According to a 2019 Buffer survey, 31% of workplaces are entirely virtual. Outside of that, workplaces have a hybrid model of remote and in-office employees, or are 100% in-office. However, as the needs of our environment and employees change, more companies are offering remote work opportunities and hiring virtual teams.
As remote work becomes more prevalent, virtual onboarding of entire teams is still a relatively new concept. Many HR teams and managers are assessing how to onboard virtual teams successfully. A smooth onboarding process creates happier and more productive employees, and also promotes your brand when new hires sing your praises on social media and networking platforms.
Below are some best practices to onboard virtual teams and individuals.
Virtual onboarding encompasses many of the same best practices used when onboarding new hires in person. For example:
To create a virtual new employee orientation program, map the process and goals for in-person hires to a virtual onboarding program. Once you identify the areas to adjust, you can determine what resources will be required.
Whether the employee will be working in an office or from their home, it’s the organization’s responsibility to ensure, at least one to two weeks before the start date, that the new hire has what he or she needs to successfully perform the job, including the proper internet setup, software support, hardware requirements, and office needs.
Remote employees can easily feel excluded, which is why one of the top virtual onboarding best practices is to promote inclusion, engagement, and connection.
Employees working in an office can walk down the hallway and interact with coworkers, allowing for opportunities to assimilate within a company’s culture and connect with colleagues. They also have the chance to take advantage of any pertinent information and fun perks available in break rooms and common areas. For remote onboarding, HR teams and managers need to develop remote opportunities for new hires to have similar experiences, which can commence before the start date.
The company’s social media page is an excellent place to foster connection. Add new hires to the company’s page before they come on board, and encourage them to interact with other new hires and employees and vice versa. If your organization uses communication apps such as Slack or Skype, add the new hire to the apps. The opportunity to participate in such platforms early on can help the new hire feel valued, allows the new hire to experience how employees interact, and gives managers insight into how the new hire communicates and fits in with the team.
Any in-office perks and information – or reasonable alternates – should also be provided to remote hires during virtual orientation and beyond, when possible.
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Onboarding can be stressful. Adding the layer of remote onboarding also adds stress, especially for completing new hire paperwork. For remote new hires, it’s particularly important to provide clear, step-by-step instructions.
Most new hire paperwork, such as completing W2s and payroll setup, can be streamlined and automated online. However, some paperwork, namely, the I-9 employment eligibility verification form, must be done in person. The employee must present one to two types of identification in person (copies are not allowed) to a company representative within three days of employment to verify work eligibility in the United States.
Organizations that complete I-9s incorrectly face fines and penalties for each infraction. HR departments or managers need to ensure a local third-party or company representative can serve as the agent to sign the remote new hire’s I-9 in person.
Assigning a “buddy” or mentor, especially for entry-level employees, is a great option to support the new hire through the onboarding process and beyond. The buddy is the new hire’s point of contact to answer questions and can encourage the new hire to engage with other employees in remote platforms, such as social media and Slack.
These five virtual onboarding best practices are a great place to learn how to onboard virtual teams. For additional virtual new employee orientation and general onboarding resources, check out our Onboarding resources page.