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8 Tips to Build an Effective Virtual Onboarding Programme


In these COVID times, companies are shifting to virtual onboarding of their new hires. HRs are trying to bridge all gaps possible between the physical and virtual onboarding experiences. Here are some great tips from a company that’s been successfully virtually onboarding for years now!

In these times of social distancing, human resources departments have moved to virtual onboarding. But to provide a superb onboarding experience, you need a structured plan that addresses specific challenges, such as the inability to meet and greet new employees physically.

At Salesforce, where the employee experience is central to the company culture, virtual onboarding has long been a part of our employee success practices. For many years now, we have had teams who work from home from day one. Of course, the current health crisis meant that wehad to scale our virtual onboarding programme to include all new joinees across four locations in India.

We spoke with Kashika Bhola, Senior Specialist, Global Onboarding at Salesforce to curate some tips on how to successfully plan virtual onboarding programmes.

1. Create pre-onboarding training material: You don’t need to wait until the employee is on board to initiate the onboarding process. Why not provide pre-onboarding training material and get them work-ready? We use Trailhead, a free online learning platform, to train and upskill our new employees before they join the workforce.

2. Design an employee journey map: The excitement of being a new employee can quickly fizzle out or get confusing if the onboarding programme isn’t structured with clear milestones and expected outcomes. Bhola says, “We are able to provide visibility into the onboarding milestones using a Task Tracker app, our personalised, digital checklist built on the Salesforce platform.” This keeps onboarding teams, hiring managers and new hires on track with must-do tasks such as mandatory training, administrative processes, key 1:1 meetings, reviewing leadership goals and finally, charting personal goals.

3. Use technology to streamline your virtual onboarding: You can still welcome your new hires by having virtual meet-and-greets using tools such as Google Meet. Also look at building an online portal with resources for new joinees. This can help people collaborate securely at work, establish networks, share files and status updates. We use Chatter to create onboarding groups that help new employees ask questions and share ideas.

4. Establish a strong support system: Even at the best of times, the onboarding experience can get intense for new employees, especially for those straight out of college. Remote induction only increases this intensity. And in the ongoing crisis, managing a remote workforce presents a new set of challenges. We use Chatter to introduce new joinees, making them feel more welcome in our Ohana (meaning family in Hawaiian). We rely heavily on our hiring managers and other stakeholders, like our Trail Guides (onboarding buddies) to help us be successful. We also use Marketing Cloud to send personalised email communications. Periodic communication helps reassure our new employees, especially in the current times.

At Salesforce, ‘Trust’ is our #1 value. Now more than ever, our employees are trusting us to go the extra mile for them. And we know that when our employees are taken care of, they’re better positioned to take great care of our customers.

Kashika Bhola

5. Communicate your company’s culture: Here, the senior leadership team and company veterans play a key role; have them narrate the story of their own journey within the company; the challenges and opportunities. Hearing this first-hand (even virtually!) will give the new employee insights into and bring them closer to the company culture.

6. Keep your onboarding sessions short: WFH is part of the new normal. But this also means juggling household chores, caring for parents and children, and pet duties, while completing the mandatory online training. Try to keep your onboarding session as short and focused as possible so that the new hire doesn’t feel stretched and overwhelmed.

7. Gamify the onboarding experience: Just because your employees can’t meet their peer group in person doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. Gamify the onboarding experience. Have live word clouds. Conduct live polls to engage the audience. Have fun photo sessions and tag all the new employees.

8. Build an exhaustive information hub: The amount of information a new hire needs to digest can be overwhelming, and when this is spread across different sources, it becomes mind-boggling. Having a single resource related to the entire onboarding process can play a huge role in the effectiveness of the programme. At Salesforce, we enhance the employee experience through Concierge, a Google-like single-search box experience, where anything and everything that a new employee would need to know is already available.

Employee experience is of paramount importance to us, and this is why our virtual onboarding programmes are designed to make the journey educational and enjoyable for our new joinees. You too can create a successful and energised virtual onboarding programme with these tips. Also be sure to check out our Onboarding Trailmix on Trailhead for more tips, ideas and best practices.

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