Best-Practice Virtual Onboarding [Part 1]: Cracking Logistics

Posted in Best Practice

by alicia

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing a short content series to deep-dive into the four elements of best practice virtual onboarding. This is part one. 

In our virtual onboarding webinar a few weeks back, HR Business Partner Kate Pavlina introduced us to the four elements of best-in-class virtual onboarding: logistics, managers, connection and empathy.

The four elements emerged from Kate’s recent thesis, which scrutinizes global onboarding research as well as interviewing employees who’ve recently experienced virtual onboarding.

In this article, we’ll shine a light on the first – logistics. Let’s go!

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What do we mean by onboarding logistics?

Onboarding logistics are the foundation for the rest of your onboarding experience – especially when you’re onboarding virtually. It’s like, imagine if you were interviewing and an interviewee turned up to your office barefoot. No matter how amazing the rest of their interview, you’ll struggle to get past that first impression.

As Kate puts it, “this aspect of the experience ultimately underlies the others […]. For example, when new hires cannot readily gain access to their company’s IT systems, their learning and ability to do work stalls.”

Logistics includes the sorts of functional activities you’d typically associate with induction. Looking at the CIPD’s factsheet, that includes giving key info like:

  • New starter forms
  • Evacuation procedures
  • Security training
  • Health and safety policies
  • Compliance policies and training
  • Smoking policies
  • Telephone and computer info
  • IT permissions
  • Remote working systems access
  • Security pass and door codes
  • Car park pass
  • Expensing info

(Some of that list only applies to office work so remember, if you’re bringing people back to work you’ll need to reboard too. To cover the on-site info virtual onboarding missed and reintegrate existing employees back into the physical workplace).

Kate’s research highlighted three sub-categories of logistics that mattered most to new hires:

  1. IT preparedness and access
  2. Ongoing support and resources
  3. Smooth, streamlined experience

In other words, onboarding logistics are all the boring-but-necessary bits that ensure a seamless new hire experience. The things that might fade into the background unless they go wrong.

Which they do. Often.

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We're often waaaaay worse at logistics than we think

You’d think onboarding logistics would be fairly straightforward. Especially given that before experience-driven onboarding burst onto the scene many companies treated onboarding as synonymous with induction.

But more than 90% of participants in Kate’s research had an issue with IT during virtual onboarding. In particular:

  • 25% couldn’t access the right resources
  • 33% had hardware issues
  • 67% didn’t have the right systems access

And this isn’t just the shift to remote working that’s throwing us. We weren’t doing a great job long before COVID. Look at these stats:

  • 20% of new hires felt frustrated or ignored on their first day
  • 23% of new hires had no desk on their first day
  • 28% of new hires had no computer or laptop on their first day
  • 45% of new hires had no data security training

If we can’t get a computer on desk in a physical office we already work in, there’s definitely some stepping-up needed for virtual onboarding! And data security’s a massive issue too, as the mass exodus to work from home has increased organizations’ data vulnerability dramatically. (Deloitte’s practical tips are worth reading).

If we come back to the three sub-categories, interviewees reported let-downs across the board. And those let-downs might seem like small things, but they have a big impact on new hires’ experience:

  • It’s “when the tech setup is well oiled, I can be productive and valuable on day one” versus “my laptop was late and the temporary one couldn’t get fully set up. It felt like a waste of time”.
  • It’s “it felt organized. There were a lot of resources; it was easy to find things I was looking for” versus “understanding the technology was the hardest part, it took a bunch of Zoom meetings and a lot more effort.” 
  • It’s “there were major communication lapses and it just seemed really disorganized. I was not well equipped or given good information. It gave me a weird, unfavorable perspective of this company. I just kept wondering ‘What happened?’” 
  • And “There was an unenthusiastic person leading the session, you’ve heard of ‘Death by Powerpoint’ right? It was like she got there 3 minutes late, did her job and just signed off. I felt like she wanted to get it over with. It definitely didn’t get me excited”
  • And even worse, “The experience impacted my engagement. There's already grief when you leave a job and start a new one, this just gave me a bigger sense of remorse, insecurity and imposter syndrome.”

a sense of remorse?! We can all agree that’s most definitely not what we want. And it proves there’s no point investing in the more glamourous areas of onboarding unless we’re getting logistics right.

Here’s a checklist, to do just that.

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A checklist for virtual onboarding logistics 

Here are some practical action points to nail the logistical side of virtual onboarding, grouped into Kate’s three sub-categories.

IT preparedness and access:

  • Ask new hires if they have a laptop preference (if possible)
  • Ask new hires if they have an equipment preference, like mouse vs. trackpad
  • Check any special accessibility requirements
  • Order and configure laptop in good time pre-start
  • Methodically grant systems access by role. And double check!
  • Download any relevant software and complete any updates
  • Ask new hires if they have a delivery/pick-up preference
  • Arrange delivery/collection in good time
  • Talk to new hires about their home office set-up
  • Schedule data security training

Ongoing support and resources:

  • Create detailed step-by-step instructions (consider a video walkthrough)
  • Make easy-to-follow, step-by-step troubleshooting available
  • Create a comprehensive, centralized resource hub for new hires
  • Set-up IT support check-ins for a technical walkthrough
  • Introduce new hires to an IT contact, for any ad hoc support
  • Schedule reminders to check new hires are up and running
  • Ensure your intranet or documentation is easy to navigate

Smooth and streamlined experience:

  • Centralize onboarding content so it’s not overwhelming
  • Build workflows to deliver content incrementally
  • Introduce new hires only to relevant systems and explain their purpose
  • Develop clear accountability between HR, recruiting and line managers
  • Assign a primary point of contact for new hires
  • Develop shorter, bitesize presentations to suit the virtual medium
  • Brief everyone who’ll attend meetings be on-time, prepped and enthusiastic!
  • Ask new hires to co-set their schedule – be mindful of start/end times
  • Ensure new hires’ colleagues are fully briefed on the new hire starting
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Don’t forget your shoes…

With onboarding, one negative experience can outweigh many positive ones. And logistics snafus are a powerfully negative experience because they’re typically new hires’ very first experience as an employee. Right at the moment of peak nervousness and peak excitement, on their first day.

Logistics certainly aren’t as exciting as the engagement and culture conversations we all love having. But they’re just as important. (Like the barefoot interviewee. If you turn up without shoes it’ll be the thing people remember…)

Watch this space for part two in this best-practice virtual onboarding series, on cracking manager involvement.