Online onboarding and training for new employees during COVID-19

We’re living in a new reality — one where online onboarding and training for new employees is no longer simply a perk offered to lure new talent or a tool used by tech-savvy companies, but a collective “new normal.”

While many companies have instituted a hiring freeze during the COVID-19 pandemic, others are bringing on new talent, despite the disruption. And that means relying on technology to onboard and train new employees with the same effectiveness as your previous face-to-face process.

What is online onboarding?

Online onboarding is the process of new employees completing new hire paperwork, learning about office policies, participating in team and colleague introductions, becoming acclimated to the company and its culture, and acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to perform their roles, all using digital technology.

Here are a few elements of what a virtual onboarding process might look like.

Your standard welcome email will include all the instructions your company typically provides to new hires, with the addition of a personal video welcoming the new hire, a list of remote work expectations, tips for using Slack, and IT department contacts who will help new hires set up their remote workstations.

The employee handbook will be delivered digitally. New hire paperwork and documentation can be handled remotely using an e-signature tool like HelloSign, DocuSign, or JotForm’s E-Signature widget.

IT will help set up new hires with file-sharing apps like Google Drive or Dropbox. New hires will also receive instructions for using online project management tools like Asana and Trello.

New employees will take interactive training courses and use e-learning tools that include games and quizzes to increase engagement.

One-on-one onboarding sessions and new employee meet-and-greets with other team members and colleagues will occur via video conferencing tools, like Zoom or Skype.

Regular video chats will be held during the first month, or even quarter, to touch base and find out how things are going and get feedback on what else each new employee needs to be successful in their role.

This is a broad overview of a few things you may want to include. Adjust the online onboarding and training steps you choose to implement based on your current process and your company’s digital assets and capabilities.

The benefits of online onboarding and training for new employees

If you haven’t previously used a virtual process to onboard and train new hires, you may be wondering if you should go back to the “old” way of doing things once the pandemic has passed. On the contrary, you might find that the benefits of online training far outweigh the drawbacks, and decide to keep the process, even if things do eventually go back to “normal.”

Here are a few reasons for doing so:

  • Once you have your online onboarding and new employee training system in place, it becomes a simple, repeatable process consistent across all new hires — no more meetings with multiple team members, each of whom may have conflicting ideas about what’s most important, and no more shoving “Our Company Mission” brochures into the hands of new hires, who end up throwing them into the trash can.
  • Creating standardized online onboarding and training can be a huge money-saver. There’s no need to set up complicated orientations that require instructors and classes, or require current employees to step away from the important projects they’re working on every time a new hire needs to be trained. You’ll also save on printing and materials costs.
  • Onboarding and new hire training can take place any time that’s convenient, based on your needs and your new employee’s schedule, which means fewer business disruptions and less downtime.
  • Online training offers perks that face-to-face training can’t replicate — for example, gamification and other interactive content increases employee engagement and retention of important information.
  • Online onboarding and training are less stressful for new employees. New hires can learn at their own pace; if they don’t understand something, they’re free to repeat that part of the training, rather than feeling self-conscious about asking questions in a crowded orientation or training session.
  • Most employer-based online learning systems provide measurable results and reporting through quizzes and testing, so you can determine the areas where your new hire will excel and which areas where they may need more training.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt most companies aren’t doing “business as usual” these days. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

With today’s video conferencing, project management, messaging, e-learning platforms, and other online tools, employee onboarding and training can be just as effective as the traditional method, with a few added benefits the “old” way doesn’t offer. And depending on what happens with COVID-19, it might just be the new way forward for everyone.

Kimberly Houston is a conversion-focused marketing copywriter. She loves helping established creative service providers attract and convert their ideal clients with personality-driven web and email copy, so they can stand out online, and get more business, bookings, and sales.

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