Ambient Tribe | Virtual onboarding – getting it right
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Virtual onboarding – getting it right

Virtual onboarding – getting it right

As we all get used to the blended world of working remotely, it’s time to embed some robust processes to enable the ‘usual’ running of your business, whatever the outlook for the next few months.

While many of businesses have been hesitant to take on new staff during 2020, there’s no sense freezing recruitment simply because the ‘usual’ way of inducting staff members isn’t available to us.

That’s why this month’s blog is all about onboarding new members of staff remotely. It can be done, and we’re here to help you get the process right for everyone.

Virtual onboarding – what is it?

It’s the process of helping an employee settle into their new role, the team and the business as a whole – without them actually working at your business premises. You welcome them to the team, introduce the company culture and establish the tools they’ll need to do their job – all while they work from home or in a scaled down office environment to maintain social distancing.

It won’t be easy doing this remotely, but with a few simple processes in place, they’ll feel part of the team and be working productively in no time.

Virtual onboarding – how to make it happen

Here are just some of the steps you can take to get that new employee settled in:

Before they start

  • Ensure all channels of communication are kept open and well-used in the weeks prior to your new team member joining the organisation. This is a great time to answer any concerns and reassure your new recruit that their new role is safe and you’re looking forward to welcoming them to the team.


  • Ship out any equipment they’ll need to do their job well in advance of their first working day. If they need a computer, printer, mobile phone, ensure they receive it the week before they start so it’s all set up and running when their first day on the job rolls around.


  • Ensure a warm welcome by sending out a company email before they start. Introduce the new team member, include a short biography and a photograph so the existing team knows who and what to expect when they start. Keep the information more personal than business and encourage your team to interact with the new starter on that basis. Imagine the kind of conversation that generally starts in the kitchen over a cup of coffee – that’s the kind of information you’re trying to get across. Do they love dogs, prefer tea to coffee, enjoy cycling on their days off? This will ensure some conversation starters, even on a virtual basis.


  • Send out a welcome pack to your new starter. This should include an organisational chart containing details of who everyone is, what they do and (more importantly than ever) a photograph of each person. This will help your team member recognise people during online meetings more quickly and will act as a reference guide in between meetings too. And why not include a gift to welcome your new recruit? While branded stationery items and a company mug are all useful and welcome tools, why not include a box of their favourite tea bags and some biscuits or their favourite chocolate bar too?

From their first day onwards..

  • Don’t simply assume the new starter will be comfortable with the ins and outs of virtual working. They may not have worked virtually before now and they may need some training to let them know the etiquette of breaks, flexible hours, online meetings and their responsibilities in terms of tracking and communication.


  • Organise a Zoom meeting with their team as soon as possible. Encourage each member of staff to tell the recruit something about themselves so relationships and connections can be made from the beginning.


  • Have a team lunch to celebrate your new team member. Allow everyone a budget to organise their own food and eat together over Zoom or Teams. Why not let the new team member pick the type of food everyone will enjoy. It’s amazing what can be achieved over a video call with pizza or some sushi!


  • Get some 121s in the diary with relevant staff members. This may take more effort and organisation than normal because this is the kind of thing that could, ordinarily, happen quite organically. But put it in the diary and it gets done.


  • Ask someone to be the new recruit’s mentor. This person should fall outside of their actual chain of command and should be someone reliable, conscientious and contactable. It’ll help the new team member to feel they have someone to talk to if they’re having problems or bounce ideas off before they’re sure of the culture.


  • As their line manager always make yourself approachable and contactable. Keep them up to date with progress and expectations and ensure you’re always available to talk to them when they need you.


  • Along those same lines, be crystal clear about your expectations of them. Not simply regarding KPIs and targets, but when it comes to behaviours and values too. This is the kind of area that can easily slip away unnoticed when working virtually so it’s more important than ever to ensure clear communication is established here.


  • Check in on your team member more often than you would normally. Aim to have a good conversation with them at least twice per week for the first month and establish a regular communication habit thereafter too.


  • Expect the settling in/onboarding process to take a lot longer than it would in ‘ordinary’ times and allow for some ‘hand holding’ to happen for as long as necessary to get your new team member fully embedded into his or her new team.

If you’d like more advice on working virtually and looking after your team during lockdown and beyond, contact Catherine at Ambient Tribe to find out more.

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