Friday 30 October, 2020

HR for Business: What about onboarding?

iStock photo

iStock photo

With Malaika Edwards

Onboarding is the process used to integrate new employees into an organization- it is an important part of the new hire process. Research indicates that a new employees onboarding experience can have a direct impact on their decision to remain with an organization. Like other HR practices, onboarding is being done differently because of the current pandemic. Business owners and HR practitioners who are accustomed to welcoming employees to their offices on the first day of work, must now use different methods to welcome new employees- namely through virtual onboarding.

Some organizations have engaged in virtual onboarding before the pandemic since they have employees working remotely - for these companies virtual onboarding is not something new. There are other organizations however, that have been thrust into the virtual space because of the pandemic and must learn to navigate the virtual world quickly. Whether new to virtual onboarding, or if your organization has been doing virtual onboarding for some time, it is generally acknowledged that virtual onboarding can be challenging. For employees to have a successful experience, organizations must therefore be very deliberate about the onboarding process and should develop formal (structured) onboarding activities for their new employees. There are several things that can be done to make the experience a worthwhile one- a few of these activities are outlined below:

Welcome Package- prepare a welcome package for new employees. Include a detailed schedule of all activities the employee will take part in- the schedule can be divided into weeks or months for ease of reference. Also, if possible, include things like branded shirts and other branded items in the package for the new employee. Send the package to employees before their first day of work so they can prepare themselves for the days and weeks ahead.

Tech Stuff-  if your new employee would have been assigned a laptop had they been in office- ship the laptop to them before the first day on the job. Also, ensure the new employee is provided with dedicated IT support who can assist with set up, access to databases, passwords etc.

Contact Person/ Mentor- assign your new employee to a mentor. The mentor should be the contact person who the new employee can connect with for anything. If possible, different mentors can be assigned at different periods during the onboarding process.

Team Member involvement- get team members involved in the onboarding process. Different team members can take part in asynchronous activities (e.g. preparing short pre- recorded videos telling new employees about the company and the different departments) while other team members can be available for synchronous communication like video chats.

Lunch & Happy Hour­- incorporate ‘down time’ where the new employee and other team members can “meet” for lunch, coffee, happy hour etc and have informal conversations.

After going through an extensive hiring process, it would be unfortunate for a new employee to have a poor onboarding experience. It is important for employers to design 9successful onboarding activities- given all the changes that we have seen recently, these activities must be well executed in the virtual space.


Malaika T. Edwards, PhD provides HR advisory services to business owners and individual clients. She is also an academic in the Higher Education landscape. You can contact her on LinkedIn at, Instagram @drmalaika.edwards or by email at

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