How to virtually onboard new employees



As a recruitment agency specialising in permanent recruitment, we were initially impacted significantly by the Covid-19 pandemic.  As we watched this unprecedented worldwide crisis unfold, day by day we saw clients freeze their permanent recruitment due to uncertainty.

In the past year we have also seen companies delay their new starters or not take them on at all. Many are blaming the fact that their staff are all working from home and it would be “difficult” to bring them into the business at this point.

But is it?

We work in specialist niche markets where it can take months to find the right person as they are in high demand. It feels like a huge risk for clients to forego the talent they have worked so hard to find.

I’ve been mulling over this and wanted to share our ideas on a process that onboards new hires virtually.


Before the start date




Let’s talk about the interviewing process. Most companies have a two stage interview process and some include the telephone interview as the first stage.  It is a tried and tested way of making that first contact with a candidate and can cover the basics of a competency based interview and personality fit.  Unsuitable candidates can be ruled out at this point through accurate questioning by a skilled interviewer. We can help with this! Check out our blog specifically designed for employers.

Now historically the majority of second interviews are currently carried out in person and many think that this is the only way to be sure that you’re hiring the right person.  I don’t necessarily agree.

So many hiring errors have been made in the past because the interviewer makes a judgement on the wrong elements. For example; hiring in their own image or “gut feel” as opposed to sticking to the actual skill set requirements of the role, which can lead to disaster.

With a nation of people now using Zoom or Teams every other day in their masses we are quickly overcoming the previous reticence of video calling.  Why is this not a suitable platform for interviewing?  You see the person and their reactions and stick with your competency based questions thus properly testing them on their skills to do the job rather than an emotional impulse often made “in person”.  They can even perform a presentation for you by sharing their screen.

But what about the “company tour” and someone not seeing the environment.  Again, every company can easily record a virtual tour of their offices so the candidate can see the layout and set up of the working environment.

With all of the above I don’t see why a candidate has to step foot in your premises in order to be interviewed in a robust and thorough manner.  Some companies already use these methods if they’re recruiting from abroad therefore it is tried and tested.


Once an offer is made;


The necessary paperwork;


This aspect of the onboarding process is already completed before a hire commences and is often via email with posted copies of contracts etc.  No change there!

Companies often set up people’s emails before they join and set up their work stations which can also be done remotely if the new employee is supposed to be working from home.


First days & weeks – the induction;


Imagine a world where your already busy hiring managers were not spending masses of time involved in new joiner training, freeing them up to concentrate on their day jobs and adding value to their existing team, without compromising the training experience for the new employee.

Well we may have the answer.  A typical induction will have the following elements and I will explain how you could seek to streamline, automate and remove the physical element from it.


Meeting the team


With video calling technology being so common this tool could be used on a group basis to allow the individuals to introduce themselves and talk about their roles within the team.  You could even take this further and continue to adopt a buddy system whereby periodically the buddy checks in on a regular basis face to face.  This element can be done easily in or away from the office.  Why not set up a virtual lunch on their first day to really help the new person feel like part of the team.


Meeting key departments 


These essential meet and greets can also be done via video calling with scheduled appointments.  This will help to allow for human interaction during any other virtual training that they will be carrying out.  It would be useful to have a messenger system for key members within departments who can act as a “go to” for quick fire questions in the absence of asking quick questions in person.


Essential training 


Depending on what market you work in there will be loads of training that you cover in the first 2-3 weeks.  This may be product specific or regulatory, for example in our key area of insurance, companies are required to train on GDPR, Anti Money Laundering and a whole host of other areas.  This is where massive shifts could occur for businesses if they were to record their training sessions with online tools available and allow the new employees to watch and work through their task books etc virtually.  Webinars are used commonly and can be held live to encourage interaction and Q&A sessions and this approach can be used if the business wants to maintain an interaction element.

The point is that you don’t have to be cooped up together in a meeting room in order to perform company training.

By pre-recording sessions that are carried out multiple times throughout the year you could save hours of time and thousands of pounds in productivity.

This doesn’t have to be purely “in house” or product training either but can be effective for whatever technology or in house systems you use.  When we implemented our recruitment database, all of our training was carried out over the phone via link up by the provider who is based in the US.


Next Steps


So whether you are now in a position where you are forced to embark upon some virtual onboarding or just think it’s a great idea for the future, there are some steps that you will need to take to ensure it is a success.

  • Examine your current induction/onboarding process and map out a plan for each section
  • Contact all necessary parties who are typically involved
  • Investigate and procure the necessary tools to enable you to carry out the training i.e Microsoft Teams, Zoom, loom etc
  • Ensure all content is put into an effective virtual format for delivery and test it
  • Make a communication plan for employees to ensure that they receive a slick service


This approach can not only help you to ensure business as usual as we continue to work through this pandemic, arguably the potential efficiency savings of virtual onboarding make it an essential development for a rapidly expanding business.  If executed well, your new employees will marvel at the ease of the process and hiring managers will be freed up to spend more valuable time in assisting their new team members with in depth queries or just settling them in.

With recruitment teams possibly quieter than usual – why not make the most of this time to review this important process and be ready for your next new starter.

At Elite we are experts in reviewing recruitment strategy. We can help you recruit the right team member in any climate.