Overcoming virtual onboarding challenges when hiring for a hybrid workplace

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4 mins, 54 secs read time

New hire onboarding presents a slew of logistical, technical and cultural challenges, especially as remote and hybrid working environments become the norm. The most thoughtful, people-first companies are creating new hire experiences that build belonging from day one. How are they doing this? We turned to the experts to find out.

At the recent Open Forum event, Building Belonging, Greenhouse Senior Customer Success Manager Olivia Hirsch sat down with Dom Merritt, VP, People at Buildout, and LoriBeth Manzolillo, Human Resources Lead, People Operations at Hudson River Trading. In their conversation, Building belonging from anywhere: Overcoming onboarding challenges in remote/hybrid workplaces, the panelists discuss the challenges of onboarding in remote and hybrid settings. They share tips for creating inclusive experiences, balancing automation with a personal touch and ensuring nothing – and no one – falls through the cracks.

Get the highlights of their discussion here or watch the on-demand recording to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

Adapting onboarding to the challenges of the pandemic

The sudden shift to working remotely meant rethinking the major milestones of a new hire’s first day. “Overnight, everything had to change,” says LoriBeth. Instead of welcoming new hires with breakfast and a tour of the office, the People Operations team had to coordinate with the Systems team to ensure every new hire had their computer and knew how to use it. LoriBeth says, “Starting with computer setup isn’t exactly the most warm welcome, so we had to look for other ways to create that experience.”

Dom says it was important for his team to create or recreate some of the moments of connection and belonging that employees typically have on their first day in the office. Can this really be done in a remote setting? “It’s hard, but not impossible,” he says. One tactic that worked well for his team was creating new hire standup events on Zoom. These meetings helped fill that initial “getting to know you” need. The People team also created a new hire buddy program and private Slack channels to make sure new hires had multiple ways of getting their questions answered and meeting people outside their immediate team.

Perfecting preboarding to build belonging

New hires might not realize all the work that goes on behind the scenes to create a seamless first day for them, but preboarding is a critical part of the new hire experience. When Dom joined Buildout, the preboarding process was very manual. It involved lots of remembering: Did we order a computer? Did we provision people? Did we send out a swag box? “A lot had the potential to fall through the cracks – and sometimes it did,” he says. To overcome these hiring hiccups, he made a strategic investment in Greenhouse Onboarding. “We’ve used it to find ways to work smart, not hard.” Now Dom’s team can look at the big picture of the experience they’re trying to create and automate the majority of communications and logistical details through Greenhouse.

Automation can sound a little impersonal, but it doesn’t have to be. LoriBeth says she relies on automated emails, but customizes them to each new hire’s office and team. It’s the best of both worlds – the automation ensures no one falls through the cracks and the ability to customize means each new hire gets communication that feels personal.

Another tactic that’s working well at Hudson River Training is including new hires in company gatherings – even before they’ve officially joined. Whether it’s a meetup in a park or a casual Zoom call, new hires can join certain events in the months leading up to their first day. “It’s been a great way for new hires to get on board and get a feel for the culture prior to being here,” says LoriBeth.

The guiding principles of great onboarding

Because onboarding involves coordinating across teams, departments and offices, it’s easy for all the details to get scattered in different places. You might have some details in Google Sheets, some in your HRIS and some in your email. Getting all that information into one place is key, says LoriBeth, especially when working remotely. “Having that all laid out in front of you in one centralized area makes everything else work so much better,” she says.

Dom also believes that consistency is the key to great onboarding. “Creating onboarding plans for each new hire helps eliminate a lot of the anxiety and jitters of starting in a new organization,” he says. What’s included in the plan? It’s essentially a roadmap that lays out what the new hire should learn, accomplish and be exposed to in their first 30 days.

LoriBeth believes great onboarding is a combination of being flexible and automating as much as you can. Flexibility is key because there are so many elements that are outside your control, like when a laptop will arrive. You can use automation to help ensure all new hires get a personal touch, like setting up reminders to check in at the 30-day mark. She says it’s “a great way to make sure you’re keeping in touch with every single new hire without a huge administrative burden.”

Finally, Dom reminds us that, “It’s okay to embrace that you don’t have everything figured out.” Allow yourself to make mistakes – as long as you learn from them. And remember that you’re not in this alone and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your community or network to ask for resources or support.

The conversations at Open Forum give you the opportunity to learn from other business leaders and talent pros who have built diverse, high-performing teams. Interested in learning more from the impactful sessions at Building Belonging? Watch them here.

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Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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