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Focus & Trends in Business

A New Take on Onboarding in a Remote World

By: Donna Cornelius, CEO/Executive Director, LINC & Andrew Brown, HR Business Partner, Nixon Power Services

It appears that remote is our new normal – at least some aspects of it. As employers continue to hire there are new considerations when recruiting, hiring and onboarding in a virtual world.

As a resource for employers, LINC has actually seen an increase in recruiting and hiring from many of our regional employers. Hiring is happening, but the hires may not be moving to the area just yet – and if they do make the move while still working remote, the isolation of a new area is even more intense during the pandemic. As an organization we get very creative in creating connection and engagement opportunities for new hires.  

When you consider onboarding there are two categories of hire to keep in mind: the person who is still able to work remotely, and the person who will be in the office at least partially. Either way the onboarding and typically the HR checklist may need to be altered to meet the needs of this “new normal”, AKA the pandemic remote work environment.

The typical onboarding checklist now gets to look a bit more human with intentional connections and strategic support. And there is a reason this matters. 

Statistics that count

When you think of your onboarding process, would you say you have a great onboarding process? Merely having a process does not make it great. Here is what the statistics say:

  • Only 12% of employees agree their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees
  • Most organizations spend only 1 week of onboarding leaving new hires feeling confused, discouraged and lacking resources
  • A negative onboarding experiences results in new hires being 2X more likely to look for other opportunities
  • 1 in 5 new hires are unlikely to recommend an employer
  • Great onboarding improves retention by 82%


These numbers should have your attention if you thought your on boarding practices were copesetic. Think of the processes you currently have. Does your company align with the traditional on boarding model? If so, stop doing what you are doing and consider a more equitable and inclusive approach. 

It is time to get clarity on changes that may create a more positive on boarding experience. Because in today’s world corporate culture starts with the on boarding experience.


Clarity & Support

Coordinate a “first-day” breakfast or lunch through a meal delivery service, and have the team eat together via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Getting creative to keep traditional first-day rituals alive (even in a remote setting) starts a first day out with a bang! Sharing a meal together is a great way to break the ice and introduce the new employee to the team in a low pressure setting.

Utilizing online calendars and having a clear agenda for the first few days can add a lot of clarity and comfort for a new hire beginning remotely. Knowing exactly what is coming next is a great way to keep the individual engaged and on track before they have a regular work routine. Having items already scheduled and allocated on a new employee’s calendar can be a great tactical approach to ensuring this happens. Use the technological tools at your disposal.   

Avoid Death by Training Video

Endless video training sessions can become mundane for anyone, but especially new employees who may have a heavier plate of training videos to get them started. To avoid this, have interactive training sessions with a group of new employees, to allow for questions and answers in real time. It also allows for stronger interpersonal connections. If you only have a few or only one new employee, it’s a great opportunity to do 1 on 1 shadowing calls and chats with different parts of the business, in lieu of a video to watch. Achieve the goal of learning, while adding the additional value of relationship!

Team Connectivity

Candid conversations and those non-work topics are less likely to come up when interpersonal interactions are tied to meetings and work goals. Finding a way to create time for those casual connections is a key to building a connection with your peers. Have an allocated time to do team building events via Zoom, set up your team with a food delivery-app credit to get a coffee/breakfast and share it together, allocate time for a post-work happy hour! Be the facilitator of connection and bonding. This can pay dividends to get a new employee connected, but it also builds comradery and trust among the group.

Keeping on boarding going for a longer period with additional check-ins and intentional connectivity, can work to achieve new employee buy-in. Working to avoid having an employee end up on an island, literally and figuratively, when starting is a key for success. Have a team member be their designated “buddy”, being their go-to person for these touch points.

On boarding should reflect your corporate culture

Effective employee on boarding takes special care and being intentional to get a new hire plugged in and up to speed. This can be even more critical and challenging when this is done remotely and the luxury of close physical proximity isn’t a possibility. Challenging does not mean impossible! When considering solutions to your remote on boarding think of the corporate culture that you wish to convey.  Are your hires getting a real sense and taste of who you are as an organization or are they just a cog in the wheel that meets a business construct.  Remember if you want to convey who you are culturally then make sure your on boarding practices reflect that. 

The digital remote orientation gets to be fun (yes we said fun), engaging and supportive to get your new hires off to a strong start that builds retention.