Virtual Employee Onboarding Programs: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Key Points about onboarding remote employees during the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  • With remote work as the new normal, almost every process, including onboarding, is conducted virtually. While the goals of onboarding haven’t changed, the virtual setup presents new challenges for employers and employees alike. 
  • Avoid common onboarding and remote work mistakes to effectively welcome your new employees. Starting the process before their first day of work, providing clear goals, and giving regular feedback are some ways you can ensure your new hire’s success.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have made in-person onboarding a thing of the past. With remote work the new norm, many employees are starting new jobs before meeting their coworkers in person. This can make it difficult for new hires to connect with your company and be truly successful. 

Despite the challenges remote work presents, the overarching goal of onboarding hasn’t changed. Ultimately, you want to welcome new employees and help drive their success. Avoiding these common mistakes during your virtual onboarding program can help you create a positive new hire experience that jumpstarts a lasting career.

Mistake 1: Using a misleading job description

If you made an offer to an individual, but delayed their start date due to COVID-19, you aren’t alone. Several companies paused their hiring processes so they could adjust to the changing work situation first.

Whenever your business is ready to onboard a new employee, reassess the job listing. If roles and responsibilities shifted during the pandemic, make sure the job description matches the actual duties the new hire will perform. If the role has changed, the new hire’s ultimate success and satisfaction may be affected.

Be transparent about any changes, including remote work status and the long-term future of the role. Once you communicate any changes to the new hire (and they still want the job), you can then proceed to onboarding. 

Mistake 2: Starting on the first day

The best businesses take onboarding a step farther. Rather than start the process on the new hire’s first day, they begin onboarding well in advance. Because this kind of onboarding was a digital process before the pandemic, it’s not too different in an all-virtual setting. Before the new hire’s first day, you can ask them to sign policies, elect benefits, add their direct deposit information, and more. With the paperwork out of the way, they can dive right into their new role from the start.

To properly prepare new hires for remote work, make sure you provide all of the necessary information before their first day, such as:

Hardware

Because new hires are joining your team remotely, they won’t have company-issued laptops or other devices yet. They may not have a reliable internet connection or suitable workspace, either. If your new hire doesn’t have a work-appropriate environment, help them create one.

Do they need a laptop or a monitor? What about a headset, a keyboard, or a mouse? A lot of companies are dealing with delayed delivery times, so be sure to order the necessary items well in advance. If you don’t receive the items in time, you may need to delay their start date (which doesn’t make a great first impression).

Software

When your new hire’s hardware arrives, install the necessary software for them. The exact programs needed will vary depending on your business and the new hire’s position. At the very least, they’ll need cybersecurity software and a communication channel like email or Slack.

IT Support

From setting up a company email account to connecting to your Virtual Private Network (VPN), new hires may have a variety of technology-related questions. Schedule a meeting with your new hire and your IT team during the first week of onboarding. This gives the new employee a chance to ask questions and troubleshoot any issues. It can also be a great place to outline your security standards and policies.

Mistake 3: Forgetting to welcome new hires

A new job is both exciting and intimidating. For many new employees, meeting friendly faces on-site is one thing that can help calm their nerves. In a virtual workplace, though, these introductions are harder to achieve. It can be all too easy to get a new hire set up and then leave them to their work. But without these introductions, new hires can feel anxious and disconnected from the rest of your company.

There are several things you can do to make a new hire feel welcome during a remote onboarding process:

Write a greeting card.

Your new hire may be working remotely, but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to virtual communication. Before their first day, send a physical card in the mail to welcome your new employee to the team.

Send company swag.

If your company has branded promotional products, like t-shirts, stickers, or water bottles, send them to the new hire as a fun welcome gift. If you don’t have company swag, sending flowers or a treat from a local shop can help them feel at home.

Host a virtual welcome party.

To make up for the lack of in-person introductions, host a virtual welcome party. Gather employees on a video call (perhaps during lunch time) and make the introductions. Everyone can take a break and get to know the new employee in a more relaxed environment.

Mistake 4: Failing to establish clear expectations and goals

If new hires don’t know what they need to do, they have no way to track their performance or measure their progress. Clear expectations and goals set them on the right track from the beginning. 

In a self-driven, remote work environment, this is more important than ever. Work with your new hire to develop achievable goals and accompanying tasks. Then explain how these goals fit into your organization’s larger mission. This will help them connect their personal achievements with your organization’s success.

After you establish expectations and goals, check in regularly. This gives you the chance to measure the new hire’s progress and provide help if necessary. You may also consider creating a mentorship program with a senior employee in a similar role. This mentor can act as a resource and guide the new employee through their goals along the way.

Mistake 5: Neglecting feedback 

With virtual onboarding still new for most companies, feedback is crucial to your program’s success. Once the new hire completes your onboarding process, ask them for feedback. What helped them? What didn’t? Did they understand their goals and responsibilities? Did they feel welcomed and included? Remote work is here to stay and feedback will help you develop the best process for your company.


Onboarding can be difficult under normal circumstances, but it’s an even greater challenge in a remote environment. HRIS software can help you pre-board new hires and continually develop their success. 

With platforms like SentricHR, you can manage the virtual onboarding process with ease. Obtain compliant digital documents in advance and guide your new hires through each step of onboarding. With the right technology, it’s easy for everyone to stay on track, whether you’re working from home or back in the office.

For more information about Sentric’s all-in-one HR software and how it can streamline your virtual onboarding, contact one of our product experts today!


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