How to welcome a new employee virtually

Natasa Milojevic

Last updated on: January 20, 2022

Congratulations! You’ve successfully gone through the tiresome hiring process — from slicing and dicing hundreds of resumes to joining in dozens of video interviews. You’ve met the perfect match for the position, and your new hire is on the way. Now you can stop and catch your breath because it’s finally over. 

Or is it?

In a virtual setting, all the difference between getting your new employees up and running and making them run for their lives lies in successful onboarding. Skipping this step could result in waving your new hires goodbye even before they’ve properly adjusted. 

Instead of seeing them out or being unsure how to welcome a new employee virtually, we are here to give you a helping hand. If you’re wondering what needs to be done before you meet your new employee, how to prepare for their first day, and what to do after they have officially onboarded, we’ve got you covered. From virtual icebreakers to a remote onboarding checklist, your new employees are bound to get off to a great start.

How to welcome a new employee virtually - cover

Before you meet and greet your new employee

The first day of work can be agonizing. In a remote setting, the fear of the unknown frequently goes through the roof. The main culprit for the increased stress levels is the isolation that prevents the new hires from genuinely connecting with the team. Deprived of the casual chit-chat with the rest of the newbies, your new employees are probably a bundle of nerves, and it appears like there’s nothing you can do to ease them into their new job. 

However, setting the stage before their big day brings peace and quiet and ensures your new team members are here to stay. Let’s go over all the steps you need to go through to pave the way for your new hires’ success before they’re officially onboarded.

Plan and prepare before you perform

If “He who fails to prepare prepares to fail” is true, then sitting around on your backside before your new employee’s arrival is a quick road to a collapse. Research has shown that the new employee retention rate is interlinked with their engagement in the onboarding process. New hires have difficulty adjusting to the new work environment when faced with a cold shoulder instead of a warm welcome. On top of that, most of the situations that came naturally during the back-at-the-office days have to be organized ahead now that we have migrated into a virtual setting. 

Adequate preparation for the newcomer’s arrival includes more than sending them out a contract to sign. However, something as plain as informing a new employee of their job responsibilities could slip from your mind without face-to-face communication. Since it’s always better to be safe than sorry, we’ve put together a handy virtual onboarding checklist to help both you and your new employee stand firmly on your feet even before day one. 

Virtual onboarding checklist
✅ Send your new employee an offer and a contract to sign
✅ Gather all the necessary information from the new employee (their address, forms of identification, etc.)  
✅ Send a welcome email to the new team member
✅ Schedule all the meetings a couple of days ahead
✅ Set up all the necessary accounts for the new employee
✅ Send the new hire their login info
✅ Ensure all the technology is up and running before the first day

Set the stage for the new employee

In line with all the necessary preparation goes making sure all is set before the clock strikes nine. Welcoming a new employee virtually doesn’t give you an opportunity to set up their workstation or decorate their cubicle. However, it still leaves enough room to arrange their virtual workspace and ensure their technology works like clockwork. 

The process of making sure your new remote employee is ready for their first day could appear overwhelming. However, the last-minute preparation for your new team member’s onboarding usually results in them being tied up with getting familiar with the workspace, attending dozens of meetings, and trying to finish job-related tasks all during their first day. Instead of leaving your newbies snowed under all the information, try to minimize their burden by setting the stage ahead. 

Apart from delivering them the essential technological equipment, attempt to compose an in-depth guide for setting up their computers and joining in the workspace. If a handbook doesn’t save the day when an issue arises, having your IT department on standby for additional technological support can come in handy when everything else fails. 

Spread the word about the new employee

Back in the day, your team could spot a new person walking down the hallway and get to know them in a matter of seconds. Going virtually, the tables have turned. Although joining a channel in a team chat app, such as Pumble, does leave a notice for everyone to see, working in dispersed teams sometimes means not everyone will see the news at the same time. Perhaps your team is working across different time zones, and their work schedules differ. When that is the case, letting them be caught by surprise by their new coworker’s arrival isn’t the best idea.

If you timely notify your teams about all the new people joining in, you leave them enough time to prepare for all the questions the new hires might have. Apart from that, ensuring the onboarding process is transparent enough enhances team communication and connection further. They will be more likely to approach the new people and make them feel welcome if they don’t feel threatened by them, which is often the case when having to deal with guesswork instead of facts. 

In Pumble, you can notify everyone of the new employee’s arrival even before their first day
In Pumble, you can notify everyone of the new employee’s arrival even before their first day

On their first day

Being plagued by getting off to a great start will probably keep your new employee tossing and turning the whole night before their big day. When their first day doesn’t require them to commute for an hour to get to the office, they even get an additional hour to shake like a leaf. 

To ease their minds and pave the way for a triumphant onboarding experience, you will need to go over additional preparation regarding your new employee’s day one. Let’s take a look at all the steps you need to take to ensure your new hires sail through the hardships of their first day in a new company. 

Break the ice

Although it does sound like a cliché, you only get one chance at introductions. Shutting your eyes to your new hires’ anxiety during their first conference call with the rest of the team could negatively impact their entire socialization process. Starting off on the wrong foot could be especially risky for a virtual teams’ sense of connection. Namely, the lack of face-to-face communication implies that the new hires’ sense of belonging might take a bit longer to foster, and their worry does not make the process any easier. 

However, when you set the adequate tone right from the start, everything falls into place. Starting a video call with an engaging and informal icebreaker activity instead of a strict agenda could lighten the stressful situation and even increase the new hires’ performance and retention rate. To ensure the first call goes bright and breezy, we’ve compiled a list of five virtual icebreaker activities to help your new employees form close ties with the rest of the team.

1. Would you rather?

Time: 10 minutes

You will need: A list of interesting questions

How it’s played

  • Explain to your new employees that you are going to offer them two choices per question. They are supposed to select one option and elaborate on their preference.
  • Start the game by asking a question, such as “Would you rather be bitten by a snake or scratched by a polar bear?” 
  • After one person responds to the question, you can either ask everyone else the same question or offer each member different options.
‘Would you rather’ questions you can use
❓Would you rather live without social media or your air conditioner?
❓Would you rather travel back in time or fast-forward to the future?
❓Would you rather have incredibly long arms or extremely long legs?
❓Would you rather win the lottery or live for 200 years? 

2. Emoji it

Time: 5-10 minutes

You will need: Your team chat app

How it’s played

  • Let your new hires know that you are going to ask them some simple questions. However, they are not allowed to talk to provide you with a response. The new employees need to respond to the questions using emojis only.
  • When you ask a question, such as “How do you feel today?” give them a couple of seconds to think of the most appropriate emoji for expressing their feelings and instruct them to post the response in a channel in your team chat app. 
  • After everyone has shared their feelings, lead them to discuss their choices.
  • Here’s a list of frequently used emojis to express emotions for your reference:
Popular emojis 
Screaming in fear😱
Excited, amazed🤩
Very happy😀
Your new hires can play Emoji it in Pumble
Your new hires can play Emoji it in Pumble

3. This or that

Time: 10 minutes

You will need: A list of options

How it’s played

  • Prepare a list of options before the meeting. They could be as simple as: “Summer or winter”, “Morning or evening”, etc. 
  • You can also use an online generator to help you come up with choices when you’re out of ideas. 
  • The idea behind the game is to offer the participants two options, and they are supposed to pick one as quickly as possible. After they share their preference, they should explain the reasons behind their choice.
‘This or that’ option ideas
Cat 🐱 or dog 🐶
House 🏠 or apartment 🏢
Sitting 🪑 or standing🧍‍♀️
Inside 🛋️ or outside 🌳

4. Two truths and a lie

Time: 10-15 minutes

You will need: Just a group of people

How it’s played

  • The rules of this classic icebreaker game are very simple. Everyone from the team should come up with three statements about themselves: two of them should be true, and one sentence should be a lie.
  • After each new hire shares their three statements, the rest should try to guess which sentences are lies. 

5. Common ground

Time: 15 minutes

You will need: Just a group of people

How it’s played

  • The idea behind this icebreaker activity is for a group of people to find something they have in common that is unrelated to work.
  • You can start the activity by saying: “I love to play basketball” and select a random person to continue talking.
  • The following person should try to find common ground with you. They might say, “I don’t know how to play basketball, but I like watching it on TV.”
  • The game can continue as long as everyone is having fun trying to discover what they have in common.

Make the company’s structure known

After the official onboarding, your new employees will probably have hundreds of questions in the days to come. Despite your detailed instructions and preparations for their first official onboarding meeting, something important can slip through the cracks nonetheless. To avoid excessive head-scratching, try to come prepared. You don’t have to know everything, nor have the answer to every question a new employee might come up with. However, you need to provide them with a clear understanding of whom they could contact regarding an issue.  

Creating an organizational chart that contains all the necessary details could save the day. Instead of bracing yourself for all the questions regarding the vacation policy or a deadline for a design project, pin an organizational chart to a channel in your team chat app. Your new employee will always know whom precisely to ping.   

An example of an organizational chart
An example of an organizational chart

Be smart about sharing details

Welcoming a new employee virtually usually involves bombarding the new person with information from all sides. Regardless of their involvement or focus, crucial information you share during an onboarding call can easily slip your newbie’s attention. Instead of relying on their memory or note-taking speed, always keep an accessible copy of the information you consider relevant to the new hires. This way, whenever they come up with a question regarding their tasks, a policy, or a procedure, you can always refer them to a knowledge hub where all the data is securely guarded. 

However, be mindful of the necessity to keep all the information organized and accessible at all times. You can choose to create a collaborative folder with all the relevant documents and share it in your team’s favorite chat app. In Pumble, for example, you can either create a new channel where you can store all the links or just pin your announcement to an existing channel. 

Pumble lets you quickly inform the new employees about the details of the onboarding process
Pumble lets you quickly inform the new employees about the details of the onboarding process

Assign your new employee a virtual mentor

It’s pretty evident that a successful onboarding process takes more time and effort than mailing a piece of brand new equipment to your new hire. Keith Ferrazzi from Harvard Business Review claims that it takes up to 8 months for a new employee to reach optimal productivity at their new job. Relying on their already busy supervisors or team leaders as the only information source can prolong this process further or even increase their chances of saying goodbye before their first job anniversary. 

However, putting one more person in charge of your new employee’s integration process could forestall the new hire’s farewell. 

Apart from increasing the speed of the overall adjustment and onboarding, a virtual mentor could lend a helping hand whenever confusion is on the horizon. This person should be from the same department as the new employee, and their task is to give the new team member valuable advice, feedback, and assistance whenever necessary. 

Adjusting the onboarding structure ensures that all the newbies can get up to speed with their jobs while it helps clear the managers’ hectic schedules at the same time. 

Provide welcome treats

In the old days, even before a newbie approached their new office desk, a basket full of treats would already be waiting for them. The virtual setting, on the other hand, seems to have deprived new employees of this luxury. However, changing our work environment does not necessarily mean that new team members don’t get to enjoy the perks of joining a new company. Virtual goodies, such as gift cards or online vouchers, would make them feel just as welcome as a traditional ‘welcome basket.’ 

In case you still want to maintain the custom of gift wrapping, you can always choose to deliver a ‘welcome box’ to your new employee’s doorstep. Mailing a surprise gift a couple of days before their official start will help you set the seal on a successful welcome program.

Pair them up with a work buddy

Dealing with unfamiliar situations couldn’t be further from smooth sailing. Science claims that humans tend to treat an unknown situation as a threat automatically. Since joining a new company always implies being in a novel position, and your new employee is probably only human, their brain will enter the alarmed mode as soon as they log in to the new workspace. Although it seems challenging to work this situation out, science has the solution — trust.

Building trust helps overcome the fear of the unknown and decrease your new hire’s stress levels. Pairing them up with a friendly face could be a great stepping stone to developing a trusting atmosphere. A work buddy system implies that new employees are paired with a coworker who is their first point of casual contact during the first couple of months. This person is somebody they can chat with and get together for a virtual cup of coffee. 

Unlike a virtual mentor whose task is to assist with job-related issues, a work buddy is there to give them tips and tricks in getting settled through more casual get-togethers.   

In the weeks to come

Your new hire has successfully gone through a couple of training sessions, got familiar with the company’s structure, and has already completed their first task with flying colors. All is set, and you’re good to go, right? 

As a matter of fact, you’ve just scratched the surface of the process of welcoming a new employee. After a successful first day, the marathon continues, and there’s still more work to be done until your newbie reaches the finish line. However, you don’t have to go over and beyond to ensure a thriving onboarding experience. Just don’t forget to include the following steps.  

Schedule virtual coffee breaks

It’s not unlikely for new employees to take on more responsibilities and tasks that they can handle, especially during the first couple of weeks. The fear of being seen as a slacker might even prevent them from participating in informal team chat conversations. 

Although there is a fine line between work communication and chit-chat, excessive workload combined with a lack of socialization in a virtual workplace is one of the primary risk factors for burnout. 

Apart from writing a memo to invite your new coworkers to all the social channels, an informal virtual get-together involving coffee is an event you don’t want to forget inviting your new employees to. Taking part in a casual virtual gathering can help foster team connection and do wonders for your newbie’s adjustment process. When their productivity levels and well-being are at stake during the integration stage, a virtual coffee break will give them a chance to recharge and develop meaningful relationships with the rest of the team. 

Don’t forget to add the new employees to your informal channels in Pumble
Don’t forget to add the new employees to your informal channels in Pumble

Arrange check-ins

Most of the previous steps in the process of welcoming your new employee have been all about trying to drum your new hire into the culture of your organization. However, the last step of the new hire’s integration process is focused on listening to their side of the story. 

Scheduling weekly check-in meetings during their first month at work is beneficial for both the newcomers and your future onboarding agenda. A one-to-one meeting with an HR representative is an excellent way to gather first-hand feedback on the new hire’s level of satisfaction with the entire process. 

Apart from demonstrating that their opinion is highly valued, which usually happens when companies nurture upward communication, holding these sessions could help you perfect your virtual onboarding system and guard it against common pitfalls. 

Wrapping up: A virtual welcome doesn’t have to be a nightmare

During an onboarding process, saying hello to your new employee is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from deleting their account from the workspace. The virtual setting doesn’t do any justice to this fragile procedure either. The lack of face-to-face interaction could easily keep you on your toes and lead you to wonder how to welcome a new employee virtually when your entire onboarding process is centered around you sitting behind your office desk. 

Luckily, welcoming a new hire remotely doesn’t necessarily require anyone moving around. You can still remain comfortably reclined in your office chair while your new employee greets you from the luxury of their own home. Instead of having to move heaven and earth to come up with a brand new ‘welcome aboard’ strategy, take the middle course and follow our advice.

Before compiling this guide, we did the walking for you, so you don’t need to watch your step anymore after inviting a candidate to an orientation meeting. Just don’t forget to grab a pen to cross off tasks from your virtual onboarding checklist and wish your newbie a warm welcome!

Author: NatasaMilojevic

Natasa Milojevic is a writer and researcher dedicated to exploring the depths of human communication and collaboration. You can usually find her engrossed in her research on the quickest and most reliable ways of transmitting ideas in a remote work environment. Leaving no stone unturned until she discovers the most valuable advice for fostering efficient teamwork collaboration, Natasa spends most of her days behind the keyboard.

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