Introduction to Virtual On-boarding
The year 2020 has brought in its wake large-scale changes the way businesses function. No other aspect of the Pandemic has had the kind of impact than the need for social distancing, forcing global businesses to change the way they work. Overnight, companies put their business continuity plans in to play and putting remote working plan in action. Due to the pandemic and the resultant lockdown declared by various Governments, employees who had no experience in working from outside the precincts of their physical offices were now required to work from home; or in other words Remote Working became a large-scale reality within a very short span of time.
This had its effects across all corporate functions including staffing & recruitment in a big way. In the initial days hiring was frozen, but as time went by companies started to hire new employees on a smaller scale. However, HR teams faced a daunting task in welcoming and on-boarding new employees as the physical offices were not operational. In such unprecedented times, HR teams started leveraging technology to conduct interviews, and on-board new hires. Virtual on-boarding had slowly started to seep in, finally breaking barriers and becoming common to companies small and large. It has now become the new norm for HR/Recruiter teams. In this article, we shall discuss the basics of virtual on-boarding and how can it be done remotely.
What is Virtual On-boarding?
One of the major issues companies were facing is to find out ways to effectively interview, assess and on-board their new hires. In a normal scenario, the first day in office set the tone for the rest of the tenure for employees. However, given the current scenario and the restrictions that are in place new employees will not be able to meet their team members or managers in person. While this has its impact on employees, but adaptability and agility have emerged as the cornerstones for performers. This task has now shifted online enabled by virtual platforms.
Virtual on-boarding is similar to traditional in-person on-boarding, but the only difference is that the new hires are welcomed to the organization through a virtual live session.
The effectiveness of virtual on-boarding is still to be assessed but there is no denying fact that it has been a boon for HR teams this far, as they can connect and engage with the new employees no matter where they are working from. A virtual on-boarding process can be initiated through video conferences, webinars, and communication platforms like Slack. The documents for a new hire can be shared on different platforms such as email, cloud storages like OneDrive, and can be accessed through desktop or mobile anytime and anywhere.
How to On-board Your Employee Virtually
According to Sally Stetson, co-founder, and principal at Salveson Stetson Group, an executive search firm in the Philadelphia area, “Hiring and on-boarding new employees completely virtually is a new concept for most employers. Many companies are trying to figure it out,”
Virtual on-boarding is not an one-off event, but should encompass assisting a new employee to get accustomed to a company’s work culture, processes, team dynamics, HR policies, payroll & leave systems and the like. It is more about facilitating a new employee’s journey in the new organization – communication plays an important role in on-boarding process which must be organized and overseen by the HR teams. The following are some of the tools that have been designed for and to make virtual on-boarding an easier affair than what most people think.
Planning & Scheduling – setting up calendars for events, meetings, trainings
In traditional on-boarding, the HR team puts out a schedule to be followed during the on-boarding process of a new joinee/s. While doing it virtually, HR teams can similarly plan out an on-boarding calendar for the employee/s making use of office productivity tools and sharing the updates. This can be used for setting-up calls, introduction to the team, setting up meetings with HR personnel, people from the Admin and IT/Asset teams etc. If the role/s requires handholding or initial training, then a plan incorporating this should also be designed.
Using the audio-visual media – videos by the team members
When the employees work from home in different time zones, it would not be possible for all the stakeholders to have a conversation with the new employee on the day of his/her joining. The employee who cannot interact with the new hire in the first video conference can create a short video about themselves and welcome them. The HR team can collect the video from members and share it with the new hire. The short videos might not create an impact of face to face meeting but will give a new employee a sense that his/her team members will go an extra mile to help.
Videos and presentations
The design team can create videos on their company’s products & services, client testimonials, organization structure that can be shared by HR teams with the new joinees that may provide a brief understanding of the company. The on-boarding manager can create a presentation about the team, clients, and type of work their team handles and present it for the purpose of introduction. Going a step further, a virtual view (360°) of the office premises can be a good idea, but it requires a bigger budget and latest technologies.
Appointing a virtual buddy (familiarization program)
Organizations generally tag a team member with every new joinee who can hand-hold him/her in to the team. By tagging a virtual buddy, the HR manager or Team manager can introduce him/her to the team. To not get off on the wrong foot, the managers must choose a buddy who has worked on similar projects, has similar skill sets and experience as the new employee and works in the same time-zone as it is easy to interact and resolve any issues that may arise.
Creating a virtual community
A virtual community is a powerful tool in the hands of an organization to create a platform which can be leveraged to showcase, discuss, trouble-shoot/resolve, answer queries which may be important to new joinees, either on social media or any other in-house platform used exclusively for new hires. The new hires can connect through a single platform and share their personal experiences and ask relevant questions to resolve any issue during the on-boarding process and even beyond.
Creating long-term engagement
Typically, an on-boarding program with or without training can be for a week or two. However, given the current situation, particularly in view of employees working from home, many organizations are extending on-boarding to factor in the operational challenges. The HR teams and team managers must have long-term engagement in mind while drawing up an on-boarding program for new hires which can help them till they completely settle down within their respective teams.
Focus more on resource management/manpower planning
An on-boarding program should not be limited to introduction meetings and tagging a buddy but should also include providing access to the necessary resources. The HR team must be the central point of contact with the logistics and administrative team to ship the new laptop, ID cards, and other essential documents. For e.g. pre-COVID-19 days, LinkedIn used to provide laptops to the new hires during orientation. But this had to change as most of the new hires are working from home, it was essential that the suppliers ship the laptop and other required hardware directly to the new hires. Additionally, the Enterprise Productivity Engineering (EPE) team interacts virtually during the new-hire session and installs all the required software. It is essential to provide the right kind of resources to the new hire to enable them succeed in their job.
E-Learning modules for new hires – Virtual Training
After a successful virtual on-boarding of the new joiners, the next step may involve curating the training content. Earlier companies used to provide in-class training for new joiners where the interaction between the trainer and new hire was face to face and seamless. Change in the process is the need of the hour for organizations. On-boarding aims to have a smoother transition of new hires into the team, and e-learning is critical in this process.
Modification of the content
Changing the content to suit virtual delivery of training is often the first task that needs to be handled, post on-boarding new hires. However, training & development is an on-going process and companies are always striving to create training content to incorporate newer technologies, methods etc. The curated content can be delivered via Webex sessions, MOOC modules, proprietary platforms, off-the-shelf enterprise HCM suites. In the context of on-boarding and virtual work, training comes off as a major challenge – both in terms of the content as well as in terms of delivery. Incorporating cues arising out of new business realities and challenges such as remote work, social distancing which are dubbed ‘the new normal’, ensures the relevance and effectiveness of training plans and strategy.
Personalized learning experience
According to Gartner’s report, most new hires are unsure about their roles, and 46% of the new hires would not follow the same path. About one in three will be leaving the organization in the first year. Higher employee turnover increases the cost-to-hire. In a report by Bradon Hall Group, an effective on-boarding program increases new hire retention by 82% and their productivity by 70%. One of the ways to achieve these figures is by providing tailored learning content to new hires.
Offering personalized content during the E-learning programs is more critical when the new hires are working from home. To offer personalized content, the trainers must get in touch with the Team Leads and Managers to understand their roles in the organization. What kinds of tools they use? Do they interact with the clients or not?
Developing personalized content is just one step in the process. But E-learning modules should be shared over a period. Providing all the content in a go will not be beneficial for the company and the new hire. Based on the project, the content must be shared as the new hire will have an opportunity to learn before applying.
Traditional on-boarding of new hires is no longer possible, at least in the near term and HR teams need to use interactive methods to welcome new hires aboard. Virtual on-boarding is the latest trend, and it is widely used to welcome the new hires. Virtual on-boarding is very much like in-person on-boarding, the only difference being the virtual nature of the on-boarding process which is done virtually using digital tools like webinars, video calls, business communication platforms.
For HR teams administering and managing virtual on-boarding is a daunting task and requires a lot of planning and scheduling with the team manager, trainer, and other team members. In the current scenario, where all the team members are working from different locations across different time zones, the use of innovative ways will go a long way to establish the credentials and help new joiners on-board seamlessly.