Bringing people onto your team and giving them the best onboarding experience isn’t easy at the best of times, especially when everyone is so busy.

However, with virtual onboarding likely to become more commonplace over the coming months, this is going to become even more challenging.

The extra effort is worth it, though.

We recently conducted research that found over a third of new employees make up their mind about whether they want to stay in a specific job or not within the first week.

So, while the circumstances may be a little strained, it is vital you make the best first impression possible. Here are a few hints and tips to help you on your way.

Preparation is key

Planning is everything whether your new employee is coming into the office or not.

Presumably you have some prior knowledge of the new employee joining the team; either through the interview or selection process.

Either way, you know they are coming – we hope! Make sure the tools they need to do their job are ordered – there’s nothing worse that joining a new workplace and feeling like they’re not ready for you. Bearing in mind that when a situation like Coronavirus strikes, and this is once in a generation, getting the equipment you need in time might not be easy. Planning ahead is crucial.

Make sure they have the right hardware (laptop, phone and anything else that is in your welcome package or that they would need to do their job well).

It’s also important to make sure the new employee has all the accounts and software they require set up before they begin. Remember, there isn’t the option to just pop to the IT support desk for help to get it set up.

Set up an online welcome pack

Printed employee handbooks are becoming a thing of the past. They are difficult to get consistently right or to futureproof them – often the minute they are printed they are out of date. There’s the environmental concern as well, of course.

Get as much of your handbook online as possible. Trello is a particularly useful tool for this. If you have a strong intranet it will provide a good online resource for new employees to refer to. However, if you don’t, Trello presents the information in an easily digestible form. Check out how Trello do it themselves.

You will need a range of things on here – some fun and some boring but necessary – as you would with any induction. However, is vital your new employee can access them at their leisure and reference them when they need. Your employee handbook should include:

  • An accurate and update phone list (it is amazing how often these are incorrect.If its online, it can be managed and maintained regularly)
  • The boring – but very important stuff; the policies and procedures
  • Expense forms, holiday forms – all very mundane stuff, but one of the key issues when someone starts is, because it is almost second nature to people in the business, it is easy to forget the easy things.
  • Team birthdays
  • Systems used and passwords if necessary; things like like Slack, Teams, Trello, and so on.
  • Online training sessions
  • A schedule for the first week, month, and so on.

Meet the team

In the same way you would have introduced your new recruit face to face to the team in the office, your virtual onboarding should be no different.

Schedule time with your new employee the week before they start via Skype, Zoom, Teams or whichever system you prefer. Talk them through how the first week will go. If you can, ask your team to record a short introduction about themselves, both inside and outside work. This helps new employees put a face to a name and makes the first week’s chat go a little smoother.

These recorded films don’t need to be expensive clips filmed by a professional. Most laptops have built in camera and microphones and every smart phone will have a decent camera. Brief clips filmed at someone’s desk or workspace will be perfectly sufficient for an onboarding manual.

Ask your team to book time to sit and chat with the new employee. It won’t be easy for you to communicate the culture on your own – they will need to hear from a variety of voices to ensure they can get to grips with language, working practices, etiquette and the like.

Include a conference call with the CEO or senior business leader where possible at some point in the first week. It is always important to hear from the leading figures on the direction of the business and what the prospects and values are.

Online work buddy

Set the new employee up with an online buddy. Again, in the same way you would arrange for someone in the team to connect with them on a regular basis in the office, there needs to be someone available to help remotely with any issues. Having informal online coffee breaks can be a good opportunity for new employees to ask questions in a more relaxed environment. Someone new to a business will likely be incredibly busy and struggling to get their heads around a new approach so giving them some away time and ask them to sit and have a coffee with a buddy.


Obviously, they are coming in to do a job and you will have a workflow designed and ready to go. It is incredibly important that you set out the objectives and key results (OKRs) you are looking for from your new employee as soon as possible. They need to feel they are working towards an end goal and it is part of the overall business objectives. If this isn’t communicated it can be hard to maintain motivation when you don’t have a target and you don’t have a manager or team to refer to on a daily basis.

Making your virtual real

A virtual onboarding isn’t going to be easy, especially when it’s not normal practice for your business. However, if you put the right tools in place and put a bit of planning into the first few weeks it will really make a difference.

Get you’re the rest of the team involved too. Your new employee needs to hear from the wider business, and they need to grasp the culture, which they will get from your team.

In these trying times we need to make every effort to keep as close to business as usual – especially when it is anything but.