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ATD Blog

Virtual Onboarding: Empower and Engage New Employees in a Hybrid World

Monday, September 12, 2022

In light of current societal events causing organizations to accelerate the adoption of both remote and hybrid workforces, more employees are being hired from afar. This presents both challenges and opportunities for HR teams who are continuously bringing new hires into the fold during what is increasingly known as the great onboarding.

Research shows that nearly 90 percent of employees decide whether to stay at or leave a job within the first six months—making a comprehensive onboarding process in which a new hire feels valued and in alignment with their new team and new company more important than ever. Engaging an employee from the outset is vital to the ongoing health and success of an organization.

So how can organizations communicate their culture and values effectively and meaningfully when their teams are not physically under the same roof? How can HR help new hires feel acclimated, acknowledged, and empowered even when they may not meet anyone face-to-face for months—or perhaps ever? How can companies continue to build social capital, foster connection and collaboration, and further innovation among employees working remotely or in hybrid settings?

Why Onboarding Is the Building Block of Your Organization

As talent development professionals, you inherently understand how you welcome a new hire and usher them into your company’s culture has a tremendous effect on how quickly they reach their full potential and productivity. A report from Boston Consulting Group examining the overall value of people management found onboarding to have more impact than any human capital initiative aside from effective recruiting in revenue growth and profit margin.

More than anything, new employees crave immediate connection with their managers and colleagues as well as clear expectation setting that lays out how their roles and responsibilities fit into the overall picture of the organization’s success. This careful groundwork allows employees to feel ingrained into the company dynamic from day one. The onboarding process is the first step for organizations to quickly and impactfully impart their company culture and instill their corporate mission while creating rapid alignment with their ethos and goals.


How Can In-Person and Virtual Onboarding Mirror Each Other?

In a survey by Workable, respondents reported remote onboarding or training as the biggest hiring challenge during the pandemic, testing a marketplace that was unprepared for this unforeseen HR challenge. The good news is we can successfully shorten the time to impact for new hires by implementing many of the same best practices we employ during in-person onboarding—only in new settings and with innovative tools.

The best virtual onboarding experiences break down the barriers to achieving outcomes for the individual and the business by elevating the essential human element, which leads to greater inclusion and integration for the new hire. A social and collaborative virtual onboarding platform allows for sharing personal experiences and perspectives, encouraging meaningful debate and discussion, and developing team dynamics and instincts that generally come from spending time in person with your team.


One common concern is that a virtual onboarding experience will lack the empathy and excitement of welcoming a new team member in person. However, social and collaborative platforms that authentically and intentionally connect employees across organizations and provide access to peers, mentors, and managers help to recreate the warm connections that typically come with in-person programs.

The Future of Virtual Onboarding Has Arrived

It isn’t possible to over-communicate with new hires during their onboarding process. Communicating remotely poses a challenge, but one that can be overcome with new innovations that can even improve upon in-person exchanges by the nature and depth of these interactions.

Virtual onboarding programs that are delivered via a social and collaborative platform like NovoEd give organizations the insight and ability to track the progress of their employees in powerful ways. Digital learning tools allow leaders to follow the advancement of a new hire, understand if they need assistance in specific areas, and intercede to provide support as needed.

The most significant way any successful onboarding program powers performance and productivity is by helping new hires hit the ground running faster and with more familiarity. These initial assurances help empower new hires to approach their jobs from a 360-degree perspective with the knowledge and comfort to make sound choices and set off on career paths that benefit both themselves and their organizations for years to come.

About the Author

Lynn Christiansen Esquer is the director of demand generation and digital marketing at NovoEd, the leading social and collaborative learning platform for deep capability building. She has headed demand generation, digital programs, and marketing for a variety of tech and cybersecurity startups, and previously was CEO and co-founder of a digital marketing agency. She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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