Bridge Insights

The Good, the Bad and the Evil of Virtual Onboarding

May 18, 2020

Onboarding is critical when acclimating a new hire to a company. If done well, it can boost productivity, engagement, and retention. Even though all businesses know the impact of a strong training program, according to a Gallop poll, only 12% of employees strongly agree their organization does a great job onboarding new employees.

With today’s technology, onboarding a remote team is easier than ever before, but with many businesses challenged to adjust their operations to the new normal, that low of 12% could drop even further.

When creating an onboarding program for your remote hires, certain practices should be followed to ensure a successful and positive experience for your newest employee(s).

[blockquotes color=”accent” quote=”no”] If first impressions can last a lifetime, the same can be said of a new employee’s first experience at their new company [/blockquotes]

Before You Onboard

Preboarding is the time when IT should ensure all technology and remote work tools are functioning properly. Laptops should have all programs loaded, VPN connectivity and softphones should be tested before your new hire’s first day. This way, when the laptop and other company-provided technology are sent to your newest team member’s home, set up on their first day will be seamless. Additionally, training documents should be sent to the employee so that they can follow along and take notes during their scheduled training times.

To provide a warm welcome to your new hire, it’s important for the hiring manager to provide a friendly congratulations to the new team member and share how excited they are to have him/her join the team before their first day. A simple phone call or email goes a long way in showing someone they are an important and valued member of the team.

Day One

Human Resources typically takes the reins when welcoming new employees into the organization, especially on their first day. On Day 1, new hire paperwork is typically completed, employee benefits are explained, and an overview of the company’s history is also provided. This is also when HR will give a comprehensive overview of the company culture, policies, business ethics, and employee expectations.

Even for employees who work remotely, it is easy for the tedium of their first day to make them feel like a number. Be sure to connect with your new employee on their first day via video conferencing; chances are your virtual interview was the last time you connected face-to-face.


While training in any organization should be ongoing, it is important to have a structured training program for all new hires. Virtual training should always be done face-to-face using some type of video conference platform with a screen share function. This provides the opportunity for new hires to see other new faces and begin establishing a rapport with their trainer and team.

Have a structured daily training agenda to let new hires know exactly what they can expect during training each day: Start and end times, scheduled breaks, when they will have one-on-one time with their hiring manager or mentor, etc..

Your virtual training program must be highly structured with plenty of time for individual hands-on training and Q&A. Using a video conference platform with a screen share function will help your new employees feel like they are in an actual classroom.

The Investment

Setting up a digital training program for new hires can be a bit of an undertaking; building a functional virtual training program is an investment in both time and technology.

As a hiring manager, you may not be responsible for the initial classroom training, but you are ultimately responsible for making sure your new team member is supported and feels like a productive member of the team.

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Make It Personal

Even if your team works out of different locations, your team is still a team. When a new hire joins your organization, send an email introducing and welcoming your newest team member to the rest of your team. Invite them to all team huddles and add them to the team email list and group chats, so they begin can feel like a valued member of the team from Day 1. As a hiring manager, be sure to set up touch points twice a day over the first few weeks to help solidify your relationship with your new team member and show your support.

Take your new hire on a virtual tour of your office and introduce them to some folks you see along the way. Just because they aren’t physically in the office doesn’t mean you still can’t make them feel like they are working in the same office space. Encourage grabbing a “virtual coffee” with different team members throughout the first month so your hire can start to put faces together with the names and voices they’ve heard.

Outside of a team mentor, provide your new hire with an additional contact who can help acclimate and answer any questions they may have about the company or team culture. Joining a new company can be stressful, so the sooner somebody feels they are part of the team, the more confident they will be in their decision to join your organization. Connecting with the team, being supported in their learning/training, and strong communication from leadership are key to making a new employee feel welcome.

A Necessary Evil

While today’s technology allows us to easily create a virtual or remote training program, no program is perfect, and it is all too easy to (inadvertently) create a training program that causes your new hire to feel unwelcome and unsupported –which can ultimately impact your company’s attrition.

Up to 20% of new hires leave within their first 45 days because they did not feel connected or have a positive onboarding experience. Not having the technology needed to train, perform daily work activities, or combat feelings of isolation is enough to make top-performing professionals look for other opportunities.


If first impressions can last a lifetime, the same can be said of a new employee’s first experience at their new company. Sixty-nine percent of employees are likely to stay at a company for three years if they experience a great onboarding experience. 

If your goal is to boost employee productivity, engagement, and retention, then be sure to continuously review your new hire onboarding processes and continue to tweak them. Each member of your team is valuable –regardless of where they are located. If you want to give your new hire a positive experience and have them be a brand ambassador for your company be sure your business’ training program sets your newest team members up for success.