Reflections On Virtual Onboarding

Recently, I sat down with a client who had started a new role as Vice President, Human Resources and Corporate Services at a large organization in Calgary. Having joined the organization amid the pandemic, her onboarding experience took place entirely from her home office. While many may think that it is difficult or ineffective to onboard remotely, her experience proved otherwise. Here are some takeaways from our conversation:

What Was Your Experience With Remote Onboarding?

While onboarding remotely has taken more intention and commitment to the process by both myself and the organization, I would say that overall, I haven’t missed a beat. In fact, I found that I have enjoyed it more compared to past experiences because I’ve been able to build personal relationships before work relationships. When you meet your new team via videoconference it is like sitting in their house with them. The conversations are more natural, and you get to see their real-life including partners, children, pets, and more. This allowed me to get to know my colleagues on a different level and reinforced that we are all human and experiencing a unique vulnerable state caused by the pandemic. In addition, the process of meeting the team was quicker than usual. No one is traveling for business, there are no extended lunches or external meetings, so booking 30-minute introduction meetings was simple and effective. Furthermore, many organizations already have online training components in their onboarding process, so this element was no different than previous experiences.

How Involved Was Your Leader In The Onboarding Process?

My leader was very involved by checking-in frequently throughout each day, ensuring I had what I needed and that I was progressing through my meetings and training. My onboarding schedule was mapped out in advanced and I had access to the right team members to facilitate logistics. My advice to a supervisor or leader onboarding a new employee remotely would be to do some research on how to support someone virtually, ensure that you maintain high-touch communication, test all technology before deploying it, and offer the new hire a virtual checklist that both of you can refer to.

Was It Difficult To Get A Grasp On The Culture Of The Organization From Afar?

I did not find that to be the case at all. Culture is something that you can observe in team meetings and informal interactions between colleagues. The dynamics within conversations, the tone of language, the use of banter, was just as apparent to me as it would be sitting around a boardroom table.

What Are The Top Learnings You Would Share About Your Virtual Onboarding Experience?

My first piece of advice would be to embrace the technology that the organization uses. This is your gateway to the team, and you must get comfortable using it as quickly as possible. It is also critical that the leader of a new hire is very supportive and involved in the process to ensure initial introductions are made and that things are progressing along smoothly. Next, since a lot of communication is done via email be aware of misinterpretation, especially as you are getting to know different communication styles on your team. Messages can certainly come off in the wrong way when you have never interacted with someone in person. Always clarify any miscommunication with a phone or video call when possible. Lastly, I wouldn’t discourage people from starting a new role during these times and I encourage organizations to continue to look for talent. In my experience, the whole process from recruiting to onboarding can be seamless and I found that the remote aspect created a deeper connection with the organization that I would not have acquired in a traditional setting.

As I’ve learned through this conversation as well as others, onboarding remotely is not only possible but can be just as effective, if not better than in-person. Despite these uncertain times, organizations must remain focused on their talent and recruitment strategies and shouldn’t hold back on bringing on new team members due to fear of successful integration.

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