How to successfully conduct virtual onboarding

A well-designed onboarding process will ensure that new employees are immediately engaged in their work and feel comfortable while entering their new place of employment.

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Virtual recruiting and onboarding is the new normal, and every company will have to adapt it sooner or later. Each company will design its own programme as per its culture and practice. But before it drafts its own, it’s important to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of virtual onboarding activity.

Pros

Flexibility

It opens the doors to interaction with employees across the globe, and not just employees within a physical office or premises.

Harshvender Soin, chief people officer, Tech Mahindra, says, “Physical onboarding is only restricted to one city. In virtual onboarding, the new joinees can interact with several other people across cities. Given the flexibility of the time and place, new joinees can speak to the best folks and the scope of managing the calendars is even better. The virtual onboarding process gives a chance to know people internally and externally.”

Effectiveness

Virtual onboarding can be highly effective. By leveraging virtual meeting tools, joinees can be welcome virtually in a seamless and effortless manner as they would be in person. It also allows the new hires to connect and engage with their managers and teammates in a smooth manner.

Ramesh Mitragotri

You only get one chance to make the first impression. Those who are onboarding and getting onboarded, have to be sensitive to the fact that they are not present in person and use this opportunity to make a connection in the best way possible

Srikanth Karra, CHRO, Mphasis, says, “We didn’t see this pandemic coming, but definitely we found virtual onboarding to be faster, smarter and quicker, much before this. Both pre and post COVID, virtual onboarding was an effective way of customising content. It has helped and will continue to help with better and more personalised engagement with employees.”

Productivity

As the digital revolution took over the workforce during the COVID-19 crisis, onboarding programmes shifted away from information overloading to a rather fun and interactive learning experience for the new joinees. The programmes have enjoyable elements, such as games and videos to create a hands-on training programme.

Soin feels that less physical connection with other employees and managers also has its advantages. People can connect better virtually and this improves their productivity.

Easy documentation

Many managers may have faced the daunting task of getting the necessary documents from the new hires within a limited / specific time period. Well, onboarding new talent into the present environment certainly comes with a big advantage. Employees can provide all the documents virtually, and that too, beforehand, which saves a lot of time.

Cons

No physical interaction

It is essential for an employee to connect to the employers to be able to build a strong relationship. Generally, a lot depends on how they both communicate and interact in the first place. With no physical interaction whatsoever, the bonding remains a challenge as there is no engaging with the organisation.

Ramesh Mitragotri, CHRO, UltraTech Cement, feels, “You only get one chance to make the first impression. Those who are onboarding and getting onboarded, have to be sensitive to the fact that they are not present in person and use this opportunity to make a connection in the best way possible.”

Formality

“Virtual onboarding has taken away some of the informality that used to exist while dealing with the person face to face. Sometimes, body language and expressions also intuitively get noticed by people, and there is an immediate connection that happens between two individuals during a physical meeting,” explains Mitragotri. Virtual onboarding becomes more formal.

Assumptions

While onboarding virtually, assumptions such as the ‘new joinees know everything’ should be kept aside. For successful onboarding, there must be space to seek clarifications and ask questions. No question should be considered stupid or held back.

Harshvendra Soin

In virtual onboarding, the new joinees can interact with several other people across cities. Given the flexibility of the time zone, joinees can get to speak to the best folks and the flexibility to manage calendars is even better

Mitragotri points out that in physical workplaces, there is constant interaction between stakeholders, managers and employees on a regular basis, which leaves no room for assuming things. On the contrary, he believes that remote onboarding restricts such connections and allows several things to be assumed.

How does the onboarding process work?

A well-designed onboarding process will ensure that new employees are immediately engaged in their work and feel comfortable while entering their new place of employment. New hires are usually welcomed in person, making it easier to answer their questions, introduce them to team members and notice their reactions.

However, virtual employees are often left out of that process. They attend orientation through phone calls or video chats, rarely meeting their team members face to face, and often end up experiencing work and company culture very differently. Successful onboarding programmes create a connection between employees, increasing satisfaction and the goals of the organisation.

Srikanth Karra

We didn’t see this pandemic coming, but definitely we found virtual onboarding to be faster, smarter and quicker, much before this. Both pre and post COVID, virtual onboarding was an effective way of customising content

Talking about his onboarding experience, Soin says, “We have experimented with onboarding using AR and VR via video-based modules. It was absolutely as effective if not more. We spoke with all the departments involved in the onboarding process and came up with a realistic plan of action.”

With considerable changes set to take place in virtual onboarding, companies have to decide who will be responsible for sharing information with the new joinees, regarding their first day.

“The way lockdown has pushed us, we made sure we assigned a manager, a buddy to look into all the required welcome interaction and meetings, where we get to meet the new joinees. Also, the deliverables were made sharper,” reveals Mitragotri.

Soin also believes that virtual connect is way better an option than physical connect. He doesn’t consider the less physical connection to be a disadvantage. “Virtual onboarding becomes a lot more successful because the new joinees are open to receiving virtually and giving virtually,” he asserts.

“The acceptance of virtual culture is a necessity in order to build an engaging virtual work culture. We don’t have a choice,” Karra concludes.