In-person vs. virtual onboarding: Which is best for your team?

When the world largely shifted to remote work as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, almost no one could anticipate all of the changes the shift would bring. One of the biggest changes occurred in onboarding. Now that a growing number of companies across the globe are fully remote and businesses are hoping to increase new hire productivity, it’s critical to have an established onboarding process for new employees. 

Whether in-person or virtual, entrepreneurs at all levels must think holistically through the new-hire experience. No matter what, the path we take must be easy for the new employee to understand. The last thing we want is to leave our new hires guessing “what’s next” — especially in this new frontier of remote work.

To build that level of trust and transparency, it’s important to create a comprehensive onboarding plan and know which type of onboarding experience maximizes productivity, furthers cross-communication, and helps to reduce the risk of turnover. After all, you wouldn’t want to bring on a new hire only to lose them in onboarding. 

Remote onboarding vs. in-person onboarding: A comparison 

There are several benefits of virtual onboarding for new employees:

  • Convenience
  • Quick and efficient training
  • Structured training schedules
  • Opportunities to record training calls for easy access
  • Provides a high-quality experience that is scalable for the organization

Meanwhile, the benefits of in-person onboarding are also notable: 

  • Employees gain a better sense of company culture from the start 
  • More opportunities to bond with coworkers
  • The ability to ask additional questions by simply walking over to a colleague
  • The company being able to physically see how the onboarding process is going

While both remote and in-person onboarding have distinct benefits, they also have distinct challenges. The challenges of a virtual onboarding program can include the following:

  • The possibility of feeling distanced from company culture
  • Risk of lower engagement
  • Fewer opportunities to make connections 
  • Difficulty for remote hires to pay attention in every meeting
  • Managers may not be prepared to onboard virtually in this relatively new landscape

In-person onboarding also brings a number of challenges, including but not limited to: 

  • A potentially less-structured training schedule
  • The potential to go off-topic
  • Frequent interruptions
  • An interactive work environment that may also hamper productivity

Regardless of the type of onboarding your company has in place, here are three best practices that ensure new hires feel at home more quickly:

  • Provide documents to help new hires understand their roles and expectations; all members of the onboarding process should have access to these documents to aid knowledge sharing
  • Equip new hires with an onboarding schedule; 30-, 60-, and 90-day goals; an organization chart; and a list of vendors and tools they will use
  • Schedule regular meetings to check on the status of goals and to see how you can help employees get up-to-speed and answer any questions

How to determine which type of onboarding is right for your business? 

By understanding some of the benefits and drawbacks of remote and in-person onboarding, you can figure out which type of onboarding works best for your organization. Here are three ways to choose the right type of onboarding experience: 

1. Review on a case-by-case basis. 

Deciding which type of onboarding process to use largely depends on the role and what’s best for the organization. For example, the onboarding plans for a salesperson and a customer service representative may differ significantly. It’s important that the plan adequately supports the new hire and aligns with the company’s goals. 

2. Create an onboarding process that is training-based. 

Every onboarding plan must address what the new hire needs to learn and detail specifically how they should function in their role. Which tools and programs will best support a new hire’s training? Are there ways for the new employee to provide feedback to improve their experience during the training itself? These questions should be answered prior to the new hire’s first day. 

3. Clarify what will be needed from the new hire. 

A successful in-person or remote onboarding process requires managers and company leaders to set expectations at the beginning of training. More often than not, we hire someone whose skills we need immediately. As a result, we detail what other employees may need from the new hire right away. This helps to manage expectations and avoid overwhelming the new hire upfront. 

Contributed to EO by Jim Hardwick, a chief community officer at Sales Xceleration, a firm specializing in assessing and implementing sales strategy, sales processes, and sales execution to drive growth. For over two decades Jim’s leadership expertise has helped sales teams from small organizations to Fortune 100 companies maximize revenue goals.

For more insights and inspiration from today’s leading entrepreneurs, check out EO on Inc. and more articles from the EO blog

Categories: Best Practices Company Culture PEOPLE/STAFF


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