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Recruiting Wisdom

Virtual New Hire Onboarding, A Step by Step Guide

10
min read

The old saying will always hold true: "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Given the current climate, most companies that have the luxury of functioning while their employees work from home are not halting their recruiting and hiring. Thanks to virtual recruiting platforms, companies are able to move candidates through the recruiting funnel, all the way to hire, virtually. We are all hopeful that these uncertain times are temporary, and moving forward with hiring plans will serve as an investment for every company’s bright future after COVID-19. 

After making the hire, however, the work does not stop. Onboarding is equally as important as the recruitment process. There are numerous statistics available on the web to clearly prove out the business case for having a best-in-class onboarding program.

Onboarding statistic

For example, best-in-class companies are 53% more likely than others to undertake pre-boarding, by starting the employee onboarding process before a new hire’s first day. (Enboarder, 2019). During pre-boarding, the candidate completes tasks remotely before they come into the office. However, now, we are challenged to switch gears and make all aspects of onboarding virtual without losing its value and purpose. 

Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70% (Glassdoor, 2015). Talya Bauer, Ph.D., author of Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success identified four distinct levels of onboarding:

Utilize this Remote Onboarding Checklist as a guide to ensure new hires are set up for success as they embark on their new career at your company when they can’t be in the office.

1. Send offer letters digitally

If your company’s applicant tracking system or HR information system doesn’t already allow offer letters to be sent digitally, there are plenty of digital signature options available online where you can easily upload a digital copy of the offer letter, customize signature and data fields and send it out. Candidates can easily review and execute a formal signature through the digital signature tool. Once a signature is obtained, the post-hire onboarding process begins.

2. Mail welcome packages

Once the offer letter has been digitally signed, surprise your new hire with a first day welcome package in the mail. A member of the recruiting team could keep a stock of the company swag in their home along with bubble wrap lined envelopes with pre-paid postage so it’s on hand and ready to be sent out swiftly after the offer letter is signed. Great ideas for welcome swag are t-shirts, notebooks, pens, coffee mugs, water bottles, popsockets and/or anything your company can splash their logo on that’s handy at home. 

Percolate welcome package
Percolate is going all out with its welcome packages.

3. Ship the computer and tech equipment directly

In tandem with the recruiting team sending out a welcome package full of swag, ensure the IT team can ship a computer and any required equipment (headset, keyboard, mouse, etc.) for the person to adequately do their job directly to the new hire’s home. If they’re working remotely, they won’t be able to pick this up in person.

Monitor next to a computer box
Make sure to ship all the materials your new hire needs in one package.

4. Onboarding paperwork

As a result of governments requiring  many companies to ask their employees to work from home, The Department of Homeland Security announced flexibility in requirements related to Form I-9 compliance. Until further notice, employers are not required to review a new hire’s identity and employment authorization documents in their physical presence.

Instead, a new hire’s identification documents can be presented remotely (e.g., over video link, fax or email, etc.). This virtual alternative process must be completed within three business days of the new hire’s start date. DHS is asking employers to enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in Section 2 of the I-9 document.


5. Scheduled touchbase

At minimum, ensure someone from the company is reaching out to the new hire at least every 3 days before their start date. As the HR logistics of onboarding are taking place, ask the hiring manager and members of the interviewing team to reach out and welcome the new hire.

With every outreach, the new hire will feel more and more integrated to the culture of the company, and the output of that feeling is employee engagement. According to Gallup, engaged employees are "those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” New hires who are engaged from day one will solidify their bond to the company over the years.

Zoom conference call
A Zoom video call with everyone saying hello is the perfect way to make a new hire feel welcome when they can't come into the office.

6. First day tech set up

It can be incredibly daunting to receive a computer for a new job and have no clue how to get signed on with the company credentials and accounts. Make sure the first set of IT set up instructions is sent to the new hire’s personal email address since getting logged onto their work email will be included in the instructions.

If your IT team has the bandwidth, set up a virtual meeting with IT and each new hire to introduce themselves and walk them through software and hardware set up. If your company is small, your designated IT set up person may be the office manager or even a hiring manager. Nonetheless, ensure a dedicated person is responsible for getting your new hire fully set up with their technology. 

Man coming out of computer shaking hands with woman coming out of computer
Make sure your new hire has someone that they can count on to help them with setting up and adjusting. Image courtesy of NCAA.

7. First day new hire orientation

Turn your first day orientation into a virtual presentation. A big part of a person's first day in the office is seeing the office space, meeting teammates, learning about the company and getting a feel for the culture. Think through how your onboarding team can elicit the same excitement through an informative virtual presentation. If new hires share their first day with others, have them join the same presentation via a virtual meeting software to create a sense of camaraderie.

When strategizing what to put in the presentation, consider the following:

Company timeline
Make your company history fun and entertaining.

Leadership bio
Opt for an intro where the leadership team's personalities shine through.

8. First day announcement

It can be tricky folding new hires into the current workforce when everyone is remote. Utilize your company’s online communication method to announce the new hire. This can be via Slack, through the HR system portal or any place your company designates as the forum for sharing important announcements.

It’s 100% crucial that all new hires are presented in the same timely fashion, with the same components of information and with the same enthusiasm. New hires will compare their announcements to other new hires so in efforts of being inclusive, make it a priority to treat everyone the same.

New hire descrptions
If your company has an email newsletter, it's a great place to introduce new hires and make them feel special. Image courtesy of SnackNation.

9. Manager introduction and Group meet and greet

After the new hire spends the morning with the HR team for orientation, set up a one-on-one virtual meeting with the hiring manager. Make  it a goal for the manager to establish the new hire’s work plan during this first meeting. It’s highly advisable that every new hire has a customized and personal 30-60-90 day plan.

30-60-90 plan
Here's a sample template you can use courtesy of HubSpot.


This is a concise bulleted document defining what the new hire should accomplish in their first 30 days of employment, then 60 and lastly 90 days. Keep the momentum of the first day going and after the manager one-on-one, have a group meet and greet. A fun way to introduce a new hire to the team is to conduct a virtual coffee chat, lunch or happy hour. Make this type of meeting a simple introduction and avoid jumping right into work conversation. Encourage your current employees to get to know the new hires as unique individuals.

We are empowered these days to bring our whole selves to work. Taking time to get to know new hires will build stronger bonds and establish lasting trust. After a fun meet and greet with the team is conducted, encourage the new hire to set up individual virtual meetings with key stakeholders and teammates getting right down to business. 

10. Establish Manager one-on-ones

72% of employees say one-on-one time with their direct manager is the most important part of any pre-boarding or onboarding process. (Enboarder, 2019). I have found if a new hire doesn’t set up their recurring one-on-one with their manager in their first week of employment there is a high chance of this meeting never being put on the calendar. One of the biggest factors in having high levels of employee engagement and workplace happiness is based on how strong employee relationships are with their managers. 

We are in a modern age where technology allows virtual onboarding to be as engaging as conducting it in person. After the first day orientation, survey new employees for feedback to learn if their expectations are being met.  From there, the HR team should have regular check-ins centered around the overall message that the organization cares about their well being and is invested in their growth.

Christina Wells

Christina has created dozens of onboarding procedures through her career in the recruiting industry and is dedicated to creating a high quality virtual onboarding process.

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