Creating a Positive Virtual Onboarding Experience

Creating a Positive Virtual Onboarding Experience

The first day of a new job is always a bit nerve-wracking. Getting to grips with processes and systems, meeting new people, first impressions, and learning how things are done. Then add in the extra element of a global pandemic and the prospect of on-boarding virtually, and it can all feel a little daunting.

Having optimistically thought we’d be well out of lockdown by the time I started my new role as Learning Director at NKD, I, like thousands of others in the past year, realised I’d be spending the first day of my new job at home. As a result, I re-set my expectations and decided to approach things with an open mind, accepting that the situation wasn’t ideal, and, most importantly, try my best to enjoy it – at least I wouldn’t have to figure out how to use the office coffee machine!

Luckily for me, I joined a next-generation employee engagement agency, and a lot of thought had gone into my virtual on-boarding process. 

Before joining

I joined NKD’s monthly business update just before I started which meant I got a snapshot of what was going on, who’s who, and a glimpse into the team culture. I was also in regular contact with my line manager to-be, who was there to answer any questions. 

Top Tip: Give new team members the chance to experience the culture and meet the team before their first day. What meetings could they join? What relationships could you begin building before they start?

First few weeks 

One of the biggest challenges of starting a new role remotely is getting to know your new colleagues. As this HBR article highlights, remote working can increase isolation, resulting in employees feeling a reduced sense of ‘belonging’ to their new organisation and risk an increase in turnover. Making sure there are as many opportunities to connect as possible in a new starter’s first few weeks can help minimise the chance of them feeling alone. 

In our new virtual reality, we have to accept that building relationships takes a bit more time and effort. I was given the space to do this during my first few weeks, rather than being pressured to deliver on client projects from day one. There’s no such thing as too many virtual coffees!

I also had a buddy who has been there to make me feel welcome and answer all my random questions. When you can’t see how your new starter is getting on, it’s even more important to make sure there’s someone to check in with them and a buddying approach is a great way to do it.

Top Tip: Encourage new team members to be as proactive as possible, give them ownership of building new relationships whilst providing them with support and encouragement. 

Top Tip: If you don’t already have a buddy programme, set up a virtual version to make sure every new starter has a dedicated person to go to in their first few weeks.

NKD Development Day

I was fortunate to join in time for our latest Development Day, which NKD have been holding virtually since the pandemic began. As a new starter, it was a great opportunity to learn more about our new strategy, and spending time as a full team was invaluable. 

However, we’re all aware of ‘Zoom fatigue’, a phenomenon many of us have experienced when working from home. Researchers at the Stanford Research Lab propose this could be down to ‘non-verbal overload’, including too much close-up eye gaze and increased self-evaluation from seeing yourself on screen all day. 

Keeping sessions short, interactive, and varied meant the day flew by, and clever use of breakout sessions meant I had the chance to get to know team members I don’t work with every day. We also had a creative session in the afternoon, giving us a much-needed screen break. And of course, in true NKD style, we went the extra mile to make the day feel like the special occasion it was, with brunch boxes, personalised stationery, and a bottle of bubbly delivered to our doors.

Top Tip: don’t miss out on development days because you’re not in the office; they’re especially important for new team members to get to know your company. There are so many ways to make time together engaging, minimise Zoom fatigue, and achieve the same learning outcomes as you would if you were in the room together. 

If you’d like to chat more about making virtual onboarding work for your organisation, give us a call or drop us a note. We’d love to talk to you.