How to Onboard New Team Members in a Virtual Workplace

The last 15 months have been challenging, we've had to learn new things, one of those being how to onboard new team members while being remote.

While the last 15 months introduced many unique challenges to the workforce, we recently had to address how to onboard multiple new staff members.

Before the pandemic, Bizstream had a hybrid work schedule that offered employees the option to be in the office three days a week and work from home the other two. We had never been in a situation where not only was a new hire going to be remote, but the rest of the staff was as well. We wanted to ensure that all new hires felt immediately welcome and part of a team and were not lost in the shuffle or felt disconnected, which we already monitored with our existing employees. We did a few things that made an immediate impact, and overall, the feedback we received from the new hires is that the onboarding process was well beyond what they expected.

Gear and Tour

One of the first things we did before day one was to compile the gear each new hire needed, along with a few extras. We found a time where they could meet us at the office and, even though it was practically empty, get a tour of the space and leave with their equipment and some fun swag. We wanted to give them a sense of what they, one day soon, would hopefully be walking into (what can we say, we love our space). We also provided some books that we use to help our team understand our culture and how we like to operate.

Home office setup

While we provide a laptop, we also were mindful of the situation and tried to provide any other ancillary materials that would help them set up a workspace that would be close to what they would have in the office, including monitors, cables, keyboard, and mouse. Lastly, their gear package includes our LAB book, or “Life at BizStream.”

The LAB book is a collection of information about what someone new can expect at BizStream. It includes common things specific to our culture, like how to use Sonos, helpful Slack channels, special time tracking notes, planned holidays, office events, etc. It is something we provide to someone on their first day in the office, but even as people are remote, we think it still helps team members get to know BizStream and our unique culture even without experiencing it firsthand.

First Day Agenda

Another thing we like to provide before someone starts is a detailed agenda for their first day. We figure that starting a new job is already a little bit stressful, and having some idea of what to expect that first day will look like provides some comfort. The same goes with working fully remote. We don’t want someone sitting at their computer not knowing who or when someone would reach out to tell them whatever comes next. Actually, you can read more about a new hire’s first day here.

Team Introductions

We also like to kick off each new hire day with a team meeting where we introduce the entire staff. We’ve been able to have some fun with this! To get it to go smoothly, we have a list of every team member in order of years they’ve been at Bizstream (down to two decimal places) or days in the office. On top of that, we’ve incorporated some fun icebreakers for each person to include, such as “What is your favorite superhero?” “What is your dream car?” or “What is your favorite stompy mech movie/game/comic/manga?”

3-Month Onboarding Plan

On their first day, we present them with their onboarding plan. While this is also something that we have provided pre-COVID, we made sure to spend more time on it and detail it as much as possible. It spans a new hire’s first three months and provides a clear list of expectations and milestone dates for achieving them. It includes our core values, what their position is accountable and responsible for, key meetings, and provided training. We treat it as a bit of a living document that the manager reviews with the new hire every week and determines if things are on track or if we need to make some adjustments. If both parties agree that a change is needed, it is noted in the onboarding plan, and we move forward.

"Get to Know" Meetings

One of the changes we made to our process is scheduling meetings throughout the first few weeks so that the new team members could spend some time with each team or department and get to know each other better. We were missing out on the in-office opportunities of saying hello when getting coffee or grabbing lunch together, so we decided to be more intentional about getting people together. As we are starting to move back into the office fully, we decided this is something we should keep going. Previously, we have had people that wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with another team, so getting them connected and talking early on feels like a no-brainer at this point.

Let's Party (In the Parking Lot, Standing 6-Feet Apart)

The last thing we did to make new hires feel welcome is organize a parking lot party. Following the latest government mandates at the time, we would optionally invite everyone to the office and have chairs, some drinks, pre-packaged snacks, and hang out from a short distance (you all know the drill by now) in our parking lot. While it worked fine to do everything virtually, there is still something to be said for face-to-face communication. It was good to bring people together (while separate) for some social interaction and get to know each other in person.

Moving Forward

We really like to hear from our new team members so we can figure out what we are doing right and what we could improve on. So far, we have received great feedback regarding our revised onboarding process, with some saying it was the best they’ve seen. We are looking forward to our next round of onboarding, which looks hopeful of taking place in person. We are looking forward to incorporating a lot of what we learned during our fully remote environment into our normal onboarding process.

About the Author

Mike Kren

Mike has been managing large-scale projects since 2006. His passion is bringing order to the chaos to keep everyone on the same page and the work moving forward. He has always enjoyed working as part of a team and believes that team includes clients too. Mike loves spending time with his wife, 4 kids, and his dog. He’s an avid film buff, amateur backpacker, and experimental cook, with flashes of brilliance around a pool table.

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