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The unexpected global crisis has accelerated the need for virtual hiring and virtual onboarding. Although not new to a shortlist of companies that have been operating fully remote, the majority of companies have been pushed to accelerate adoption on a global scale.

Every business industry has had to adapt to the virtual work environment over the last months. For many, it was unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. At Codility, we were already familiar with virtual hiring because we develop a product that supports that process. Virtual onboarding, however, was something new. We had to learn by doing and took note of our experience. In addition, we solicited feedback from our newest team members. We believe we learned something invaluable that’s worth sharing. Here are some key insights from our company to yours that I hope you find useful.

Involve Every Employee in the Virtual Onboarding Process

Tools aren’t enough by themselves. Everyone from your leadership team, to department heads, to your onboarding support staff, and the rest of your team members must be in support of the onboarding process. When the entire company has a sincere effort in making everyone feel welcome, it increases the feel-good mindset of new team members.

Three ways to accomplish this are by having:

  • Virtual coffee breaks
  • Zoom onboarding meetings
  • Slack collaboration hubs

Survey New Team Members After Onboarding

Because best practices are continually evolving, every business’s culture is different, so each experience will vary. Take care to always ask questions with the goal of improving the virtual onboarding experience for the next new team member.

Here are a couple of examples of questions you could ask:

  • What worked well for you in your onboarding?
  • How would all of that have differed in a virtual environment compared to an on-site onboarding experience?

Realize that Conducting Virtual Onboarding Puts Your Company at an Advantage

When global health threats such as COVID-19 became prevalent, companies that weren’t already proactively involved in the technology- internet industry faced more difficult outcomes. Those that adapted quickly stood out as proactive leaders to top engineering talent. New employees tend to appreciate the ease of remote hiring. It eliminates stresses such as driving in heavy traffic and finding parking.

Define how your company fared on readiness:

  • Was your company ready and able to handle virtual recruitment processes in the recent crisis?
  • If not, what could you have done differently?
  • If your company adjusted well, what steps did you take to make the process a smooth one?

Your best practices checklist for virtual onboarding should fit your industry, company, and culture.

Fine-Tune Your Macro-Environment Prior to Starting Virtual Onboarding

Restructuring teams, managing budgets, configuring IT supplies are all needed. Doing these things quickly without a blueprint is difficult.

Prepare for uncertain times by:

  • Creating what-if scenarios based on your experiences with this recent crisis. Consider your budget in forecasting the restructuring of teams for future instances in uncertain times.
  • Ordering IT supplies and configuring them properly takes time as well. Record how long it took to receive supplies and have your company ready to handle onboarding virtually.
  • Making lists of Slack channels and email aliases for new team member participation. Your lists for different team members will need altering for each situation. But it’s important to create something. Later on, at least you’ll have some idea of what was done previously. Customize your lists based on the role of the new team member by adding or deleting Slack channels and email aliases as required.
  • Scheduling weekly or bi-weekly team meetings. Daily short meetings between new engineering team members and their managers are helpful too, especially at the beginning of the virtual onboarding process. Meetings enhance the comfort level of new hires. Because of the elimination or reduction of in-person meetings, communicate more often. Make sure everyone understands their team’s goals and their specific role on the team.

Problem Solve Together 

It’s a matter of when, not if, problems will surface in a virtual onboarding situation. Make it a policy to tackle problems together when they arise. Maintain a stance of being helpful, and not placing blame on any one individual. Use the team’s collective brain to create a solution and you’ll return to productivity in the fastest time. Every employee has to be on the same level here. Be patient and maintain a positive attitude to work past any bottlenecks you encounter in the virtual onboarding process.

Assign a Virtual Onboarding Buddy to Assist the New Hire in Transitioning Into the Workplace

It’s common for large organizations with many employees to assign a company representative to assist a specific client. But this can work for any sized firm as well in terms of virtual onboarding new employees. Just like an assigned representative who is familiar with the client, an “onboarding buddy” direct-contact employee has a better understanding of what a new hire is going through. If there are repeat issues, they can hone in on the problem and lessen the frustration. For the new hire, they’ll form a connection to your company faster, and this might make them feel less remote.

Create Tracking Documents for New Team Members

Since new team members have many new responsibilities they must adapt to, it’s possible for them to worry about missing a beat. To alleviate the uneasiness, provide a tracking document system where they can manage their documents and interact with others seamlessly.

At Codility, we are no-fear software developers who collaborate with equally-minded partners. We believe in creating needed solutions where there was none previously to make processes more efficient. Out of our virtual onboarding experience, we teamed up with one of our development partners, Sapling. We created additional powerful tools to help our clients excel in this new normal of virtual hiring, collaborating, and working.

Digital tools can significantly reduce the strain and reservation of welcoming new team members virtually. However, we do realize that companies need more than tools to make virtual onboarding successful. People still need people.

Every experience is unique to each company, its culture, and new team members. We’ve come to understand that defining best practices are always a work-in-progress.

We hope you use the virtual onboarding checklist to start the conversation. Next, add to it. Take note of what happened before, during, and after you’ve conducted virtual onboarding. To learn more, request a demo of our platform designed to help you smooth out the process. At some point, a new crisis will happen. It’s how you respond to it that determines your business’s success. Contact us today.

Andrew Knowles is the Senior People Operations Manager at Codility.

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