Virtual onboarding: connection is in the details

  • Author: Meghan Stewart

In a virtual workplace, there are moments we miss, moments a new employee won’t see during these times when virtual onboarding has become the norm.

At Ingenuity, on the day you first interview and again on day one, our office dog (and Chief Chair Stealer), Owen, runs and greets you at the door. It’s an important symbol of the welcoming and safe space we’ve created over the past 12 years. So how can companies replicate moments like this when we’re onboarding virtually?

While many of our existing onboarding practices remain the same, like learning systems, setting expectations, and sharing our company values, we began to look at the in-between moments and found ways to start creating true connections between our new teammates, their teams, and the entire org. Here are some highlights of our virtual onboarding plan

Virtual onboarding starts at the interview—here’s what we do from then until day one

  • Pre-COVID-19, candidates came to our office for an interview and could get a feel for our culture and team. Now, candidates are given a virtual office tour and a special hello from Owen.
  • Once hired, our new teammate receives their digital onboarding docs. How we handled COVID-19 has become an important part of our employer story, so we added our pandemic story to our onboarding docs. We also include a “new normal”-specific FAQ that covers updates like the unlimited mental health days that are now part of our sick day policy.
  • We used to assign a buddy on day one, but now we assign them as soon as people sign their paperwork. Our buddies are there to answer any questions new hires may have and provide that peer-to-peer connection long before our new teammates step foot through their virtual office door.
  • In addition to our physical personalized welcome box with a branded beer and coffee mug for both happy hours and our morning stand-ups, new hires also receive a digital welcome box with custom Zoom screens, gifs, and playlists.
  • To help our new hires hit the ground running on day one, our onboarding survey is focused on the home office instead of the in-person office. New hires receive a gift card to purchase what they need for their home office.

Day one to the end of week one provides a crash course for our new teammate

  • At their first morning standup, our new teammate hears first-day memories from our veteran teammates so they can start to connect faces to names, get fun anecdotes to help them remember who’s who, and remind them they’re not alone. Everyone at Ingenuity has had their own first day!
  • We’ve always done team lunches to celebrate new hires. Now, we do a virtual lunch, but instead of sharing pizza, everybody orders their own meal, and it’s interesting to see what everybody picks.
  • At this point, the new hire knows their buddy, but now that the new teammate has a little more experience and context, the buddy has their first status check to ensure the new teammate is feeling welcome and fitting in.
  • We have a few unofficial social groups at Ingenuity like Book Club, Running Club, and Cooking Club that new hires usually find out about through “kitchen conversations” or chats during walks to and from lunch. Our buddies are as much a company guide as a social guide. They help new teammates get to know the underground and informal groups that aren’t in the onboarding manual.

During the first 30 days of virtual onboarding, it’s time to really get to know the team

  • New teammates get About Me presentations from veteran teammates to paint a colorful depiction of their personal and professional lives before Ingenuity.
  • Following the respective About Me presentations, the presenter and new hire have virtual coffee and spend time getting to know each other better —like a water cooler moment, but make it official.

By their 30-day anniversary, new teammates are full-fledged members of the Ingenuity family

  • One month in, our new teammate has learned about their team. Now it’s their turn to share their own About Me presentation.
  • They’ve also learned about the ERGs or Ingenuity Groups and they can choose where they’d like to participate: philanthropy, education, entertainment.
  • There are plenty of opportunities for virtual team fun, like: Trivia night with their team, cooking/baking class and show and tell from their home office.
  • At 30 days, the buddy checks in to make sure everything is running smoothly. Hopefully, everybody feels like a buddy now.

Our dedication to our work, our dedication to growing and getting better, and our dedication to each other has remained the same, even as our work lives have changed in so many ways. Through this change, it’s important to identify those in-between moments in the virtual onboarding process and beyond and find creative ways to create a sense of connection between our team and our company.

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