Despite the recent downturn in the economy, your company may still have people accepting new roles and starting their first day on the job, all from their home office. If so, here’s how your HR team—with some help from managers—can create a virtual onboarding experience that makes those new hires feel just as welcomed, valued, and ready to hit the ground running as they would if you were all still working onsite.
BEFORE DAY ONE
Ask teams to welcome new hires the day they accept an offer
As soon as your candidate says “I do,” suggest that everyone who was part of the interview process immediately email a customized note of congratulations. Encourage the team to make it fun and feel special. It can be as simple as a few sentences, heavy on the exclamation points, sprinkled with a welcoming GIF or two, or three. (This is a nice thing to do even when there’s not a pandemic happening, by the way.)
Email some virtual swag before their first day
After someone signs their contract here at Jellyvision, we send them a little care package containing a company t-shirt, coffee mug, and other fun swag. Also, we ask them what their favorite candy is. Then, on their first day, our HR team makes sure there’s a bowl of that candy sitting on their desk to welcome them.
Though most people are accepting home deliveries, you may feel hesitant about sending a care package to new hires’ homes right now, out of an abundance of caution. Alternately, consider emailing them a digital gift certificate to a local bakery or online vendor that can deliver a favorite treat or two to their house. Or make a small donation to a charity of their choice in their area.
Make sure their home office is set up in time
Work closely with your IT department to make sure that the physical equipment your new hires need to do their jobs remotely (company computer, working headphones with a good mic) arrives to their home in time. The last thing you want is for eager new employees to be twiddling their thumbs while they wait for FedEx to show up—or worse yet, feeling tempted to conduct company work on their personal computer.
Also, double-check that they have the necessary permissions to access Zoom, Slack, your company’s VPN, and your intranet. (If you don’t have permissions and VPN protocols in place, that might be worth looking into.)
THE FIRST 30 DAYS
Make Day One just as special as you normally would
Typically, on an employee’s first day, it’s a best practice for managers to greet new hires at the door, introduce them to their new co-workers, walk them to their new desk, take them out to lunch, and so on.
Managers can—and should—replicate these moments online. Schedule a one-on-one virtual chat with new hires first thing in the morning, a group chat to introduce them to their closest coworkers and team members soon after, and a virtual “welcome lunch” with the team. (Pro tip on setting up the lunch: email team members digital GrubHub or DoorDash gift cards in advance, so they can get food delivered on the company’s dime.)
At some point on their first day, managers should also make sure that new hires are invited to any Slack channels or Google hangout groups that function as your company’s virtual water cooler, so they’re immediately looped into all important team conversations, official or not. Finally, when the work day is done, teams should reach out to their newest co-worker with a quick email saying “You made it!” and/or “Great having you onboard. Have a great night!” to end their first day on a high note.
Over-communicate during the first month
For the first 30 days (at least), encourage managers to compensate for the lack of in-office and after-work hangouts by regularly touching base with to new hires so they don’t fall prey to “out of sight, out of mind”, and scheduling virtual team hangouts that have nothing to do with work.
Suggest that managers hold weekly virtual one-on-ones, always with webcams turned on. (In a recent study conducted by LinkedIn, 72% of respondents said one-on-one time with their direct manager was the most important part of any pre-boarding or onboarding process.) Also, recommend that teams proactively ask for input from new hires during big virtual group meetings, which are often awkward and hard to jump into.
Lastly, plan for the eventual return to normal
Depending on how long COVID-related social distancing measures are in place, it’s possible your new hires might not meet their teammates in person for weeks or even months. When your physical office does re-open, remember that those employees are still going to need some hand-holding, even though they’re not technically “new” anymore.
Put time on the calendar for team members to give those new hires a tour of the place, teach them how to use the coffee machine, show them where the secret craft beer fridge is…all that. Encourage teams to take their new hires out to lunch—like, for real this time. And beyond the usual team-based activities, consider setting up an event where all the employees hired during the pandemic get a chance to meet each other in the flesh and compare notes on their unusual first few months on the job. No doubt, they’ll have a lot to talk about.