With a New Year brings new possibilities especially for those looking to rebound after the pandemic's tremors felt across different industries.
We recently sat down with some of our Marketing friends who recently landed new roles in the industry or those who have brought on new hires to provide their experience and tips on onboarding virtually.
Our special guests addressed the following questions:
What was your experience like in virtual onboarding for your new role?
What are some tips you can provide that can help a new employee transition/make themselves feel at home with their organization?
How have you attempted to replicate the in-person dynamics you would normally have in the office to the virtual environment?
Partner Manager, ESL Gaming
My manager and our company’s HR team coordinated extremely efficiently to have my first two weeks set up ahead of time with meetings that went over everything from admin tasks (setting up my email, creating profiles for different necessary software) to intros/101s (going over industry landscape, discussing status of current accounts) to meet and greets with my peers and higher up executives.
During my first week, I also filled out an informal questionnaire for my manager that went over my working style and personality traits, so she could best understand how I prefer to be communicated with and what motivates me to do my best work, for example. This immediately made me feel like I joined a team where I would be heard. Those are things you typically learn about a new coworker quickly in-person, so I appreciated that they were directly asked while onboarding remotely.
In addition, we created a more long-term onboarding to-do list that zoomed out from the day-to-day tasks and focused on what larger items I should be thinking about getting up to speed on, asking questions about, etc. to ensure I had direction after my 2 weeks of very structured onboarding.
I also had (and still have!) the ongoing support of my manager through weekly check-ins to discuss any and all questions as I still navigate through learning my role, especially with the difficulty added by being remote.
I think it will be important to remind yourself that it will take time to settle in and connect with coworkers in an entirely different fashion than you’ve had to do before. It’s hard to naturally come by water-cooler chat moments in an online environment; people want to get off video calls as soon as they can (understandably), so it will take some work to curate moments that are organically found in an office.
That said, I found it really important to swap small talk at the beginning or end of a meeting with intentional questions that would help me get to know my peers better. Ask your colleagues about their path to their current role, what their at-home setup is like, what shows they’ve been watching or books they’ve been reading. My team’s weekly meetings always kick off with a lighthearted and fun question — they’ve ranged from ‘what would your memoir be titled?’ to ‘what is your most frequently used emoji?’ and it’s really helped me feel like I know my team on a personal level.
If it’s not the right setting to do it in already established meetings, throw 15-20 min coffee chat meetings with people on the calendar! Create the opportunity, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. Try to do this with people outside of who you typically work with every day, too. In an office setting, you wouldn’t just know those you have projects with, so expand your circle by connecting with colleagues in other departments you may not get to know otherwise.
Global Partnerships Activation Manager, Ultimate Fighting Championship
My experience with virtual onboarding wasn't too bad. I got lucky that a system that they had been previously using was replaced so the entire team was learning the new system. A lot of my work is speaking with my clients via email and phone so it was just a matter of learning about the client and how they like to work.
My suggestion for people starting a new role while working from home is to set up informal coffee sessions with people in your organization. You don't really talk about work, but more about getting to know each other. It's really important to establish those relationships quickly.
Establish non-work related chats! You can learn a lot from a person's work style during these informal chats. If you lead a team, then during your weekly team calls, ask every person to share something good they watched/read/cooked/did. You'd be surprised how quickly people bond when they realize they all watch the same show.
Manager of Sport Partnerships, Canadian Tire
*For Leslie, we asked her what the experience was like in helping onboard a new hire!
Onboarding virtually is tough because you can’t just bring your new hire to every meeting with you and hope they absorb everything!
When they started we tried to ensure they would have all of their tech set up and working prior to their first day. We also sent a little care package to them with office supplies and swag (same as what they would have received if they were in office).
On their first day we did a virtual team lunch (and sent out Uber eats gift cards for everyone to order something) which is something we would have done in person as a more casual welcome!
For their first week, I filled their calendar with 30mins coffee chats with everyone on the team and any key internal stakeholders - but with multiple (short) breaks in between to get settled/finishing setting up tech/etc.. This also included team and partner meetings - they were pretty busy the first week but it was a great way to make sure they met everyone and weren’t sitting at home with nothing to do! We also made sure all share drives/documents were in their inbox before they started so in their down time they could read up and get to know more in depth details.
As their manager, I also set up a mid-week and end of week touch base to be able to answer questions - we did this for a few weeks (and still sometimes!)
Director from Los Angeles
My experience was pretty painless actually. I wasn’t sure to expect, but HR and my department leaders made it a simple process for me. They shipped me my laptop, pre-loaded with all pertinent information, documents, etc. Onboarding was handled through a user intuitive portal that allowed me to sign all documents and contracts. Had several contacts within HR and IT for any troubleshooting or questions that would arise.
With tips, try to make them feel as comfortable as possible. Maybe more of a social video conference with the department or a small work group. Similar to how a lunch or happy hour outing would work, you can have the food delivered to everyone and or drinks and share that quality time as a group. Quality time and conversations that aren't about work could help people feel more comfortable.
I really attempted to reach out to everyone within my department, as well the entire company to meet one on one via video chat. I do not think I would have to talked directly with as many people in a normal onboarding setting. I think the video chats have made it a bit more personal and I have really appreciated that.