How to Design a Virtual Onboarding Program for New Hires

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The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the dynamics of hiring and onboarding for employers. Organizations have had to quickly transition to more adept means of onboarding practices. Without any precedent, hiring teams and HR managers were forced to adapt to new circumstances – be it hiring new employees or welcoming new staff while HR teams themselves work remotely.

The pandemic has already created a paradigm shift in the way business operations are conducted. Organizations have had to transition from outdated methods of onboarding and accommodate the requirements of the new normal to ensure continuity. Here are a few guidelines to follow that help you stay ahead in these challenging times.


  • Effectively adopt technology


Technology remains the foundation for effectively engaging in a remote working environment. Ensure that adequate and right technology and equipment is available for employees. Identify the required software, and provide requisite hardware, network access and configurations for an individual to perform his job.  Give adequate access and training for job-based tools so that work quality and deadlines are not compromised. Workplace communication tools such as slack and project managment tools like proofhub help you make that transition to remote work faster. Develop online documents for acknowledgement and verification for the new hire, as well employee handbooks and other employee related information such as benefits.


  • Develop a virtual onboarding plan


Onboarding is a long term strategic process that requires the partnership of all levels of the organization. For an effective onboarding program, the process must not be seen as a one day or one week schedule, but rather engaging with the new hire on a 30-60-90 day plan. In these new circumstances, it is vital to create a virtual onboarding program that engages with the new hire just as effectively as a one on one interaction would.

Design a schedule for the first week and month, that provides for the new employee to discover and engage with the new systems and teams at his/her pace. Conduct online meetings for introductions, develop platforms for new employees to review the company policies and culture, and create systems for team members and buddies to engage with the new employee.


Partner with associate teams, cross functional teams and the leadership to engage with the new hire systematically. Creating video introductions help to familiarize the new employee with new names, faces, teams, systems and processes. Create a first week schedule with short videos on training topics that complement virtual meetings and sessions.


  • Stay in touch


Checking in on new hires is important to make sure that they are settled, informed, happy and excited about their new role. It is easy to heap information and guidelines on a new hire, but it more critical to stay in touch and review their progress with them. This need becomes crucial especially in times of remote working. Assign a team member as a buddy, and point of contact for any routine queries and troubleshooting.


Guide new hires with a ‘whom to contact’ list of primary information, with details of names and contacts and their respective role descriptions. Touch base regularly and develop process where managers are able to conduct one on one meetings whenever necessary. Provide necessary training tools and equipment for both managers and the new hire. Ensure clear goals and expectations are laid down from the very start of the onboarding program, and create a feedback mechanism for managers and coaches to help engage with the new hire.


  • Improve engagement


Check in with new hires regularly to make sure their work is going well. Ensure that new hires are focussed, which results in improved employee engagement and retention. Think of innovating ways to engage them. Here are few things you can implement

  1. Schedule meeting’s with new hire’s buddy during first week or first month would be helpful. The buddy can hand hold the remote employee in doubts relating to work as well as the work culture.
  2.  Starting each virtual meeting with addressing new hire’s concerns about remote work. Encourage employees to share how they are managing remote work, what they like most and also bottlenecks.
  3. Keep the virtual meetings fun and personalized.
  4.  Encourage co-workers to join virtual meetings with video enabled to allow new employees to get to know team members and put faces to names.
  5.  Setup virtual bonding sessions where employees can interact with new hires and get to know each other in a stress free environment.
  6.  Improve engagement by introducing quizzes and other games regarding information about new hires and roll out small gifts and rewards for participants. This will foster interaction with new team members.
  7. Provide guidance to virtual mentors on methods to communicate with their new employee, and promote online networking.
  • Gather feedback from new hires


The onboarding process must provide scope for the new resources to respond and provide their feedback for the entire process. Once the onboarding program starts, reach out to the new hire to check how they are doing. Reason being virtual onboarding is likely not a one-purpose universal standardised program.

The needs of each employee are different and onboarding should be customized accordingly. Be open to suggestions, feedback and constructive criticism and adapt practices when possible to ensure a positive new hire experience. After the first month in the new role, send new hires a questionnaire about their onboarding program.

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