Source: Apex Systems

Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s the little things that count?” Well, when it comes to successfully onboarding new employees, this phrase is 100% true! Yet, with most work environments having gone virtual, there are added challenges that managers face. Managers can strive to make sure a new employee’s first impressions are positive by instilling excitement about them starting their new position. But, as a manager, what else can you do?
Let’s start by focusing on three essential onboarding phases that are often overlooked. Within each stage, we have added virtual elements for the following: planning; the first day; ongoing communication and acclimation; and assessment of the process.


The planning stage is often forgotten or poorly implemented, yet it is the most critical step managers can take. Preparing helps ensure a smooth transition from the accepted offer to starting a new employee. A manager’s first steps should include the following:

  • Have a meeting and inform your team about the new employee. Let them know when they start and what role they will fill. A recommended best practice is to let them know why you’re excited to have them join the team. However, managers can make the best call, as they may have instances when this may not be appropriate.
  • Ensure all of the new employee’s supplies and equipment are ready to go or have been ordered. The pandemic has hindered supplies and deliveries, so get a head start on these items if you don’t have supplies or equipment to ship from the office.
  • Ensure the new employee has a workstation that is clean, organized, and set up. Let them know that the team was prepared and ready for their first day. If your new employee will be working remotely, coordinate with your IT team and have them prepare a nice care package that includes all necessary supplies. Inform your new employee so they know what boxes to expect and when. Package tracking numbers can be sent to their email as well.
  • Develop a training plan or schedule to help the new employee get up to speed with their new position. If not in the office, what online communication is being used, is the new employee set up with those applications, and do any programs or software keys need to be located for them to download? Do I need to schedule shadowing for them with other teammates? Does the new employee need a specific or designated mentor to help answer questions throughout the day? If so, consider connecting them virtually to the designated teammate.
  • Identify a mentor who can act as their navigator and support system, someone there to offer an additional welcoming touch. Ensure the mentor understands best practices and the target cadence of touchpoints, i.e., daily the first two weeks, twice a week for weeks three and four, and weekly for weeks five through twelve.

Being remote is challenging for many, but remembering these little things and doing the pre-work will help guarantee a successful first impression. It helps ease first-day anxieties for everyone involved. It helps team members with welcoming and orienting their new peer. And if you’re working with a talent firm, don’t forget to keep communication open. The best firms have a lot of experience with onboarding new employees. The more they know, the better they can help you!

First Day

A quality first day drastically shapes a new employee’s impression of the manager, team, culture, and the company! It also helps set the tone for their first couple of months on the job. Here are some recommended best practices for a positive and productive first day:

  1. Welcome Meeting: Someone should always greet the new employee on their first day and show them to their work station. If the environment is remote, schedule an online meet and greet. This can be the manager, mentor, or another team member, but it needs to be done so that they feel welcome and aren’t starting their day feeling confused, frustrated, or forgotten.
  2. Tour: The new employee should be given a tour of the facility and shown the breakroom, restrooms, and other essential locations, such as the conference room. Make sure to point out unique items about your building, such as parking, training rooms, patio areas, or fitness facility. Virtually, you can have the team share their remote workstation set-ups. Depending on the situation, the team can also share things like their pets or their mini-colleagues, as parents put it! Showing that everyone on the team is working under the same circumstances helps alleviate the stresses that a new employee may have when working remotely.
  3. Organizational Chart Overview and Team Introductions: Introduce the new employee to all their teammates and any other departments that sit in the building, especially those they’ll engage with. You may need to coordinate separate calls with other departments to be sensitive to others’ schedules. Besides, having fewer people on a call helps keep topics focused.
  4. Overview of Policies, Expectations, Key Communication Channels, and Platforms: Do a one-on-one to review policies, expectations, and the training plan or schedule you have created. Don’t forget to inquire about and address their questions. Make sure they are clear on the means of communication. Having email, phone, video conferences, and the likes helps maintain the feeling of working in an office.
  5. Welcome Gesture. Take the new employee out for coffee, breakfast, or lunch to get to know them more. You can also do an online coffee or lunch meet and greet. If you traditionally bring in bagels or special treats to the office, have them delivered to the new employee to enjoy during the meeting. If you include the team, prepare ahead of time by sending them a digital card to use at their local coffee shop or bakery. Just be sure they know ahead of time, so no one feels left out.
  6. First Day Debrief: Before they log off for the day, check in to see how it went. Ask what questions they have, set the stage for the rest of the week, and reiterate your excitement that they’re on board. Build-in some get-to-know-you or icebreaker-type questions.

Don’t overlook demonstrating your excitement to have them on board and outlining why you’re excited they joined and what value they’ll bring to the team or project! Give them multiple opportunities to ask questions or pose concerns. Keep in mind; most new employees have questions around their exact priorities, expectations, success criteria, and how they’ll contribute to the bigger picture, i.e., the company’s goals. A couple of extra minutes is valuable in the long run, and being clear on their “why” is a significant contributor to job satisfaction, performance, and retention.

Ongoing Communication and Team Acclimation

Throughout the first week, managers should have check-in meetings with the new employee. We recommend video calls to have the best means for communicating verbally and gauging facial expressions and body language. The goal is to ensure they’re picking up on new information, meeting who they need to meet, and getting answers to their questions. If they don’t have questions, have topics to discuss. New employees might not know where to start or what questions to ask. Help open the lines of communication and build good work relationships with the new employee. If you’re used to physically walking throughout the office checking in on the team, set up individual video conferences paced throughout the day. Brief meetings, a simple catch-up, or check-ins make a huge difference in keeping the team engaged and on track.

Managers or mentors should schedule an informal meet and greet with the new employee and a few team members at a time. It allows the new employee to know their peers better. Strong peer-to-peer relationships are among the top contributors to job satisfaction, so don’t skip this crucial step!

Assessing the Onboarding Process

After 4-6 weeks with the company, it’s essential to share and gather feedback from your new employee to assess your onboarding process. How can you do this?

Have open discussions with the employee, “How is the job aligning with your expectations? Has the orientation and training given you the information and knowledge to do your job? What else do you need to be successful? Has anything been a surprise or caused any concern for you?”
Send out an anonymous survey encouraging new employees to participate, including questions about the mentor program, the effectiveness of the training tools, the content delivered, and their overall experience rating. It’s a great way to continue to grow, develop, and build on your orientation process, especially if any of it has gone virtual or remote.

Provide the new employee feedback. It’s human nature to want feedback and validation on our performance. Managers should highlight strengths, other traits they’ve noticed that they appreciate, and any improvement areas observed during the onboarding process.
From there, we suggest scheduling regular one on ones, at least bi-weekly, where you are sharing feedback, clarifying expectations, gauging progress, and identifying their questions and concerns.