How to Conduct Virtual Onboarding

HR professional working on laptop at a modern home office conducting virtual onboarding

When working on winning the best talent, it is easy to get tunnel vision and focus solely on making the hire. This approach, however, neglects a key factor in whether the employee will ultimately be successful within your organization: onboarding. Whether you choose in-person orientation or virtual onboarding, this process will boost hire retention by 82% and give an important first impression for incoming employees.

Companies that implement a strong onboarding process can boost the early productivity of those new hires by 70%. On the other hand, companies with a weak onboarding process are much more likely to see new hires struggle with performance and engagement. These employees are ultimately more likely to leave in the first year. 

As millions of employees shift to working from home, remote onboarding has become a necessity. Virtual onboarding has the potential to bring new hires up to speed quickly, accelerate the completion of paperwork, and cut down on administrative costs. 

When onboarding is executed poorly, though, things can go south quickly. An employee with a negative onboarding experience is twice as likely to start looking for a new job soon than one with a positive introduction. How can you ensure all the administrative boxes are checked while bringing a new hire into your company? We will dive into all the important information about virtual onboarding and help set you up for success.

What is Virtual Onboarding?

Virtual onboarding is the process of bringing a new employee in without an in-person orientation. New hires will review the company’s important documents and general information utilizing webinars, video conferencing, and other online options. With more companies hiring remote teams and setting up hybrid work models, it’s important to have virtual options for each phase of the employee lifecycle. 

Onboarding is a critical step that helps to set the tone for the employee’s time at the company. Put some focus and energy into this important integration process. 

What is Included in Virtual Onboarding?

First impressions can’t be made twice, so onboarding is critical for a good employee experience. When a new hire is coming on board, it’s important that they are set up with all the tools and technology they will need. With remote employees, have all the hardware sent to their address before the start date so they can be ready to jump in on their first day. 

Virtual onboarding should start with a checklist and schedule so employees know what to expect and when. Communicate any meeting times and then lay out the proper order to complete the different onboarding tasks and assignments. 

Onboarding includes reviews of the employee handbook, filling out benefits and tax documents, introductions to team members and peers, background information on the company, and the training to complete the roles and responsibilities of the job. Every company has its own unique twist on the onboarding process. Still, at the bare minimum, employees should feel introduced to the people they will work with daily and know the company’s overall goals and values.

Related: New Hire Checklist: The Easiest Way to Onboard

Benefits of Virtual Onboarding

Companies with a well-structured onboarding process will have strong employee engagement and better employee retention numbers. Giving new employees all the appropriate information to complete their job duties successfully will also boost their overall productivity. Choosing virtual onboarding over in-person orientation, or even choosing a hybrid option, has additional benefits. 

Orientation can be self-paced

Completing the employee’s online orientation using webinars and videos will allow them to go at their own pace. They can pause and start as much as needed to ensure they’ve captured all the important information. If any videos or information needs to be reviewed, it’s easier for the employee because they don’t have to raise their hand and ask for clarification.

Related: How to Use Employee Orientation to Set New Hires Up for Success

Virtual onboarding is cost-efficient

Virtual onboarding can be extremely cost-efficient if your teams are scattered in different geographies because you will not incur travel expenses. People can connect with their new teams and view the content remotely. In addition, you can create content once and reuse it, which is a time saver (and money saver) for the team putting on the orientation. 

Technology allows for time-saving tricks with documents

A big part of the onboarding process is document related. You must review employee handbooks and fill out tax information, emergency contacts, and other important documents. Technology can make the process much easier than just running through a stack of paperwork in a conference room. Get all the right signatures and deliver them to the right people with just a click of a button. 

Onboarding can be completely personalized

With virtual onboarding, you can completely customize and build a personalized program. Instead of grouping people together for in-person orientation, you can select just the information relevant to the new hire. Set up a checklist and schedule based on the role and the person’s experience and ensure they receive the essential information. You can measure how each person receives and retains the information by including quizzes and easily determine when they are ready to move forward. 

Get creative with the content

Online content is great because a lot of creativity can be incorporated to make the content interesting and memorable. Instead of an HR rep just standing in the front of a room reviewing employee handbooks and a little company history, you can include fun videos with photos and interviews with multiple company leaders. The content can include interactive games, quizzes, information slides, and demonstrations. Creative content is way easier to follow along with and helps keep people’s attention longer.

The new employee can be comfortable

Starting a new job can be intimidating, especially when walking into a brand-new building and meeting dozens of new coworkers at once. By completing the onboarding process virtually, employees can enjoy a longer onramp for meeting their coworkers and be comfortable at home during those initial conversations.

Related: New Employee Welcome Letter Template and Tips

Steps to Make Your Virtual Onboarding Program a Success 

Get them the goods they need to do their job

First, ensuring your employee has the physical supplies necessary to hit the ground running on day one is essential. This might include shipping them equipment like a company laptop and headset or providing a stipend to purchase home office gear. 

If your company has a process for reimbursing home office expenses, send those instructions via email immediately after the hire and follow up with a phone call to answer any questions. 

Related: What is Preboarding and Why is it Important?

Send some feel-good gifts

Helping your new hire feel connected is one of the biggest hurdles you must overcome in their early days. Bridge the virtual divide by sending a care package of company swag—a t-shirt, coffee mug, hat, or some desk-friendly munchies are all good options. 

While it may seem like a small gesture, every interaction contributes to the larger impression your new hire has of the company, which boosts retention. 69% of employees with a great onboarding experience are likelier to stay with the company for at least three years. Plus, starting a new job is stressful, so anything you can do to make the process more enjoyable will surely be appreciated. 

Make paperwork hassle-free

Enthusiasm and energy are running high on an employee’s first day on the job. The fastest way to take the wind out of their sails is to have them spend half the day doing paperwork. 

Use a program like Zenefits to get tedious form filling taken care of before your new hire clocks in on their first day. Such programs allow employees to complete new hire paperwork like tax forms and benefits selection on time. More than 80% of new hires on the Zenefits platform complete the paperwork side of onboarding before their first day, which ensures they can put their enthusiasm straight to work on day one. 

Complete tech setup ahead of time

Have your IT team set up a new hire’s credentials like their company email address, software logins, and slack channel invites before their first day so they feel like a full team member from the start. This will streamline communications and prevent technology roadblocks from slowing down your new employee’s productivity. 

Schedule a series of meetings with key players

The biggest downside of remote onboarding is losing the face-to-face component that helps build interdepartmental relationships and instill a sense of camaraderie. You must actively work to create virtual alternatives to these important interactions. 

One way to do this is to set a series of meetings for your new hire, both one-on-one and in group settings, with people from different departments and levels in the organization’s hierarchy. This might include company executives, managers, fellow team members, and new hires. To avoid interaction overload, space these meetings a few days apart over the course of your new hire’s first weeks on the job. 

It is also a great idea to set up remote new hires with an existing employee who will serve as their designated “guide,” answering questions and providing guidance in their early days. Technology company Dell, for example, has a ‘day one success team’ on standby to resolve any issues new hires might experience. 

If you’re onboarding multiple people at a similar level, pairing up “orientation buddies” and connecting them through Slack or email works well. This gives new hires someone in the same boat to chat and share experiences. 

Provide ample training

Training is often the most challenging part of onboarding remote employees. When you’re not in the same physical place, shadowing a colleague is not feasible, and it is tougher for new employees to identify the right person to ask for help or the best channel to use to do so. 

To bring new hires up to speed on their job duties and their team’s typical workflows, use a combination of training mediums like recordings, live sessions, interactive modules, virtual exercises, and written materials. Follow a specific timeline for each piece of the training and set clear expectations for when each item should be completed. 

Follow a structured approach

You can have all the informational assets available to help new employees, but the virtual onboarding experience most commonly breaks down is how these assets are structured and presented. According to a paper released by Digitate, one out of five new employees was confused about how to proceed during the onboarding process, while one out of six found the systems to be user-unfriendly. 

To combat the feelings of frustration that can lead to the negative new hire outcomes we touched on earlier, you will need to be mindful to provide an ultra-clear structure to your remote onboarding process. Digital wellness company Hanno assigns new hires to a designated onboarding track in the project management platform, Asana, which is a great way for them to chart their progress along with a clear roadmap and ensure no steps are missed.  

Check-in regularly

Since remote employees do not have the convenience of dropping by their manager’s office or sharing a quick word with a coworker in the hallway, you will need to make it a point to check in frequently to see how they’re doing and gauge whether any aspects of their onboarding need more attention. 

Do this several times in their first few weeks via email, instant message, or a quick Zoom call (ideally, a combination of all of these). Have more formal follow-ups at the 30, 60, and 90-day mark to assess their initial performance and identify any areas where they still feel out of the loop or are lagging behind. 

Taking a proactive approach to pinpointing issues will help you address any bad habits or pain points head-on before they impact a new hire’s productivity. 

Use surveys to improve continuously

Like all of your staffing systems, your virtual onboarding process should be a continuous work in progress. There is always room for improvement with the emergence of new technology, better project management tools, faster systems, and communication apps that mimic the in-person experience more closely with each new feature rollout.  

To keep your onboarding game strong, use employee feedback surveys to get input from those who just went through the process. Here are a few topics to cover in your survey questions:

  • Input on the structure of the onboarding process
  • Quality of onboarding materials
  • Level of engagement with the process
  • Initial Perceptions of the company and the role
  • Alignment with the company’s values
  • Level of confidence in their ability to do their job adequately following onboarding
  • Free-answer input with additional suggestions

Remember that this will likely be your new hire’s first time making their voice heard within the company, so how you execute these surveys and what you do with the feedback will further contribute to their positive new hire experience.

Related: Sample Candidate Experience Survey Questions

Set Yourself Up for New Hire Success with 4 Corner Resources

According to some estimates, a bad hire costs a lot of money—up to 30% of the employee’s first-year salary. Add to that the lost time spent on recruiting and onboarding, and you have a recipe for ballooning expenses and stretched-thin hiring staff. 

Make the right hire the first time with help from the remote staffing experts at 4 Corner Resources. Our team excels at identifying candidates with the right mix of technical expertise and personality fit to succeed in your organization for the long haul. Clients that work with us to source and hire talent see lower long-term hiring costs, stronger retention, and more productive new employees. 

Get started by scheduling your free consultation with us today

Staffing your team doesn’t have to be hard.

Reach out and see how we can help.


What is meant by virtual onboarding?

Virtual onboarding is the process of bringing in a new employee using online content and video conferencing instead of the traditional in-person orientation. It can be done 100% remotely or with a hybrid model of online and in-person.

How do you make virtual onboarding effective?

Make sure new employees have everything they need before their first day. Send a welcome packet with the necessary technology and instructions to log in. Set expectations for onboarding immediately with a checklist and schedule so they know exactly what to do each day.

What are the disadvantages of virtual onboarding?

In-person onboarding involves some face-to-face relationship building, so getting to know new employees is important even when remote. Another possible disadvantage is the potential for misunderstandings in the presented information, so make sure to check in and see if anything needs additional clarification.

Why is virtual onboarding beneficial for companies?

Virtual onboarding can be more effective than in-person orientation because you can use a collection of mixed media and allow employees to go at their own pace. Each curriculum can be personalized for the specific job role. It’s cost-effective and utilizes technology to make it more time-efficient as well.

Peter Porebski

About Peter Porebski

Peter Porebski is the Operations Manager at 4 Corner resources. A graduate of the University of Central Florida he has over 10 years of operations and process improvement experience with 7 being in the Human resources and staffing industry. In previous roles he worked to manage and analyze production flow trends and determine areas of improvement in quality control for the commercial retail industry. His areas of interest include web development, information technology, data analysis and reporting. He lives in Orlando, Florida with his wife and two cats.