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Virtual Onboarding

A simple framework for making a memorable first impression while starting a new job from home.

You did it! You landed a new job working from home, and you’re so excited to get started! But now what?  

As a career coach, I’ve partnered with hundreds of clients over the last couple of years, and one of the TOP requirements most are in search of is FLEXIBILITY — the option to work from home (or anywhere for that matter) on their terms. One small flicker of light to come from this pandemic pandemonium is that more and more employers must trust employees to work from home, finally! I’m thrilled that the ‘work from home’ movement or at least a hybrid workforce model is here to stay!

At the same time, when starting a new job virtually, there are worries about not being able to make an immediate impact when working alone behind your computer screen. In addition to that, managers must make a significant mindset shift about leading virtual teams — more on that topic here. I’ve been working from home and onboarding team members virtually for years, and I love it! And I must say, when done right, onboarding remotely allows you to step up, showcase your ability to take the initiative, and easily make an immediate impact. Trust me, making a positive impression virtually is not as hard as it might sound.  

When starting with a new team, your goal is to soak up as much information as possible, cultivate new relationships, and add value. A simple framework to help you plan a smooth onboarding includes these three components: People, Process, and Performance. 

The first and most important element when planning your virtual onboarding is PEOPLE.

We all know the saying, “teamwork makes the dream work.” When onboarding virtually, it’s essential to go out of your way to meet your new team members. One of the best ways to do this is to let your manager know that meeting your team and building relationships is a crucial priority for you. Ask for a list of people you should get to know and be sure to expand your list beyond your immediate team. Who are the teams you will collaborate with most often? What about your skip-level manager? Don’t forget the essential support departments — HR and IT are always significant people to spend a bit of time getting to know. Especially IT when you’re working remotely! What about external partners — agencies or clients, or contractors that your team regularly interacts with? Remember to think outside the box. 

Once you have your people list, think through creative ways to introduce yourself to everyone. For example, taking the initiative to set up a quick 10-minute virtual coffee chat is a fabulous way to start on the right foot. Think about it; when there’s a new face in the office, people would likely stop to say hello as you pass in the hallway or introduce themselves at the coffee maker. When there’s no hallway or coffee maker, these meetings are a smart way to casually introduce yourself, begin to learn how your role relates to others and how you fit into the organization. Let me reiterate the critical component of taking the initiative to schedule these meetings — don’t sit back and wait for others to reach out to you, they’re busy and may not even know you’re new to the team. Stepping up to make it happen will set you apart.

As you meet people, don’t be afraid to jump in and help.

If you sense stress in someone’s voice, ask how you can support them. As the new person, you likely have a bit of extra time while you’re getting up to speed — a simple act such as proofreading your colleague’s all-company email communication before it she hits the send button will make an impact. Or testing out a new training system for someone who is facilitating a virtual class is an easy way to add value and, not to mention, make a fabulous impression with your new colleagues! 

Another simple way to hit the ground running in the people category is to ask meeting organizers to give you 2-minutes at the beginning or end to introduce yourself. You will likely attend a bunch of meetings throughout your first few weeks; a quick hello through Zoom is an easy way for people to put a name to a face AND for you to make a great first impression. BONUS — crafting an exceptional elevator pitch ahead of time is bound to make a memorable impression! 

Lastly, communication with your team is even more critical when you’re working virtually. Don’t be afraid to ask people their preferred method of communication. Some people might be ok with slack; others might prefer email. This conversation is necessary with your immediate manager. You’re likely going to have a ton of questions as you get started; asking how your manager how he/she prefers to communicate will make the onboarding process + your relationship much smoother! 

The second component when planning your onboarding is PROCESS.

A new job is a fresh start! What a fabulous time to get organized and set good habits. How do you want to manage your time? Do you need to block time for creative projects? If so, establishing your calendar right out of the gate will ensure you’re successful from the start. 

Speaking of the calendar, taking the time to learn about reoccurring team processes and adding them to your schedule will ensure you don’t miss relevant information. Sometimes when you’re new, you might not be added to distribution lists right away, so be proactive and ask to be added to weekly, monthly, quarterly meetings. This is a sure bet that you’re included and can quickly join regular team processes.  

One-on-one meetings with your direct manager are imperative to your success. If your manager doesn’t have a one-on-one process already set up, ask for one. When you don’t have the opportunity to interact in person, setting aside dedicated time to meet is essential, especially during your first couple of months. This also eliminates ineffective communication. Think about it, as you’re navigating a new role, you will have a ton of questions; instead of pinging your manager every time you have a question, jot them down on a post-it and save for your regularly scheduled meeting. Knowing you have that dedicated time and support from your manager will also ease your mind as you cruise through your onboarding.

The third factor for effectively navigating virtual onboarding is PERFORMANCE.

Clarify performance expectations and define success with your manager. How will you get the resources you need to do your job well? How will your job performance be assessed? Ask your manager what you will be accountable for in your first 30, 60, and 90 days. Typically, the expectation is for you to complete essential training and meet appropriate team members, although it’s crucial to get crystal clear, so you don’t miss an expectation. 

Of course, performance expectations don’t end after your onboarding. I might go out on a limb and say, performance expectations BEGIN at the end of your onboarding. Therefore, learning how your performance is reviewed and measured beyond your onboarding period is critical. Some companies have performance management processes administered on a bi-annual basis; others are more frequent. What is the timeline for your company? Learning the performance management process in your first couple of weeks will remove the guesswork, help you prioritize, and lay the groundwork for an exceptional first year.  

Finally, if your company doesn’t have a formal 90-day check-in, set up a meeting with your manager at your 90-day mark to make sure you’re on the right track. This is an excellent time to ask for feedback about what is going well, what you could be doing better, and define a forward-thinking plan. Not to mention, your manager will be impressed to hear how thoughtful + proactive you are about meeting your performance expectations! 

In closing, give yourself some grace. Believing in yourself is key to succeeding in a new job. Undoubtedly, you will face difficulties and there will be some missteps as you’re adjusting. Keep a close eye on how far you’ve come and enjoy your new beginning. You’ve got this!

Virtual Onboarding

Virtual Onboarding

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