Virtual Onboarding Ideas For HR

The benefits of onboarding can’t be overstated. Propelling your new hires to productivity, reducing employee turnover, and promoting a positive company culture are all a boon to your bottom line.

Chances are your company understands the importance of introducing a new hire to the organization. You probably already had an effective onboarding program in place before 2020. When COVID hit, you may have hastily reworked your current onboarding process into a virtual plan. It probably included ad hoc Zoom meetings and email blasts with links to scattered documents.

The dust has settled, so to speak, but the pandemic rages on. Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of employees who have been working from their home prefer to continue doing so after the pandemic ends. And yours may be one of the many companies that are realizing the benefits of a more productive workforce and less rent for office space.

If your company is embracing remote work for at least some of your employees, it’s time to build a virtual-first onboarding experience.

Build a Virtual Onboarding Experience

COVID has given you a sampling of the difficulties around virtual onboarding and the new hire experience.

Working from home means missing out on the benefits of casual, in-person interactions. New hires have an even more difficult time bonding with their team members. Your virtual onboarding experience needs to help your new hire feel like part of the team.

Virtual onboarding during COVID may have left you disappointed with your new hires’ rate of productivity. It’s just tougher to get the new person up to speed when no one is near to see how things are going. You need to plan for more support for your virtual onboarding process.

One of the benefits of virtual onboarding is that you can steer your company’s culture in a more positive direction. Remote employees won’t have run-ins with the complainers or gossips at the water cooler. And you can facilitate virtual lunches and coffee breaks with the people who have upbeat outlooks.

Making your new employee feel welcomed, getting that person productive, and managing your company’s culture are all possible when you put together the right virtual onboarding checklist.

Best Practices for Virtual Employee Onboarding Process

Putting together a virtual onboarding process that accomplishes all of your goals may seem nearly impossible now. But since constraint is the key to creativity, you may find your best onboarding ideas in 2021.

One of the first things you should do is create a virtual onboarding email template that includes a quick rundown of important information and links to important documents. Onboarding software can help you organize all of your new employee forms. You can even include in your welcome email a link to training modules in the onboarding software.

When it comes to virtual onboarding, the best practices facilitate bonding between co-workers as effectively as in-person interactions. Virtual onboarding ideas that will strengthen your team include assigning multiple “onboarding buddies” to your new hire and planning virtual lunches for them. The virtual lunch gives employees an opportunity to get to know the new hire and offer to help orient them. Often, the casual feel of a lunch lends itself better to positive interaction among employees.

As mentioned, the idea behind these virtual employee onboarding examples is to encourage interaction. Assigning multiple onboarding buddies to your new hire connects her with helpful, relevant resources that will help her become productive more quickly. Remember also to task your buddies with checking in on the new hire and setting up virtual coffee breaks or lunches.

Giving your new hire several people to lean on for support spreads the weight. Introducing your new hire to people from different, but related, areas of the company will help her understand the big picture. And finally, assigning multiple onboarding buddies will increase the odds that one of them will be a good personality fit with the new employee.

Virtual New Hire Orientation

Your virtual new hire orientation is a chance for new employees to learn about the company and their role within it. Orientation is often a more formal process than some of the fun virtual onboarding activities we’ve discussed, however you can still make it memorable.

Consider sending a welcome mail package to the new employee. Company swag will help your new hire feel like part of the team. Include printed copies of the handbook, benefits information and organizational chart. Your new hire will often remember information better if she can take notes on printed materials.

A virtual welcome email from the new hire’s manager can get the relationship off to a good start. Encourage team members to send a “welcome onboard” email too. They can offer assistance for questions, set up a virtual get-to-know you meeting, or come up with their own unique onboarding ideas. In fact, getting employees involved in the creation of new hire orientation ideas is the best way to create a process that complements your company culture.

When brainstorming virtual new hire orientation ideas, you should aim to create activities that are fresh and engaging. There are plenty of creative new hire orientation ideas that acclimate your new hire to his role without putting him to sleep. Some engaging virtual new hire orientation ideas include creating a scavenger hunt that will have your new hire delving into information found on the employee portal and company website.

ExactHire has created an onboarding guide with 77 ideas to get you started!

You can rework standard new employee orientation games for a virtual world. Ice breaker games such as Two Truths, One Lie still work well on Zoom. Create a trivia game that pulls information from the printed information your new hires receive in the welcome package. A Door Dash gift card prize is both easy and suitable for social distancing.

Finally, send a new employee introduction email to team members with a bio that includes personal facts such as hobbies and pets to discover shared interests. Make it a group email including the new hire and encourage employees to respond with information about themselves. Again, it’s all about positive interaction–even if that interaction is virtual.


Effective onboarding can help your new hires become productive, long-term employees. It creates a better company culture. Lower employee turnover and a stronger team will reduce costs and increase profits.

At least some of the workplace changes the pandemic brought are here to stay. Done correctly, a virtual onboarding process for remote employees can be every bit as effective as an in-office orientation. Download our in-depth guide for more ideas on how to improve your onboarding process.

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

Get The Most Out Of A Conference: Part 1

It’s conference season! Time to throw off the shackles of your desk environment and go to a place where everybody knows your name (because it’s printed on your lanyard) and they’re always glad you came (because you paid out the nose for it).

Maybe you’ll be attending pre-conference workshops, cocktail hours, dinners, and concerts. Or maybe you’ll have a chance run-in with an industry thought leader. And then there’s the swag, all that awesome, eye-pleasing gear that helps you justify–just a little bit–that hefty registration fee.

And are you staying at the conference hotel? If so, then hold on to your briefcase, because it’s like spring break meets summer camp meets college dorm…for professionals! Woo-hoo! …maybe that’s just my past conference experience.

In any case, a lot of excitement surrounds conferences, and it’s very easy to get caught up in it. But as most veteran conference goers know, it’s important to balance fun and work. Here is the first part in a two-part series on how to ensure that you get the most out of your conference.

Have a Plan

About a week or so before the conference, take a look at the schedule of conference speakers and events. It’s probably part of your welcome email, but also visit the conference website to check for any late changes. With an updated agenda in front of you, it’s now time to decide how you will spend your time at the conference.

First off, it’s a good idea to review the agenda with your supervisor and colleagues. If you’re attending the conference with them, then you can “divide and conquer” the sessions. If you’re going solo, then their input will help you create a schedule that brings value to both you and the organization.

In addition to creating a schedule of sessions, you should have objectives for each session. So if you are attending a session on “How To Enhance Employee Onboarding”, an objective might be: to learn how to improve coordination of onboarding activities among staff. This doesn’t mean that you might not discover other important takeaways, but it focuses your attention on how the content can help your organization today. If a speaker doesn’t address your objective, then it becomes your question for the Q&A or a follow up tweet.

Finally, outside of the sessions, be sure to schedule time for professional networking. This time should also have an objective, like scheduling time to:

  • Make new connections
  • Maintain existing connections
  • Meet current clients or customers

By planning out your time and attaching objectives to it, you can avoid wasting any time and quickly begin to gain real value from the conference.

Have a System

Much like planning your schedule for the conference, having a system in place for gathering and storing information is invaluable. Sure, you could walk into the hall with just your smartphone, grab a swaggy notepad and pen, and survive the day. But you want to get the most out of the conference!

For Notes

Whether you decide to go digital or keep it low tech with a notebook, there is a lot you can do before the conference to make it easy to gather and organize the flood of content you will receive.

Start by creating a page for each session–if you’re taking notes the right way, one page should be enough, but go ahead and use two if you must. For each page, write the title of the presentation, time and date, and speaker’s name. Then write your objectives for the session.

These easy, proactive steps save you time, reduce stress, and help you stay focused on the speaker and your pre-determined objectives. Apps like Evernote, OneNote, and a host of others can also be set up in this way.

For Business Cards

Reports on the death of business cards have been greatly exaggerated. Despite the popularity of LinkedIn and apps for paperless sharing of your contact info, the business card endures. That’s good news for printers and the manufacturers of business card holders, but it’s bad news for people like me who always seem to forget and misplace them.

If you use a portfolio binder, then the solution is easy. Just use the handy little pockets they have. But importantly, make sure you remove any old business cards that you’ve received beforehand. You only want your cards and conference attendee cards. This makes it easier to recall someone you’ve met earlier at the conference.

If you’re storing your cards elsewhere, like your pockets, purse, or manpurse, then the same rule as above applies. But also make sure that you keep your cards separate from the cards you receive, lest you accidentally give someone the wrong card or lose a card in your stack of cards.

After storing cards, you’ll want to review them at the end of the day. At this point you can store them digitally and/or take notes about the contact, like:

  • When you met them
  • What you talked about
  • Any follow up actions you need to take

Once you’re finished with reviewing and organizing your cards, toss the cards that are not useful to you–harsh, I know. Just don’t do this immediately after talking with someone.

For Handouts

Like business cards, there are the handouts that you may have and the handouts that other attendees and vendors will have. Keeping all of these organized and handy is a challenge. Let’s start with materials that you might have.

First off, if you have sales materials and you’re not at a booth, it may be a good idea to keep those in your hotel room. If you meet someone who is interested in learning more about your services or wares, take that person’s card, and then schedule a meetup for that evening where you will bring the sales materials. You could stockpile them in your European carryall and distribute them on-demand, but that’s not a good look, as others will likely avoid talking to you, the travelling salesman.

When you receive materials from someone, it’s likely because you’re at the vendor exhibition or had an unfortunate encounter with the aforementioned travelling salesman. The exhibition usually provides bags, so use that or just repurpose your swag bag from registration. And for the salesman…if you have the cargo space and are legitimately interested in the material, then go ahead and tuck it into your portfolio or bag; otherwise, just politely decline. When you get back to your room: review, purge and organize the materials you’ve received.

The goal with handouts and business cards is to only come back home with items of value. If you take back everything, you just might overlook an important contact or piece of material.

For Swag

I’ve listed this for one reason and one reason only: coupons and freebies. OK, technically that might be two reasons, but anyway…buried beneath the branded notepads, stress balls, water bottles, t-shirts, and iffy phone chargers, there are often some great coupons and vouchers. It’s easy to overlook these little guys and sometimes they are time-sensitive–like a free drink at tonight’s happy hour.

Assuming that you arrive early to the conference (do not do this during a presentation), go through your swag bag and pull out all your coupons, quickly separate time-sensitive ones, and discard the ones you’re not interested in. Put these coupons in a safe place (not with your business cards or back in the swag bag). Enjoy!

A Plan and a System

Attending professional conferences can be exciting and instrumental to the development of your career.
To ensure that you get the most out of a conference, you should start by investing time in the planning of your conference schedule and objectives. Then, be sure to have a system to process all the content that will be thrown at you. With these two items in place, you will arrive at the conference ready to squeeze every last bit of value out of it.

In part two of this series, I will discuss a few strategies for getting the most out of the conference once you’ve arrived.


ExactHire has had the honor to present at conferences in the past, and you can find our vendor booth at conferences like the annual HR Indiana Conference. Whether presenting, blogging, authoring ebooks and guides, we strive to help human resources professionals improve their organizations.

Social Media In Hiring…Fair Use or Unfair Access?

A colleague asked a thought provoking question the other day…Do companies address social media in hiring, and if so, how? Good question.

In a world where the hiring process is meant to be black and white in order to make an effective hiring decision based on an applicant’s professional experience, how do employers address a gray area of accidental or intentional viewing of applicants’ social media profiles within the hiring process?


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Proceeding With Caution

Companies are still hesitant to discuss social media with applicants because of the variables associated with it and fears of potential discrimination if social media is used improperly. After all, an applicants’ social media pages may display protected information. However, with our personal and professional connections through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, it’s not uncommon to have direct or indirect social connections to potential applicants.

Often, employees spread word of job openings at their company by posting the job listing on personal social media pages. What happens when a “friend”, “follower” or “connection” is interested in that position? With that existing social media connection, a current employee has access to see the potential employee’s social media page in full candor. Once something is posted on social media, it cannot be unseen. So how much info is too much info for a current employee to see? And how much of that info can advertently or inadvertently be considered in the hiring process?

Develop Social Screening Guidelines

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) released a survey in 2015 that showed 84% of employers used social media to recruit job candidates and nearly 50% used social media profiles or online searches to screen applicants.  This should not be too surprising.  Look at companies’ corporate webpages.  More often than not, there are links on a corporate page for viewers to “Like” their page, “Follow” them, or “Connect” with them on social media.  When individuals, who may later be prospective applicants, “Like”, “Follow” or “Connect” a company’s corporate page, the company gains access to view certain aspects of those individuals’ social media pages as well.

With the increasing number of people following the social media pages of companies in which they want to work, companies will need to develop guidelines on how social media information will be collected and used.  On the other side, potential applicants need to maintain professionalism within their social media page(s) and need to be cognizant that their social media page(s) may be viewed by individuals affiliated with the hiring process.

Be Aware of Your State’s Legislation

Also discussed in the Chicago Tribune article, llinois is one of a limited number of states that prohibit employers from requesting access or the password to a current or potential employee’s social media profiles.  However, that does not mean employers do not have a right to view what is publicly available.  SHRM has posted a list of states that have passed a form of legislation affecting online privacy. Since the publication of this list, the number of states passing “anti-snooping” legislation is growing so you will need to check with your company’s legal team to see if any states in which you hire have passed additional measures which affect online privacy.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) published a useful article that suggests a protocol for employers if social media is used in the hiring process.  It is essential to have a solid plan of action on how to safely and legally use social media within the organization’s hiring process to maintain a culture of non-discriminatory hiring practices.

7 Ways to Maximize Benefit and Minimize Risk according to SHRM

  1. Never ask for passwords. In several states, employers cannot ask an applicant (or employee) for his or her social media password by law. In all 50 states, asking for an applicant’s (or employee’s) password creates a real risk of violating the federal Stored Communications Act. For this reason, employers should look only at content that is public.
  2. Have HR do it. It is best if someone in HR, rather than a hiring manager, checks candidates’ social media profiles. The HR professional is more likely to know what he or she can and cannot consider.
  3. Look later in the process. Check social media profiles after an applicant has been interviewed, when his or her membership in protected groups is likely already known.
  4. Be consistent. Don’t look at only one applicant’s social media profiles.
  5. Document decisions. Print out the page containing social media content on which you base any hiring decision and record any reason for rejection, such as bad judgment. This protects you if damaging content has been deleted by the time a decision is challenged.
  6. Consider the source. Focus on the candidate’s own posts or tweets, not on what others have said about him or her. You may want to give the candidate a chance to respond to findings of worrisome social media content. There are impostor social media accounts out there.
  7. Be aware that other laws may apply. For example, if you use a third party to do social media screening, you are probably subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (and similar state laws). Also, some state laws prohibit adverse action based on off-duty conduct, except under narrow circumstances.

Fair (and Effective) Use

Employers who use social media for legitimate reasons may not be seeking to find negative items in the applicant’s profile.  On the contrary, that HR representative may be trying to confirm the applicant’s professional demeanor, professional affiliations and qualifications, along with viewing the applicant’s written communication skills.  However, if an applicant posts a negative item, such as discriminatory remarks or references to illegal activities, these items could have a strong impact on the individual’s consideration for the position.

If using social media in hiring, Human Resources, with consultation from the company legal team, needs to devise a consistent and fair use policy in accordance with adherence to providing equal employment opportunities. ExactHire does not provide legal counsel.  If you are considering the inclusion of a question(s) relating to social media within your employment application(s), please consult your company’s legal team to acquire their insight as to what question content, if any, can legally be included in an employment application. Once you have spoken with them, we can update your application(s) with the content you specify if you want an item added.

On a final note, since social media is a fantastic way to stay connected with updates and news, if you have not had a chance to..

Please do so!  We want to share our news with you!