5 Recommendations for Getting Virtual Onboarding Right, and What Virtual Learning Experts® Need to Know
This is part of an ongoing column by Virtual Learning Expert® Jennifer Finan. She’s exploring trends that impact virtual classroom trainers and designers to improve learner engagement in the hybrid virtual classroom.
Is Virtual Onboarding The Key To A Thriving Remote and Hybrid Workforce?
With an increasing number of organizations operating in a hybrid work environment and managing virtual teams, it’s becoming more than a trend. It’s quickly becoming a normal way of working. According to the Office for National Statistics, “more than 8 in 10 workers who had to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic said they planned to hybrid work” in the United Kingdom.
With people choosing hybrid working, it’s no surprise that recruiters are advertising more hybrid work opportunities. Recruiterflow.com states that “Giving your team flexibility to work remotely has become more important as businesses strive to retain existing talent.” Therefore, there is a need to provide onboarding programs that maximize new hire engagement in the remote and hybrid workplace.
What Do We Mean By Virtual Onboarding For The Remote and Hybrid Workplace and Why Is It Trending?
Poly states that “in 2023, ‘hybrid work’ will just become ‘work’. It will no longer be a trend, but normal everyday working life”. If hybrid is the new normal, virtual learning experts must be ready to onboard new hires into this way of working.
Gallup research says 88% of organizations don’t do a great job of onboarding new hires. While the vast majority of organizations are missing the mark, it doesn’t mean that your business should! This is a great opportunity to make your organization stand out and keep the best talent even when leading virtual teams. In this podcast episode, Stephanie Goodell talks with Jennifer Hofmann and Karen Vieth about why onboarding is important and offers some advice on how to create great onboarding programs.
How Can We Use What We Know About Learner Engagement To Maximize New Hire Engagement?
The InQuire Engagement Framework® provides three dimensions we would normally consider for engaging online learners, but it can also help us maximize new hire engagement.
Help new hires find what they need, when they need it. Connect them with the people they need to know first and help them get the login and access information they need to do their job. Make sure new hires understand the environment they’ll be working in and how to work well in that environment. Ensure new hires know exactly where to turn when they need help.
Onboarding programs usually pack a lot of information and act as an ideal way to showcase the organization’s culture. If that culture is one of openness and inclusion, consider how the program ensures every new hire is included. Make onboarding fun as well as informative. Make it a psychologically safe space so that new hires can ask the questions that are on their mind without any risk to their careers. The EY Belonging Barometer 2.0 study has shown that more than 80% of employee respondents globally have felt or feel lonely at work. What will you do to make sure your new hires don’t feel like that? This blog has some practical advice. Meeting needs like these is a great virtual training strategy to emotionally engage your workforce.
Make sure that the onboarding program answers the new hires’ questions. Continuously put yourself in the shoes of a new hire and ask "What do they need to know now?". Keep it relevant. Avoid jargon and acronyms. Remember that the onboarding program exists to help new hires get off to the best possible start at the organization. This is why it is vital to equip new hires with the information and resources they need to help them do that.
5 Recommendations For Maximizing New Hire Engagement In The Virtual Classroom:
- Put them first. It can be tempting to put together onboarding programs based on what the business wants to tell new hires. Onboarding programs are often designed from content submitted by IT, HR, and other teams who want to share information with new hires. However, the best onboarding programs are designed based on carefully considering what the new hires need and want. This shift in mindset leads to designers empathizing with new hires and coming up with guiding questions and other creative ways to engage students online. These questions incorporate what the new hires themselves are likely to ask during the onboarding process. Answering those questions during onboarding is going to maximize new hire engagement.
- Consider the blend. As with all training programs, consider what should be taught in the virtual classroom and what should be taught elsewhere. Onboarding programs are often content-heavy - since new hires likely won't know where to find the answers yet. So, there can be a lot of information that needs to be ‘told’. However, we all know long lectures are not the answer or the best for learning facilitation.
Whenever possible, send the new hires the information they need and bring them together to collaborate. Consider whether the new hires will be able to retain all the information you’re providing and whether it is absolutely necessary. While Finance might suggest we need to tell everyone exactly how to complete an expense form and submit it for reimbursements, the chances are there’s a procedure written on how to do that. Situations like these are the perfect opportunity to let new hires just need to know where to find that information when they need to be reimbursed. This saves new hires from an excess of information that’s not immediately pertinent.
- Draw on their experiences. Although the new hires will be new to the organization or role, they may not be new to the industry or the work. This means they will likely have some valuable experiences to share with the other new hires. Whenever possible, ask a question. For example, perhaps there is a section on the software used. New hires will not know how to operate in-house custom systems, but they will likely know how to use some of the more commonly used systems like Outlook or Sharepoint. Involve the new hires with experience of these in the conversation and encourage them to share instead of the facilitator lecturing through the entire virtual training workshop.
- Encourage social connections. A large part of the onboarding experience for new hires will be to meet other people. Design opportunities for collaboration in the program to allow new hires to network and connect. This is especially important when managing virtual teams. Consider how you can build community amongst the new hires so that they get to know other people straight away. These colleagues will be a great support network as they each continue with their career journey. For tips on how to build learning communities online, read this blog.
Provide support outside class. New hires will have questions, but they might not know what they want to ask until after class. Provide a variety of ways new hires can get support outside of the classroom. This way they will have the resources they need if they want to talk with someone about a specific question they think of later on. Consider how you can provide that support to new hires in different time zones and locations. Technology can play a key role here. This
provides some useful ideas.
What Do Virtual Learning Experts® Need To Know About Onboarding For The Remote and Hybrid Workplace?
Everyone on the instructional team plays an important part in the onboarding experience.
- Virtual classroom designers need to know what needs to be included and more importantly, what can wait. Designers may achieve that clarity by asking what the new hires need during their first month. This infographic maps out exactly what that might look like and provides lots of additional information to help designers create effective onboarding programs on a virtual learning platform.
- Virtual classroom facilitators need to know how to nurture social connections between learners and encourage new hires to get to know their colleagues and build their support network. Facilitators also need to show empathy for how new hires are likely to be feeling - potentially excited, but also nervous and overwhelmed by the amount of new information as the onboarding program unfolds. Facilitators are in a great position to demonstrate the organization’s culture by illustrating how things are done by role modeling the values throughout the program. Lastly, Facilitators need to know the whole onboarding program. This allows them to easily signpost new hires to the resources they need when they need them.
- Virtual classroom producers need to know how to support new hires with their new technology. Often, new hires will have received a brand new laptop and may need support accessing apps for the first time. Virtual Producers also need to be able to find links and resources quickly so that they can share these with the virtual training team when asked. This helps to reassure the new hires that the answers are easily found. Great producers will go beyond supporting the facilitator and managing the technology and actually advocating for the learners. Providing that voice to ask for clarification when needed.
- Virtual Learning Coaches® need to know what new hires need and want from the onboarding experience and also what the organization needs new hires to get from the onboarding program. This helps to ensure everyone’s needs are being met. Coaches can work with designers to ensure the right content is covered at the right time. They also ensure content is delivered in the right way incorporating sufficient interaction and collaboration when possible. A certified Virtual Learning Coach can work with Facilitators to ensure a smooth, professional, and culturally aligned delivery of the live components. Coaches can also work with Producers to ensure new hires experience a warm welcome, with all the support and guidance they need to get started straight away.