The concept of a successful onboarding process was fundamentally redefined by the pandemic and remote work.

In the past, on the new hire’s first day, they would come to the workplace or the physical location allocated to them and be thrown into the scheme of things. They may well have planned a number of meetings with team managers, or department heads to get them up to speed, and new hires look to imbibe things by observation. They would sit in meetings, gather the vibe of the room, watch how people communicate, and try to understand the company culture. These activities together contributed to helping them integrate into the company setup.

Virtual onboarding is quite different from conventional onboarding, not only for the new hire but also for the existing teammates already employed in the organization. It’s a different process to build, design, plan and strategize and demands a conscious effort to make it work.

Although we are all still making sense of the new normal and how things are evolving, a few elements are extremely helpful in building a genuine onboarding process that corresponds to your corporate culture.

  • Onboarding should start with the interview process

The “onboarding” process for your new employee actually started the very first time you or someone in your firm talked to you. This was their introductory introduction to your culture.

They noticed if you appeared on time. They noted what you wore and how you treated them. If a manager within the organization, who was particularly kind or exceptionally nasty to them, that would make a lasting impression. It had a bearing on them if the communication was smooth and easy, or slow and tedious.

As any business owner knows, one of the drawbacks with remote employment is that once they join onboard, it’s difficult to understand what someone is like. Many times the employee seemed good in the interview process, but when both parties came onboard, they found that, after all, it was not a good fit. The approach is to be very precise about what is your culture from the start of the first interview. Try to offer them a genuine sense of their role. Try to go over some of the issues they could be faced with, and talk to them about how they feel. Don’t wait for the first day to give them a sense of the business culture, this should be done at the outset.

  • Assign mentors

The onboarding process should be customized as per the size of your organization. If you are a 5, 10, 20 resource company, your onboarding process should never be the same as an organization with 10000 resources. These are completely unique circumstances and there are reasons why people choose to work in a small firm over a large company.

Pairing a new hire with a buddy or senior staff that can serve as mentors has tangible benefits. It provides the new employee someone whom they can confide in, ask questions, and clear doubts. Above all, it gives them the opportunity to feel comfortable and well-integrated. The new hires feel a sense of security that someone is there to oversee them and keep an eye on their needs.

We all know how a new company feels like and it could be a difficult first few days, weeks, and even months for the employee. You feel uncomfortable asking dumb questions, such as where something is or whether it is okay to directly send emails. You feel also a little lost in the dark about something that you don’t know about. A mentor provides you a place to start and reassures you that you are on the right track.

  • Effective communication

Employee handbooks are not sufficient. Many new hires don’t even read it. Communication is about how you explain the internal workings of the company, and how you convey norms and expectations. In addition, you give out a signal to the née hire about how to communicate. If your onboarding content is disordered, the new hire will observe and learn that disorder is acceptable. Or, if your onboarding information is unclear and ambiguous, they will think that it’s acceptable to be confused.

The trick here is to know exactly what information to share with the new hire, and when, and why you are sharing it.

What is the onboard document’s true objective? Is that necessary? Do we need it?

Are we responding proactively to queries from the new hire? What queries may they have that we won’t answer quickly enough? When they have questions, where does the new hire go? How can I prevent them from being in a confused state of mind?

An onboarding program doesn’t have to be perfect—these processes are typically fire-tested, and we learn as we go.

  • Build relationships

The choices it provides are one of the main advantages of a digital-first approach to work. You can choose to recruit people from all over the country (or world). Remote work makes it possible to work in any time zone or location. The challenge is, however, because the digital job also involves establishing relations and human engagement.

At a workplace, due to your proximity, you can know your colleagues: you share the same tables, you see each other in the kitchen, and so on. These moments of serendipity are lost in a digital workplace setting — which means that you have to be more aware of how you introduce this new individual to all the other persons in your company.

  • Prioritize planned and unplanned check-ins

On the basis of the above, the balance between structured connections and unstructured interactions is a good method to guarantee humanity is central to your business culture.

As regards embarking on a new employee, it is priority number one to arrange a time for answers to queries, to introduce or to use client materials. The time must be on the calendar so that people know what to expect when it comes to speed.

The organization and other team members should also reach out and communicate spontaneously. These moments of serendipity in a real office are everyday events. We need to work a bit more to design them when working remotely, which means that they must be treated as a priority, too. Send a couple of further inspection e-mails to the new hires or even pick up the telephone and inquire how things proceed. Show them that you care. Do it more than once. Find ways to develop relationships at an early stage so that new team members feel that they are part of something and care about each other in the organization.

All in all, what we learn from the epidemic is that we need to have purpose in the way we engage. Think consciously about creating a great first impression on your new hires – both in terms of your work and experience.