office doesn’t mean they have to skip out on that special first-day lunch.

Train And Empower

There’s no one way to train new employees. But there is one singular truth about training: It’s essential. Warm welcomes and company swag are great, but new employees also crave a clear and organized approach to getting them job-ready as quickly as possible.

The average onboarding process includes 54 tasks, so efficiency is key. BuiltIn offers a great remote onboarding toolkit that can help. It contains eight steps with suggestions on tools for engagement, training, skill assessments, team camaraderie, communication, and feedback. Pre-, during, and post-onboarding checklists and worksheets for relationship building, onboarding project management, and feedback are included, too.

Remove Tech Barriers & Promote Bonding

When tech doesn’t work, remote work doesn’t work. The first day of onboarding isn’t the time to set up the laptop and other equipment—you need to prepare ahead of time for that. EverQuote sends new employee laptops out well in advance of day one, for instance.

Link the technology dots and anticipate your new hire’s connectivity needs on day one. Then, consider reaching advanced-level connectedness by merging digital and personal ways to include new hires on that first day (or before). Austin-based Aceable offers an internal slide deck that helps to match faces with names, for instance. And Rapid7, a cybersecurity company with offices in Austin, invites new hires to a guest Slack channel so that they can ask questions ahead of the big day.

The cost to replace an employee can be double their annual salary. When an employee quits within the first three to six months, the return on investment is devastatingly low. Employees may have been forgiving about poorly managed virtual onboarding at the beginning of the pandemic, but their patience is growing thin. Take the tips above to heart and consider what Atlassian considers its definitive, road-tested virtual onboarding checklist for more ideas. The HT Group recruiters and advisors are here to help, too, with advice and research on the experiences that new hires expect.

The HT Group fills roles in Temporary Staffing, Executive Search, Technical Recruiting, and Retained Search.

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