5 Easy Ways to Enhance the Virtual Onboarding Experience

July 27, 2021

Recently, I caught up with a friend and former colleague. She and I met more than eight years ago in an elevator on our first day of work. We had just a few moments together, but it was enough to spark a connection.  

I left the elevator, looked her up in the company directory, then promptly scheduled our first coffee break! The next day, we walked to the local coffee shop, sat down, and got to know each other. Many drinks, meals and togetherness happened in the years to come. But it all started in an elevator during our first day on the job.  

Brilliant Ink recently hired several new people, and just like many other companies, we had to figure out how to recreate the connection and belonging of a typical onboarding experience in a completely remote world. (Interestingly, BINK went fully remote in 2016, but pre-pandemic we always had the option of meeting up for a day or two to bond.)

I sat down with our People Operations Lead, Anna Downing, to hear 5 tips on how to make onboarding in a virtual world a success:

1. Create a shared onboarding experience

Group people together in a cohort for a shared onboarding experience. Although they won’t be in person, they can follow the same training and roadshow schedule. They’ll get the benefit of hearing each other’s questions as well as a chance to bond with their cohort.  

Pro tip: Consider a buddy program as well! Pair a new hire with a seasoned employee for regular get to know you calls.  

2. Host a virtual team lunch

Invite the full team to have a meal over Zoom. Don’t forget to have some ice breakers ready – two truths and a lie or, “Would you rather?” questions are some of our favorites – to get the conversation started and keep it going!  

Pro tip: Send a food delivery gift card to each new hire before the team lunch (leave the pressure of the learning your expense policy and system for another day!)  

3. Remember the little things

Ask people to send welcome emails to new hires. Nothing overly formal, just a light and warmhearted note to help new hires feel the love on their first day.

Pro tip: Don’t go overboard with welcome emails. We surveyed our new hires, and many felt that having too many unread emails on their first day was a bit overwhelming.  

4. Make time for reflection

Meet at the end of each week for a wrap-up session with the cohort and someone from the People Ops team. This reinforces the small group and builds connection with the People Ops Lead.

Pro tip: Ask questions each week that give an opportunity for reflection. We ask: What is something that went well, what is something that was a challenge, and what is something you learned?

5. Swag up

Skip the fancy, pre-assembled welcome box, which can be expensive and requires plenty of lead time, and instead let the new hire pick their own swag. We use Kotis which allows each new hire to select company swag from their website and have it shipped directly to them.  

Pro tip: Going this route avoids the slightly invasive question “what shirt size are you?”  

New hire onboarding used to be more predictable

With everyone in a large conference room with muffins, name tags, assigned seats and a sequence of presentations and trainings, it had all the pros and cons associated with a predictable, slightly boring agenda. With the forced distance of the pandemic and now a focus on hybrid working models, we all have the chance to shake up old thinking and try new ways to connect and support team members in their first year.  

Have you uncovered a new technique for virtual onboarding? Share it with us on LinkedIn and Twitter! For more bite-sized brilliance, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, the Inkwell.

Lindsay McCleary

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