How to Optimize Your Virtual Onboarding Experience for New Hires

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
August 13, 2022

Remote work turned the onboarding experience on its head, for better or worse. Now, people leaders and human resources teams are looking for strategies to bring new hires into the fold of their organization.

One of the biggest challenges to the remote onboarding process is how company culture is shared with new hires through 1:1 and group interactions among peers, teams and leaders. Unfortunately in the new hybrid world of work, values and company culture aren’t as easily disseminated through virtual communications and inconsistent onboarding experiences.

Most employees have been used to in-person onboarding sessions alongside first-day lunches with bosses and regular, if not daily, work in an office. Creating those essential moments where you get to know the people you work with, and how you and your team fit into the broader organizational culture is hard to recreate in a hybrid setting without the right tools.

And we can’t understate the value of an effective onboarding experience. A poor onboarding experience for new hires can lead to dire organizational outcomes, like low retention and poor company culture. A positive first impression is crucial during this time.

5 steps to create an amazing onboarding experience

10KC specializes in informal talent development experiences that keep employees connected by building their internal networks. Here are our tips and tricks based on the expertise of our internal experts and from the experiences of our Fortune 500 clients.

1. Start early with pre-boarding new employees

You’ve made the job offer, and they’ve accepted. This in-between time period is critical for organizations to reach out before a new hire’s first day and set expectations of the onboarding experience early. Establish a time and send a link for the meeting where they will meet their manager or onboarding coordinator on the first day, so the new hire knows they’ll see a friendly face on their first day and throughout their first week.

Give your new hire the materials they will need in advance and include an onboarding checklist. You should also add information on your company’s culture and values.

Perhaps there’s a letter from a high-ranking leader you can add to the welcome email that will reiterate why the organization’s values and culture are important and how they’re enacted in everyday work.

2. Implement a new employee buddy program

In addition to a pre-onboarding point person, new hire buddy programs are a great way to reduce first-day jitters. Buddy programs match new hires with current employees. This is also an opportunity to make current employees ambassadors of your company culture.

In the past, opportunities to make new friends and build internal networks were dependent on in-person events like team socials, conferences or new hire outings. In hybrid work environments, companies need to be intentional in creating opportunities for employee connections because they won’t happen organically like in the past.

Buddies also act as a safe space to ask questions that new hires might not feel comfortable asking their manager, like the time allotment for lunch or expectations of working hours. Implementing a buddy program is a first step toward making sure a new hire feels connected as they're getting up to speed in the company. Buddies should be within one level of seniority of the new hire.

Ten Thousand Coffees’s onboarding program makes matching buddies simple. It automatically pairs new hires with a seasoned employee to serve as a coach for their first few months.  

3. Give the HR team and people managers a break

Effective employee onboarding cannot rely solely on HR professionals and hiring managers. That’s why it’s important to rope in other department heads or leaders to manage the specialized aspects of onboarding. This could be assigning tech and systems onboarding to the IT department or passing role-specific duties to subject matter experts.

By broadening the scope of people involved in onboarding, you’re also able to introduce them to people across departments and give them more visibility across the organization.

Hinging the success of an effective onboarding program on a manager creates a single point of failure. That's really risky. Organizations can overcome this by giving new employees access to other colleagues beyond their manager.

4. Be deliberate about giving new employees networking opportunities

It’s important to be deliberate and consistent about building relationships within your organization. You can't expect new hires to do it on their own without a system in place.

Feeling like you have the permission and confidence to reach out to colleagues is a challenge that many leaders can't relate to because they already have strong, established professional networks. They forget that networking and relationship building are skills team members hone over time. Consistently, when we speak to senior leaders, they overestimate how much these connections are happening spontaneously.

Early talent (up to 10 years into their career) and talent from underrepresented backgrounds often feel these challenges more sharply than other groups, though it's typically common across the entire employee population.

In our research with enterprise employees:
- 65% don't feel they're allowed to speak to colleagues on different teams or levels of seniority
- 73% don't feel confident about what to say to a more senior employee

That’s why implementing regular meetings or even a formal program is critical to create connections for new employees in a hybrid work environment. Ten Thousand Coffees’ clients often rely on our Introductions feature to create purposeful connections among co-workers. This feature seamlessly connects employees over email or on Slack, and our Smart-Match algorithm matches people based on interests and goals with a 98% match score.

5. Host small group sessions with leaders

Companies should promote networking and informal mentorship within the company across all levels of leadership. Get executives talking about the importance of building relationships within the organization. Leaders and people managers should echo this, too.

Our client, RBC does this well by hosting virtual walks and talks with executives. These sessions are a chance for a small group to meet with a leader to ask questions and raise concerns.

Before the shift to remote working, executives would lead these sessions with groups of three to five employees in-person at a cafe. These sessions were in high demand because they offered employees an opportunity to get to know executives on a more personal level in an informal setting. Many companies do well with mass communication channels, like town halls and company-wide updates, but miss the importance (and benefits) of more intimate settings.

Ready to solve your company’s onboarding shortfalls?

Let’s talk, then. New hires want to feel a part of the team, and your organization wants to make their transition into the company seamless. Ten Thousand Coffees can power many different aspects of onboarding, including creating a buddy mentoring program and boosting new hire networking through introductions. We’ve got solutions to make your onboarding program stronger and prioritize new hires' social introductions to your organization throughout their first year.

Webinar

How to Optimize Your Virtual Onboarding Experience for New Hires

Remote work turned the onboarding experience on its head, for better or worse. Now, people leaders and human resources teams are looking for strategies to bring new hires into the fold of their organization.

One of the biggest challenges to the remote onboarding process is how company culture is shared with new hires through 1:1 and group interactions among peers, teams and leaders. Unfortunately in the new hybrid world of work, values and company culture aren’t as easily disseminated through virtual communications and inconsistent onboarding experiences.

Most employees have been used to in-person onboarding sessions alongside first-day lunches with bosses and regular, if not daily, work in an office. Creating those essential moments where you get to know the people you work with, and how you and your team fit into the broader organizational culture is hard to recreate in a hybrid setting without the right tools.

And we can’t understate the value of an effective onboarding experience. A poor onboarding experience for new hires can lead to dire organizational outcomes, like low retention and poor company culture. A positive first impression is crucial during this time.

5 steps to create an amazing onboarding experience

10KC specializes in informal talent development experiences that keep employees connected by building their internal networks. Here are our tips and tricks based on the expertise of our internal experts and from the experiences of our Fortune 500 clients.

1. Start early with pre-boarding new employees

You’ve made the job offer, and they’ve accepted. This in-between time period is critical for organizations to reach out before a new hire’s first day and set expectations of the onboarding experience early. Establish a time and send a link for the meeting where they will meet their manager or onboarding coordinator on the first day, so the new hire knows they’ll see a friendly face on their first day and throughout their first week.

Give your new hire the materials they will need in advance and include an onboarding checklist. You should also add information on your company’s culture and values.

Perhaps there’s a letter from a high-ranking leader you can add to the welcome email that will reiterate why the organization’s values and culture are important and how they’re enacted in everyday work.

2. Implement a new employee buddy program

In addition to a pre-onboarding point person, new hire buddy programs are a great way to reduce first-day jitters. Buddy programs match new hires with current employees. This is also an opportunity to make current employees ambassadors of your company culture.

In the past, opportunities to make new friends and build internal networks were dependent on in-person events like team socials, conferences or new hire outings. In hybrid work environments, companies need to be intentional in creating opportunities for employee connections because they won’t happen organically like in the past.

Buddies also act as a safe space to ask questions that new hires might not feel comfortable asking their manager, like the time allotment for lunch or expectations of working hours. Implementing a buddy program is a first step toward making sure a new hire feels connected as they're getting up to speed in the company. Buddies should be within one level of seniority of the new hire.

Ten Thousand Coffees’s onboarding program makes matching buddies simple. It automatically pairs new hires with a seasoned employee to serve as a coach for their first few months.  

3. Give the HR team and people managers a break

Effective employee onboarding cannot rely solely on HR professionals and hiring managers. That’s why it’s important to rope in other department heads or leaders to manage the specialized aspects of onboarding. This could be assigning tech and systems onboarding to the IT department or passing role-specific duties to subject matter experts.

By broadening the scope of people involved in onboarding, you’re also able to introduce them to people across departments and give them more visibility across the organization.

Hinging the success of an effective onboarding program on a manager creates a single point of failure. That's really risky. Organizations can overcome this by giving new employees access to other colleagues beyond their manager.

4. Be deliberate about giving new employees networking opportunities

It’s important to be deliberate and consistent about building relationships within your organization. You can't expect new hires to do it on their own without a system in place.

Feeling like you have the permission and confidence to reach out to colleagues is a challenge that many leaders can't relate to because they already have strong, established professional networks. They forget that networking and relationship building are skills team members hone over time. Consistently, when we speak to senior leaders, they overestimate how much these connections are happening spontaneously.

Early talent (up to 10 years into their career) and talent from underrepresented backgrounds often feel these challenges more sharply than other groups, though it's typically common across the entire employee population.

In our research with enterprise employees:
- 65% don't feel they're allowed to speak to colleagues on different teams or levels of seniority
- 73% don't feel confident about what to say to a more senior employee

That’s why implementing regular meetings or even a formal program is critical to create connections for new employees in a hybrid work environment. Ten Thousand Coffees’ clients often rely on our Introductions feature to create purposeful connections among co-workers. This feature seamlessly connects employees over email or on Slack, and our Smart-Match algorithm matches people based on interests and goals with a 98% match score.

5. Host small group sessions with leaders

Companies should promote networking and informal mentorship within the company across all levels of leadership. Get executives talking about the importance of building relationships within the organization. Leaders and people managers should echo this, too.

Our client, RBC does this well by hosting virtual walks and talks with executives. These sessions are a chance for a small group to meet with a leader to ask questions and raise concerns.

Before the shift to remote working, executives would lead these sessions with groups of three to five employees in-person at a cafe. These sessions were in high demand because they offered employees an opportunity to get to know executives on a more personal level in an informal setting. Many companies do well with mass communication channels, like town halls and company-wide updates, but miss the importance (and benefits) of more intimate settings.

Ready to solve your company’s onboarding shortfalls?

Let’s talk, then. New hires want to feel a part of the team, and your organization wants to make their transition into the company seamless. Ten Thousand Coffees can power many different aspects of onboarding, including creating a buddy mentoring program and boosting new hire networking through introductions. We’ve got solutions to make your onboarding program stronger and prioritize new hires' social introductions to your organization throughout their first year.

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