Virtual (or remote) onboarding is the word on every HR professionals' lips right now.
This isn’t much of a surprise considering more than 71% of Americans and 48% of Europeans were working from home at least part of the time in 2020.
In the last 12 months, remote work (and by extension remote onboarding) has only grown as organizations refine their processes and begin to analyze the long-term effects of their early efforts.
In this two-part Q&A series: Virtual onboarding: The good, the bad, and the ugly, we look at the very best and the very worst examples of remote onboarding with two polar opposite, completely unfiltered Q&A sessions.
This post will cover the best (what we would call the 'red carpet') remote onboarding experience.
>>> Read Part 1: What NOT to do with virtual onboarding
Let's dive in!
NB: Names and personal details have been changed to protect the privacy of our interview subjects.
Stephanie | Mid-level Private Sector Employee
Jesse: First off, how would you rate your virtual onboarding experience out of 5?
Stephanie: I would rate it a 5. My onboarding experience has been great. It was the first time I’ve been onboarded in this way - both in a remote set-up and by means of an onboarding tool.
J: So you used a digital onboarding tool?
S: Yes, I had an app I could log into for the duration of my onboarding.
J: 5 out of 5 is a pretty high score! Can you tell us one or two things your organization did particularly well as part of your new hire experience?
S: Of course we need to be clear that because mine was a fully remote experience, it’s difficult to organize real-life activities. In my case, in the first week, we had a virtual team lunch which was a really nice activity that I really appreciated. We all got together on a video call and had lunch altogether - just chatting and getting to know each other.
J: And that was facilitated by your manager?
S: Yes. 100% it was organized by my manager who set up a whole onboarding agenda which lasted for about 4 weeks after my start date. So for every single week, I knew who I was supposed to meet one-on-one, what trainings I needed to attend, and where I could find the right resources.
J: And because no one is perfect - what’s something that could have been done better?
S: I mean maybe organizing more fun or informal activities? The lunch was really perfect but more of those could be great. It could be another lunch or a social activity like a game to really get to know the people you’re working with.
Also, for me, there were a lot of meetings with different people in the company and they were very much concentrated in the first 2 weeks. It would have been ideal to maybe spread those out across a month to have more time to process the information and understand what my relationship was with each person.
J: Possibly that intensity of meetings that connect you with people within the organization is a reaction to the remote situation, where HR is so concerned with making those connections that they’re overcompensating?
S: Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s probably true.
J: Think back to your first month on the job, do you feel like your role objectives were clear?
S: Yeah, definitely yeah. It was clear from the beginning what I was supposed to do.
J: And what about lines of communication and organizational hierarchy?
S: Everything was facilitated through the onboarding platform which I had access to around 2-3 weeks before my start date - I think? Somewhere around that. With the content that was on the platform, I could understand the different teams and also my own team. All the roles were very clear so I knew who I needed to speak to if I had questions.
I was also paired with a buddy which was really interesting because this person was very clear to me upfront that I could go to them for anything.
J: Do you think having an onboarding buddy built into the process helped you feel more connected even though you were working remotely?
S: Yes definitely. For me, it was like a light in the dark let’s say. I felt really open with my buddy and all the chats we had were really practical and helpful. They made sure I felt comfortable asking any question.
J: It’s so great to hear that these aspects have been addressed so thoroughly in your own onboarding because it’s not necessarily the norm. If you look back to the onboarding study Talmundo did with Vlerick Business School in 2018, role clarity and organizational overview were actually two of the biggest challenges for new hires.
J: How connected do you feel to your new organization?
S: I feel very connected. I share the values of my company. I feel happy when we succeed and I feel pain when we don’t - it’s very involved.
J: And what is your social relationship like with your new colleagues?
S: Really connected to them - my entire team. I would be lost without them. I’d love to share more moments and opportunities outside of work with them in the future. In a remote set-up you kind of always end up talking about work - which makes sense but I think outside of the remote situation it would be nice to move away from that.
J: How likely would you be to take another (similar) opportunity if a recruiter called you up tomorrow?
S: No. I wouldn’t.
J: Would you say that your great onboarding experience has directly contributed to that feeling?
S: Yeah, definitely 100% - good onboarding plus I’m really enjoying the job.
J: If your organization had been WITHOUT a digital onboarding solution do you think the experience would have been more difficult?
S: Yes, more difficult, I would say. I think I would have felt less prepared/informed and less engaged in a way, also regarding the company culture and practical information about pay and benefits.
J: Let’s end on something fun - if someone asked you to describe your virtual onboarding experience in one or two words, what would it be?
S: Exciting and intriguing!
You can hear in the way that Stephanie talks how happy she is in her new role. Is her onboarding experience the sole cause of this happiness? Absolutely not. Has it had an impact? Almost certainly.
Stephanie is in the process of becoming a true organizational insider. An engaged, productive employee who is likely to stay longer than other, less satisfied employees.
Whatever you do with your remote onboarding journey - be sure to take what lessons you can from Stephanie's experience. Yes, she represents an extreme end of the spectrum, but this can be used as a reference to keep you on track with what really works when it comes to successful virtual new hire journeys.