Virtual Onboarding

by Karen Bertiger, Managing Director

At Herd Freed Hartz our involvement doesn’t end when the candidate accepts the position. The successful onboarding of the employee into the organization will have a lasting impact on that employee’s long-term viability. Part of our responsibility is to help our clients set up new hires for success, but how does that work in an entirely, or mostly, virtual world?

We checked in with a few of our clients’ hires to get the candidate’s perspective on their onboarding experience. Allison [last name redacted for confidentiality], who was placed by Herd Freed Hartz with a $2b healthcare corporation in Seattle, was pleased and excited by how smoothly her onboarding experience was at her new company.

The team pivoted quickly by providing each employee and new hire with a “home office.” Allison simply arranged a time to visit the building and remained in her car while the equipment – “even an office chair!” – was loaded into the back. Since those early days of the pandemic’s onset, the team continues to iterate the onboarding process to ensure a seamless transition for new employees.

“New hires meet each other on the Teams platform,” explains Allison, “and we’ve developed online interactive activities providing presentations and tools new employees can use to interact with each other.”

Takeaway: Be prepared to provide tools and resources to new employees to do their job remotely, and rethink how your onboarding process can be translated into the virtual world.

One of the most important aspects of onboarding is introducing the employee to the individuals and teams they’ll need to know. It’s easy for employees to forget about the new person if they aren’t sitting in the next cubicle. An onboarding schedule of virtual “meet-and-greets” is key to ensuring the new employee makes meaningful connections in the first few weeks.

“Everybody was so wonderful,” says Allison. “I was given a schedule of formal meetings as part of my onboarding, but there were also people just reaching out to me, welcoming me and offering assistance.”

Takeaway: Bump up internal communications to ensure everyone is aware of the new hire and create a virtually welcoming environment beyond the more formal introductions.

Lisa Edwards, who was placed by Herd Freed Hartz at Verdant Health at the beginning of the pandemic, had a slightly different onboarding experience because some of her roles required a physical presence in the office. “My onboarding was half virtual, half physical,” she says. “For the pieces that required me to be physically in the office, we limited those too short segments, using social distancing guidelines and masks.”

Employees at Verdant have the option of signing up for a time at the office, which allows the company to limit the number of people in the building and perform deep cleaning between and during shifts. WRF has adopted a similar policy, providing employees a choice of some office time, or no office time, and again requiring them to sign up in advance to ensure only a few employees are in the space at a time. The important thing is to ensure employees are not penalized or negatively impacted if they choose to remain entirely virtual.

”There is a layer of unease and uncertainty all of us in the workforce are facing every day,” says Edwards. “There is always the risk of exposure. Everyone is doing their best to maintain professionalism, but with this underlying tension.”

Takeaway: Be prepared to meet each employee where they are most comfortable and do not penalize employees who choose to remain virtual.

In each of these examples, the key differentiator lies with those employers who were able to pivot and adapt quickly, treated employees with compassion, and provided flexibility to their workforce. Those that did were still able to pursue those key hires that kept their businesses moving. And so far, we aren’t seeing any negative impact on either the employer or the new hires who adapted to virtual hiring.