Human Resources

How to Onboard New Employees Virtually: Tips and Ideas

Published on November 8, 2022 • About 10 min. read

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You want to make new hires feel they're part of the team from day one. But what does that look like when everyone’s working from home? Time zones, different abilities with technology, clashing schedules — onboarding new employees virtually can be challenging.

A solid virtual employee onboarding plan ensures a workflow covering all the basics, from setting up equipment to getting new hires acquainted with the company culture.

We spoke with Laure Saintpierre, Employee Experience Team Lead at Livestorm, to get her insights on how to make virtual onboarding a success. By the end of this article, you’ll have a checklist for creative ways to onboard new employees virtually.

6 Steps to Onboard Remote Employees Successfully
How to Onboard Remote Employees
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How to Onboard Remote Employees

Read this handbook on remote employee onboarding to learn how to source, hire, and onboard remote employees.

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What is virtual onboarding & how does virtual onboarding work?

Virtual employee onboarding via video call

The goal of employee or intern onboarding is to get new hires up to speed with company culture, values, and processes quickly and efficiently - even when they don’t live and work in the same place.

Typically, onboarding new employees remotely involves video conferencing software, productivity tools, and emails. But everyone has different learning styles and backgrounds.

"Since we onboard people everywhere and in different time zones, we wanted to create an onboarding process that applies to everyone no matter their position or location," says Laure, "Of course, it has to be balanced: some people have specific needs and, in those cases, we adapt our onboarding."

According to Laure, there are four phases of employee onboarding:

  • Pre-boarding is the period from the offer letter signed to the first day. This phase includes legal aspects like contracts and sharing key information like the employee handbook.
  • The introductions phase starts from the first day and continues for at least a week as employees meet their teams, get familiar with the software used, and understand their responsibilities.
  • The discovery phase ranges from the first week to the first month as employees identify how they can contribute and make an impact.
  • The review phase ranges from after the first month to six months as employees get comfortable with their team and goals; it’s time to start working for real.

What are the benefits of virtual employee onboarding?

Efficiency, reach, and cost-effectiveness are the key benefits of virtual onboarding. But they're not the only ones.

1. You don’t all need to be in the same place

Since you don’t need to share a physical office with your colleagues, you can hire from a global talent pool. And a good virtual onboarding means you can get new hires aligned on company processes and values without organizing any unnecessary travel.

2. It can fit around most schedules

Fitting a full day of onboarding into a new employee's schedule can be difficult. And with different time zones, it may not even be possible. Virtual onboarding resources like video tutorials, on-demand webinars, and digital manuals are easy to share online, allowing you to stagger the employee onboarding process so that new hires just get the information they need, when they need it.

3. You can automate repetitive tasks

From setting up email accounts to adding employees to company chat groups, many onboarding steps are repetitive and time-consuming. Virtual onboarding templates and automations can help you streamline the process and save time for more important tasks. For example, you can create an email template to automatically send new employees their login information for company systems.

4. No boring building safety talks

No more sitting through hours of presentations about company policies, benefits, and safety procedures. With virtual employee onboarding, you can provide this information in an engaging and interactive way.

For example, you can create a simple video game that simulates a work environment and teaches employees about company policies. Or you can create an online quiz that test's their knowledge of safety procedures. Not only is this more efficient, but it also leads to better outcomes.

How to Onboard Remote Employees
How to onboard remote employees ebook cover
Ebook Ebooks

How to Onboard Remote Employees

Read this handbook on remote employee onboarding to learn how to source, hire, and onboard remote employees.

Read more

Virtual onboarding challenges to look out for

Despite the many benefits, there are some challenges you should be aware of when implementing virtual employee onboarding:

  1. It can feel impersonal
  2. There are no “water cooler” chats
  3. New employees don’t know where to go for help
  4. Not all employees have the right equipment at home

1. It can feel impersonal

Feelings disconnected or isolated is common among remote workers. And this can be emphasized by a poor onboarding process at a time when they're already feeling like outsiders.

Try including some personal touches in your virtual onboarding process. For example, send a welcome video from the CEO or have a team member reach out over video chat to introduce themselves.

2. There are no “water cooler” chats

Informal social interaction and relationship building are important parts of the employee onboarding process. But they're also one of the hardest things to replicate virtually.

We'll cover more engaging and creative ways to onboard new employees virtually below, but one way to simulate water cooler chats is to create a weekly virtual coffee break where employees can join a video chat and catch up with their colleagues.

3. New employees don’t know where to go for help

“Bring more human aspects into the onboarding process,” recommends Laure. You can also give new employees a “buddy” who acts as their first point of contact for queries and advice.

"We use Livestorm for live meetings, such as meeting new team members, 1:1s with your manager or buddy, meeting with your stakeholders, and more. Everything's live, so it feels more personal and human, even if we’re not in the same room," says Laure.

Onboarding new team members virtually with Livestorm

4. Not all employees will have equipment at home

Some companies require that all new employees have a laptop or desktop computer. Others will provide the equipment for them. In either case, you'll need to consider this when onboarding new team members virtually.

If you require that all new employees have a laptop or desktop computer, you should provide guidance on what type of system they need and where they can purchase it. You should also consider providing a stipend to cover the cost of the equipment.

Best practices for virtual onboarding

Virtual onboarding has no room for spontaneous improvisations. Every step of the process should be carefully planned and executed to ensure a smooth transition for new employees. Here's a look at some best virtual onboarding practices to keep in mind.

1. Select your virtual onboarding tools

Virtual employee onboarding relies heavily on the right tools. As you start building your process, take some time to research the best options for your needs.

Here are a few tools you may want to consider:

  • Browser-based video conferencing software like Livestorm for engaging virtual meetings and training sessions. You can also record sessions to add to your company's knowledge base or intranet
  • Email clients like Gmail make it easy to quickly send important information and resources to new employees.
  • Project management software like Asana can help you keep track of onboarding tasks and deadlines. You can also use it to assign specific tasks to team members and request status updates.
  • Automation tools like Zapier can automate repetitive tasks like sending introductory emails, creating calendar entries, and setting up reminders. This can free up time for you to focus on more important tasks.
  • A contract automation tool like Juro enables you to create and manage legal aspects of the business.

2. Automate as much as possible

"You can automate all events of the onboarding process," says Laure, "We automate the all-hands meeting every Monday and, for each session, a related Notion document is automatically created." This not only saves time but also ensures that nothing is missed.

A video conferencing platform like Livestorm, that integrates with communication software tools like Calendly and Slack, will support onboarding automation by making it easy to schedule and manage live onboarding sessions.

automation tools for onboarding

3. Follow a checklist

A checklist can help you track progress and ensure every step is completed. You can find ready-made checklists online or create your own with productivity tools like Asana.

Here's what you can add to your virtual onboarding checklist:

  1. Send a welcome email and include a personalized message and links to important resources.
  2. Deliver necessary equipment like laptops, monitors, and company swag.
  3. Get the employee contract signed.
  4. Make a team announcement via email or post in an online chat room.
  5. Add new employees to your company directory to help everyone connect with new employees and learn more about them.
  6. Appoint a buddy for the new employee to help with questions and queries.
  7. Schedule training sessions that cover company culture, policies, procedures, and software.
  8. Create a learning plan that outlines what training and development activities need to be completed and when.
  9. Set goals and objectives for the first week, month, and quarter.
  10. Schedule regular check-ins with the employee.
  11. Check progress against objectives and goals.

4. Meet “face-to-face” regularly

It can be challenging to build relationships virtually, so it's essential to make an effort to connect with new employees on a personal level. Employees should have regular check-ins with their managers and other team members during their first week, month, and after six months.

These regular touchpoints will help you identify areas where additional support may be needed.

5. Create space for team bonding

Regular team bonding activities can help build relationships virtually and promote a sense of belonging. These activities can be as simple as scheduling regular virtual coffee breaks, starting an online book club, or adding Slack channels for non-work-related topics.

Collaboration tools like Donut can also help encourage team bonding and build a cohesive virtual workplace. Donut pairs employees randomly for weekly coffee chats and provides conversation starters to help break the ice.

6. Get feedback on the onboarding process

Tools like Typeform make it easy to collect feedback on the onboarding process. You can also add this to your virtual onboarding checklist to track progress and identify areas that may need improvement.

Collecting feedback will show you if new employees are finding the process helpful or if they need additional support. For example, if you find that new employees are struggling to understand your company's culture, you can host dedicated training sessions or add more information to your onboarding materials.

How to make virtual onboarding fun

Virtual onboarding doesn't have to be boring! Icebreakers, fun activities, and games can help new employees feel welcome and engaged.

Here are a few creative ways to onboard new employees virtually:

woman having fun during virtual onboarding

1. Play virtual onboarding games

When you have a new hire starting remotely, virtual onboarding games offer a chance to get everyone in the team involved and excited about the new arrival. It builds team morale and promotes a sense of belonging.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Quiz new employees on company trivia
  • Host a virtual scavenger hunt
  • Play charades or Pictionary
  • Have a “bring your own” virtual lunch break or happy hour

2. Reflect and recharge with mindfulness

Starting a new job can be overwhelming, so it's important to take some time to relax and recharge. Add a mindfulness activity to your virtual onboarding checklist, such as:

  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Stretching

Alleviating stress as a group can help reduce anxiety and promote a sense of calm and build bonds between team members.

3. Host themed meetings

Themed meetings are the perfect excuse to dress up in silly costumes, have fun, and get to know your new colleagues. You can set simple themes based on movies and TV shows or create your own unique themes like superheroes, spies, medieval knights, or pirates.

4. Host virtual lunch and learn sessions

These are online sessions where employees share insights and connect. The virtual lunch and learn topics you cover will depend on the interests of your team.

A few examples include:

  • Tips to work from home effectively
  • How to stay healthy and fit when working remotely
  • Using social media for your personal and professional network
  • Visual and design thinking

5. Offer bounties and incentives

Use incentives to engage and motivate employees. You can create virtual challenges with bounties or prizes for the winners. For example, you can offer a bounty for the employee who comes up with the best virtual game idea.

You can also use "gamification" to make learning fun and engaging. For example, you can add points or badges for completing onboarding tasks. The employee with the most points at the end of the onboarding process can win a prize.

Boost employee retention with brilliant virtual onboarding

At its core, onboarding is about people. It's about creating a sense of belonging. Scheduling one-on-one meetings, getting to know your team's interests, and building trust are all essential for successful virtual onboarding.

While virtual onboarding comes with some challenges, there are also many opportunities to get creative and build strong relationships. With a little effort, you can create a strong foundation for your team that will set them up for success.

Use a video conferencing platform like Livestorm to meet face-to-face and record training sessions so they can be watched on-demand for a more flexible onboarding experience. Livestorm's integrations can also help you automate tedious repetitive tasks like sending emails and reminders to your new hires for a seamless workflow.

Frequently asked questions about virtual onboarding

What happens in virtual onboarding?

In virtual onboarding, new employees learn about their roles and responsibilities, the company culture, and the tools and systems they need to do their jobs effectively. The goal is to help new employees feel welcome, engaged, and motivated so they can hit the ground running as soon as possible.

Why is virtual onboarding important?

Virtual onboarding is important because it helps new employees transition into their roles smoothly, and it sets them up for success in the long run. A well-designed virtual onboarding program can help reduce turnover, improve job satisfaction, and increase productivity.

How do you prepare for virtual onboarding?

To prepare a virtual onboarding plan, create a checklist of everything you need to do, set up video conferencing software like Livestorm, automate repetitive tasks like emails and reminders, and create engaging content for your new hires.

What are the 4 phases of onboarding?

The 4 phases of onboarding are the pre-boarding phase, introductions phase, discovery phase and review phase.

How to gather virtual onboarding feedback?

You can gather feedback from new employees by sending out surveys and questionnaires using tools like Typeform. You can also set up 1:1 meetings to check in with new employees and see how they're settling into their roles.

How to Onboard Remote Employees
How to onboard remote employees ebook cover
Ebook Ebooks

How to Onboard Remote Employees

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