8 min read

The First 30 Days: A Virtual Onboarding Learning Journey

The First 30 Days: A Virtual Onboarding Learning Journey

The increased prevalence of hybrid teams has highlighted the need for a structured approach to onboarding that maximizes employee engagement. This map provides a journey, as well as essential activities and tools, to help new hires and their managers navigate the first thirty days.

Planning for the Journey

What follows is an example learning journey and should be adapted to meet the needs of your situation. Factors to consider when designing an onboarding journey include the following:

  • What is the level of the new hire? Some of the training tasks new managers will need would be different from those for entry level employees, for example.

  • Is the new hire a transfer from another department in your organization? If so, the one-time orientation components of the journey can be drastically reduced.

  • What onboarding activities are department or role specific? What ones are relevant to the entire organization?

  • If multiple people are being onboarded at the same time, how is each of their experiences different?

It’s critical that the hiring manager answer these questions  prior to Day 1 and that the onboarding journey be customized and ready to go. Everyone should have a map specific to their personal needs.

Remember that every time we onboard new employees and team members, team dynamics change. Teams need to be nurtured so that no one feels isolated in a virtual world. Hiring managers should take time to consider how to get the new team from forming to performing in the fastest way possible.

Finally, don’t wait to make a critical mass of new hires to start formal training. Coordinate with Human Resources or other key departments to make sure that everything that SHOULD happen in the first 30 days CAN happen. Doing so is the best way to set everyone up for success.

The Four-Week Journey

Since a Picture Says 1,000 Words- You Really Need to Review the Infographic Too!

We’ve mapped out a typical onboarding journeystarting with “Pre-boarding” and detailing the first four weeks of a new hire’s experience. This entire journey is available as an infographic, and if you are like me, that might be the place you want to start!

The infographic has some bonus items: a list of essential activities (suggested training, checklists, infographics, videos, coaching and shadowing opportunities, and more!) for each stop in the journey. Don’t worryif it seems like too much, there are methods you can use to automate much of the onboarding process.


Pre-Boarding Activities for the Hiring Manager

Pre-boarding activities are meant to help managers think through how to help the new hire gain self-efficacy early in their time at your company, as well as to create a thorough plan for the new hire. This process sends the message that managers are invested in the long-term success of their new employee, beginning the process of employee engagement.

1. Hold a Planning Session with the Hiring Manager and Cover Context, Credibility, and Connection

There are three C's—context, credibility, and connection—that you should keep in mind to navigate pre-boarding planning. Here are some questions in these three areas that you should consider in preparing to welcome your new hire.

  • What are the most important parts of the job for the new hire to learn?

  • On what initial projects or assignments will the new hire need to get up to speed right away?

  • What existing meetings or events are already scheduled that the new hire should attend in order to gain more context for their role?

  • What tools and resources will the new hire need to know and/or master in the first 30 days?

  • What are the challenges for new hires, and how can the onboarding schedule help build the needed competencies? What specific training will provide support?

  • How can you help the new hire build credibility? What tasks could they own that would increase their visibility in the organization?

  • Who are the most important people the new hire needs to meet in order to perform their duties successfully? Who has expectations about the person in this role?

  • What will be the regular meeting schedule between you (the manager) and the new hire?

  • Who would be a good mentor for the new hire? (Include up to three options.)

2. Welcome the Employee in a Way that Sets the Tone for Employee Engagement

Here are some tips for when it comes time to welcome your new employee:

  • Send a written note and swag bag in advance of their start date.

  • Confirm logistics for the first day. Include any on-site logistics, if applicable, about finding the office and who will meet them; or if they're off-site, communicate when any technology or resources will arrive. Confirm the agenda for the first day (especially important for remote employees!) login information, and key contacts.

  • Cover any HR administrative paperwork that is possible to complete ahead of the start date, such as benefits, keeping in mind the labor laws in your region that may prohibit any work done before an official start date.

  • Schedule 30-day onboarding meetings on the new hire’s calendar.

Onboarding Week 1

Before the new hire learns the technical aspects of their job, it is important to build the context of the role, the organization, and the business. Meanwhile, begin to integrate the new hire into the culture and give them the basic support they need to be successful. Here are some strategies to include:

1. Focus on New Hire Acclimation and Administration

These elements include computer setup and essential software access, administrative paperwork, the employee handbook, basic HR policies, and where to find team folders, files, and documentation. If the new hire is on site for the first day, make sure you share the way to restrooms, emergency exits, and local places to eat. Leave ample free time on the schedule to complete these tasks.

2. Begin Manager Conversations

Include basic expectations around responsive communication, attendance and holiday schedules, and preferred work styles.

3. Build Social Connections

Make team member introductions, host a virtual lunch, spend time with the organizational chart to help the new hire understand the roles of various team members and departments, and introduce the idea of a buddy or mentor.

4. Focus on Employee Belonging

Reinforce a diversity and inclusion approach to employee engagement and social connections. If applicable, introduce resource groups or affinity groups that are focused on various demographics.

5. Focus on Hybrid Teams

ensure that all employees, whether remote or onsite, are able to effectively communicate and collaborate in the hybrid workforce.

6. Set the Tone for Employee Engagement

Use your own example to highlight positive engagement, and help ensure that the new hire is acclimating to the new environment.


Onboarding Week 2

This week, take connections to the next level by explaining how stakeholder responsibilities overlap and interact with those of the new hire. Encourage listening and observation before action and decision making.

1. Meet Your Mentor/Buddy

The goal is to enhance the new hire’s social connections by assigning them an office buddya fellow employee (other than the manager) who provides advice and guidance or serves as a “sounding board.” Their role through this journey is offering encouragement while the new employee acclimates to the culture and workplace. To further accelerate engagement, ask the new hire for their top three choices for who they'd like as this office buddy, based on conversations from the week before.

2. Facilitate 1:1 Meetings with Stakeholders

Set up a series of short conversations with colleagues from across departments, team members, other managers, and anyone who will have a regular connection to the new hire's responsibilities. Keep in mind that these are opportunities to build credibility and connection for the new employee.

3. Provide Introduction to Key Departments

Departmental introductions should follow a similar format to the overall introduction. Once again include an organizational chart of team members, leaders, and their roles; share high-level departmental goals; and cultivate a basic understanding of how the department works.

4. Conduct Initial Project Orientation

This first conversation is about the new hire’s job responsibilities in regard to existing projects and tasks of which they will take ownership.

5. Invite Them to Team Meetings

Ensure the new hire will join any regularly scheduled team meetings, including town hall meetings. Be sure to welcome them as a new hire of the company. If the new hire is in a leadership role, identify a small part of the agenda which they can own.

Onboarding Week 3

The focus of this week is to begin an in-depth exploration of projects, markets, and job responsibilities, while continuing to build connections and credibility more broadly across the organization.

1. Meet with the CEO/Senior Leadership

Meeting the organization’s leadership intrinsically sends some important messages to the new hire. Perhaps the most important message is that the leaders at the highest level care about their employees. Since a CEO’s time can be scarce, planning this meeting when there are a few new hires is a good use of time. This meeting is a big win for employee engagement! Of course, the leadership level depends on the size of the companybut this connection really matters.

2. Help Them Dive Deep into Responsibilities

Build on last week’s introduction to key departments and initial project orientation by reviewing existing operating plans and resources available to support task and project completion. Spend some time helping the new hire with prioritization as they are still understanding the context of their new role.

3. Transition to Hypotheses and an Independent Path

The new hire should begin to independently craft some ideas about what challenges exist that need to be solved, how culture works, and what is most important for them to accomplish first.

Onboarding Week 4

The final week of scheduled onboarding moves into strategic alignment, creating momentum, and further building credibility. Through the process of setting achievable goals, you build the new hire’s confidence and establish a greater degree of employee engagement. Be sure to continue any introductions that weren’t scheduled in prior weeks.

1. Mutually Develop a Vision and Goals

Pursue a conversation between the manager and new hire in which both bring their ideal vision of what the role will be, collaborate on the discussion, and work to build a consensus. From there, short- and long-term goals can be established. When goals are established early, quarterly performance conversations keep goals on track, preempting surprises during annual performance evaluations and keeping employees engaged.  Some guiding questions for this conversation include the following:

  • How do our roles fit into this vision?

  • What is your specific role in helping move the needle towards achieving this vision?

  • What skills and relationships do you need to support this vision, now and in the future?

2. Establish a “Quick Win”

After goals have been identified, choose one that is achievable in a short time frame and that will give the new hire confidence while also establishing broad credibility across the department or organization.

3. Gain Clarity around Supervisors' Style and Priorities

Onboarding is a two-way street, and the new hire has the responsibility of asking good questions based on weeks of observation. Before the first month is finished, the new hire should check in with the manager and gain clarity about how and when they prefer to communicate, including hybrid work expectations; use of email, phone and text message; and after-hours expectations.

4. Conduct a Formal 30-Day Check-In

In this critical conversation, cover the new hire’s understanding of the context of their work, how they have been able to establish credibility, and with whom they have made connections during the first month. This structured check-in is meant to identify any challenges in the transition, ensure a sense of belonging, and provide additional knowledge or resources needed to ensure success. A similar conversation should take place at the 60- and 90-day marks.

Virtual Onboarding in Action

A recent partnership between InSync Training and a Fortune 100 Communications & Information Technology company with 66,000 employees in 70 countries worldwide that was looking to upgrade its onboarding process proves that this onboarding model works. Starting on Day 1, the customized strategy that InSync delivered supported new hires in growing into their new roles in the organization. Whether it was offering a variety of virtual onboarding session times in different global time zones to accommodate all new hires in times that were convenient for them or spending time covering such topics as wellness and the organization's approach to social responsibility, the holistic approach allowed employees to truly integrate into their new culture and responsibilities. By the 30-, 60-, and 90-day check-ins, the conversations InSync facilitated not only filled in the remaining knowledge gaps but also expanded to include reflections on belonging within the organization, discovery of personal strengths, and strategies for aligning current role responsibilities with each employee's career goals. Since all new employees were well supported in their first days in their roles and since the organization's expectations, needs, and opportunities were clearly communicated, the onboarding process not only proved successful in terms of employee ramp-up, productivity, and retention, but also bolstered engagement and satisfaction by providing for personal and organizational growth in parallel.

Onboarding Isn’t Over in 30 DaysLearn More

Our August 2022 podcast, What’s Driving The Need for Virtual Onboarding, reiterated that onboarding is a process that can take up to a year to complete. We shared simple steps you can take, such as how to make sure that new employees are engaged with 30-, 60-, and 90-day onboarding plans, and what you should consider when designing virtual onboarding experiences.

One thing is for certaina thoughtful onboarding strategy improves employee engagement and is good for everyone. It’s worth the investment.

Want help creating your custom virtual onboarding journey? Our team of Virtual Learning Experts can be your guides and help you to design a custom experience. Contact us! 

Learn More: Designing Virtual Onboarding Workshop

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