Building a Distributed Team: How to Create Great Virtual Onboarding for Every New Hire
Making the move to digital-first or hybrid work? Onboarding new employees is key. We'll show you how to get it right the first time in this guide.
When your organization is digital-first or has implemented a hybrid work policy, integrating and onboarding new team members can be challenging. To ease the transition, it’s important to be intentional about designing a great experience for every new hire’s first day.
You can make the virtual onboarding experience enriching and welcoming with the right video meetings platform, documentation, and a bit of thoughtful information sharing.
Top Tips to Building a Great Virtual Onboarding Experience
At Whereby, we aim to give every hire working from home a great first day, week, and month with the team. These are a few of the considerations we make when running remote onboarding.
Start with the hiring process: We spent a lot of time streamlining our hiring processes and making it public, so applicants have realistic expectations and can gauge their time and commitments. In many ways, we believe that onboarding starts from submitting a job application. That first contact starts to set the tone, determine culture fit, and embed values with potential new hires. That way, when it comes time to sign the contract and boot up on their first day, people already have a good idea of what to expect: from the role, the team, and the company.
Make the right introductions: Warm introductions that happen before the first day can make starting a new role less intimidating. At Whereby, we schedule ‘coffee chat’ introductions throughout the interview process. By the time remote hires start, they know their People Partner, manager, director, and a few teammates. Managers set up lunches with new hires and ensure they have video meetings booked with key collaborators and for regular team stand ups. As part of onboarding, Executives also host an open call once a month for new hires to get to know them, with fun games like Two Truths and a Lie, and provide a chance to ask questions. These interactive sessions build a foundation of trust with leaders and take away the intimidation and awkwardness of one-on-one meetings. The sessions also help new hires understand leadership’s vision for the organization.
Provide early access to platforms: Log in issues on a remote first day can create a lot of stress and confusion, especially when trying to learn lots of information about a new company. With security in mind, provide access to all platforms 48 hours before the new hire’s start date to make sure everything is ready to go on day one. This ensures tech troubleshooting can happen beforehand and new hires don’t miss any important meetings or Slack messages – or find themselves locked out for half a day before their manager’s morning begins.
Design self-led virtual onboarding: Document your onboarding process to make it easier as you bring on more team members and empower new starters to jump in on their own. At Whereby, our virtual onboarding document includes readings on our values and steps to follow for the first day, week, and month with the team. The experience is based on an extensive template but managers take time to customize it for every new starter. This involves recording a custom welcome Loom video, adding key links, and including a small project deliverable that helps the new hire start contributing from day one. The first day includes simple tasks like reading through the process documents and posting an introduction on Slack. The first week includes more important company readings and a small project deliverable. The first month includes a medium and larger project or project deliverable and other milestones that are relevant to the role. This approach helps people ease into the work environment and lead their own onboarding, even if their distributed team is operating from different time zones.
Schedule periodic video meeting check-ins: When the team is all set up to work from home, it’s important to maintain points of connection. The People Team and managers have scheduled check ins with new hires after one week, one month, and three months. Other team members also reach out on the first day to build connections to other areas of the company. Having a few different people checking in ensures questions don’t go unanswered and lets new hires know they’re supported as they adjust to the workplace and pace.
Create connections through cohorts: Recreate the community feeling of the office by introducing new employees to each other. A Slack group can provide new team members who are starting around the same date a chance to ask each other questions, meet people beyond their immediate team, and develop a sense of community. It’s also a great place to check in with everyone on how virtual onboarding is progressing and post reminders about social events, and other important information. Whereby also has a Wherebuds program to match new team members with more tenured teammates from another department. This creates new connections across the company and provides another contact to learn from and ask questions.
Celebrate milestones: Moments of joy and celebration can be harder to convey when we’re not sharing physical space. To make sure every hire knows how excited we are to have them on the team, we send a swag package with SwagUp. This Whereby-branded bundle includes utility items such as water bottles and towels, and some fun stickers and shirts. The package reflects our appreciation and helps new hires promote their work and the brand. We also celebrate work anniversaries with cards and have a Celebrations channel in Slack, so teammates can publicly honor each other’s hard work and contributions.
At times, remote work can be isolating and oftentimes, starting a new job can be intimidating. With psychological safety in mind, we are combating the common pitfalls of hybrid work through remote onboarding.