The Art of Onboarding In the Virtual Age

This is part 2 of a 4 part “Benchmark Search Hiring Forecast” series, studying the ongoing effects of the pandemic on hiring, interviewing, onboarding and networking.

Onboarding is an art: it is an integral element of effective recruitment and the final, most personal part of talent sourcing.

Onboarding builds trust, community and sets the roots of a burgeoning relationship between the company, co-workers, and your new employee, and onboarding matters: it cultivates a sense of place and worth within your company while driving productivity, encouraging trust and improving retention in your team.

The rise of COVID-19 has put pressure on cost-effectiveness and processes countrywide, so understanding the tangible effect of good onboarding practice mid-pandemic is integral to keeping your talent engaged, motivated, and happy!

Like a lot of great recruitment practices, the art of onboarding has changed to meet the challenge of the new normal, and revamping your onboarding strategy is necessary, as all employers look to protect their workforces and candidate expectations change.

How to perfect your onboarding best practice


  • Onboarding starts the second you, or your recruitment partner, make the first contact with a candidate.
  • Never forget the basics: onboarding is the process of integrating employees into your company, culture, and business plans. Your recruitment culture should align with your company culture!

First Day

  • Planning the first day for a new employee is always an exciting part of onboarding. With the added pressure of COVID-19, orientation now has a caveat – do you try to move the whole process online, or keep some element of hybrid first day/week in person.
  • If you can manage it, we advise companies to keep your employee’s first day in the “office”. Even if you can’t seal a welcome with a handshake, you can make a much stronger, personal introduction to your company.
  • You can introduce your new employee to mentors, other new recruits, and management, not to mention give them a fuller more tangible understanding of the company and its place in its community.
  • You can also cover all the basics, such as compliance, work portals, and paperwork, and make sure your new staff member has all they need if they will be working from home, such as company tech and assets.
  • If your company cannot operate remotely, the first day is vitally important to introduce your new team member to your health and safety protocol.

Welcome packs

  • Dependent on the role and service you offer, taking a little bit of time to welcome your new hire with more than a coffee and employment agreement will make a huge impression.
  • If your entire onboarding process is done online, it no longer means new team members miss out. Companies such as Caroo and offer a range of personalized and fun gifts for the new staff (as well as ongoing efforts).
  • It goes without saying that mid-pandemic the opportunity to excite your new employee, let them know they are valued and connected to the company, even remotely, sets the right tone.

​After the first day

  • As a team leader or business owner, remember to check-in. Even if it’s only 5 minutes, give your new staff some face time.
  • Digitally, this counts more than ever, especially with remote teams. New staff may feel lonely, or insecure and having a consistent presence, be it yourself or a mentor (or ideally both) makes a huge difference.


  • By training, we mean two things: any compliance or service particulars such as learning how to use programs, database training or software alongside wider business introductions and best practice.
  • Alignment is key. Do not prioritize one or the other, treat teaching new staff about your firm’s history and goals as of equal value to skills training. 
  • Training should also follow some key rules; it needs to be relevant, self-driven, goal and practice-orientated, measurable, and full of feedback – if this is to be done remotely, make sure your feedback is effective and personal and remember to keep checking in to get updates on any ongoing training.


  •  Assigning mentors is nothing new – it gives your new hire a cultural anchor in your company.
  • In the age of COVID-19 it gives that hire something more. It shows a more personal commitment to teaching and investment in them, and most importantly it gives your employee the chance to get to know the team.
  • We have had extensive discussions with clients about how to improve this in remote teams. Being able to link names with faces is more than a memory test: it is vital in building team trust and relationships.
  • It’s also a staple of maintaining good workplace mental health – having more than an email relationship with co-workers, even on different teams, builds that sense of belonging and purpose.

Communication and Expectations

  • Like so many other elements of effective recruitment, the way you communicate and set the right expectations during the onboarding period underpins your employee’s first impressions of your company.
  • Establishing clear lines of communications and setting accurate expectations – from training deliverables to workloads, should be considered the basics of good onboarding. Doing so during a pandemic is absolutely vital. Remember, good communications squashes doubt!

In our next article, we analyze interview strategy in the wake of COVID-19 in our ongoing Benchmark Search Hiring Forecast series.