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How to virtually onboard new employees in 2021

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Boomer Consulting, Inc. has been an entirely virtual company for quite a while now, so working and collaborating remotely hasn’t been a challenge during the pandemic. What IS new to our team in the past few months is virtually onboarding new team members.

In the past, we would fly new hires to Kansas City for a few days of in-person onboarding and training at our Accounting Innovation Center. That wasn’t feasible – or advisable – when our newest employee started in May of last year. Fortunately, we were able to take what we’d learned from years of working with coworkers, clients, and vendors across the country and apply it to the onboarding process.

Here are some of the best practices we’ve learned that can help the process go smoothly for your firm.

Ship technology in advance of the start date

When we hired our newest Solutions Advisor in May, we had a pretty quick turnaround from when he accepted the offer until his start date, but we wanted to ensure that he had everything he needed to hit the ground running on day one. We rushed to order and ship his laptop and other equipment so it would arrive a couple of days before his first official day on the job.

On day one of onboarding, our new team member met virtually with our Technology Business Analyst to ensure he had all of the equipment he needed and could connect to the cloud resources. Some firms we work with schedule 30 minutes or so a few days ahead of the new employee’s start date for the same purpose. Either way, this ensures your new team member isn’t sitting there on day one, waiting for equipment to be delivered or struggling to connect.

Video conferencing

The Boomer Consulting team has encouraged firms to leverage video conferencing tools for years, and the ones who did were much more prepared for working in 2020 than those who still relied heavily on traditional conference calls.

You simply cannot successfully onboard a new employee without video conferencing. The first few days and weeks at a new job are a critical time for establishing personal connections for new hires. Video conferencing is the best way to meet with someone virtually and still get that “face to face” feel.

During our new team members’ first days, we scheduled all of his meetings on Zoom. We also planned in break times but had someone available via Zoom even during his breaks, so if he wanted to ask a question, someone was there. It was also extra time to get to know him and allow him to know us.

Schedule the first week

When everyone works from the same physical space, the schedule for a new employee’s first week on the job can be a bit fluid. However, we recommend scheduling times for all aspects of the onboarding and training process in their first week when you’re onboarding someone virtually. This ensures the people they need to meet with are available, and your new team member isn’t left waiting and wondering what they’re supposed to be doing for long periods.

Schedule a meeting with HR to review paperwork and get them enrolled in benefits. We learned that this aspect of onboarding takes longer than we originally thought. We’d initially scheduled only 30 minutes but really needed an hour and a half!

Schedule time with their supervisor and training with other team members they’ll be working with. It’s a good idea to bring in several people, so they’re not seeing and talking to the same person day in and day out.

Schedule time with someone higher up – the Managing Partner, President, or CEO. This helps establish an “open door policy” and shows your new team member that nobody in the firm is off-limits to talk to if they have a question or need help.

Onboard for success

One of our favorite onboarding sessions that we use both in-person and virtually is “Onboarding for Success.” This is an extended meeting – up to three or four hours – where our new employee meets with a cross-functional team of shareholders, sales team members, project managers, technology and marketing team members. During this session, our team talks about what success looks like in our company from different perspectives.

What is our CEO’s view of success? How about the sales team and project managers? Based on these conversations, we work with our new employees to develop their goals for the first 90 days on the job.

Assign a buddy and a mentor

At Boomer Consulting, everyone has regular one-on-ones with their managers, but we also assign buddies and mentors for every team member. A buddy is someone who is not in your department. They help the new employee learn about company culture and support them in figuring out how we do things.

A mentor is in your department, but not your supervisor. This is a peer the new employee can bounce ideas off of and someone who will help them grow into their position. The employee has regular meetings with their buddy and mentor. That might seem like a lot of meetings, but it helps our remote team establish relationships across departments and provides a foundation of colleagues they can call on throughout their time with the company.

Virtual onboarding can be a challenge the first time. For your new team member, the barrage of information coming at them in the early days can feel like drinking through a firehose, so it’s important to take a “pulse check” after they’ve been on the job for a few weeks. This gives them time to ask questions that have come up since or clarify something they might have missed the first time around.

It can also help your team get better at virtual onboarding by learning what your new team members might need more of. Don’t worry if your first virtual onboarding experience is a little rough. You’ll learn something new every time,

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October 2021
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