Onboarding Training Strategies to Effectively Train Your Virtual Hires

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What is onboarding training and why is it an essential part of the hiring process?

The reality is that freelancers, independent contractors, and other remote hires can be great workers. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will automatically be a good fit for your company culture or a team player. 

A proper onboarding process goes a long way to bridge that gap, and that’s what we’re exploring here. 

Why Onboarding Training is Crucial for Virtual Teams

Impact on productivity and retention

People tend to work better if they have all the information and tools they need to get the job done. 

Onboarding is a means of setting hires up for success so that they can be a valuable member to the team. Proper training and engagement also helps them integrate smoother and identify with company vision and values.

The lack of such processes is a contributing factor to higher turnover and low worker retention rates. 

Building a strong company culture remotely

This refers to the beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors that govern company operations. Onboarding serves to orient remote hires about how to relate to clients, interact internally, and ‌conduct business in general.

Proper integration, team building, and support are essential to foster a healthy, happy, and collaborative environment for all. 

Understanding the Unique Challenges of Virtual Onboarding

Two women talking to each other over a video call using a laptop.

Overcoming communication barriers

One of the things the past few years has made apparent is the challenges of remote communication. Assign communication protocols and collaboration tools and software for each team member to use. 

Ensuring technology readiness

Make sure everyone knows how to use proprietary software and any company or industry specific tools that you use most often. These can include bookkeeping software, time trackers, editing and design tools, and client communication and collaboration software.

Creating a sense of belonging and team cohesion

Managing a remote team is more than just ensuring they get the job done by the deadline. 

A good coach knows that introducing a new player doesn’t mean the team improves right away, however skilled that player may be. They need to learn each other’s play styles and adjust accordingly. 

You can help them integrate by introducing them to the team as early in the process as possible. Get them familiar with their roles, what each member contributes, and how they communicate. You can also host team building meetings and fun days. 

Key Components of Successful Onboarding Training Programs

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Pre-onboarding preparations

You need to begin by setting clear expectations and preparing all the necessary resources. Be ready to provide a breakdown of the tasks and the scope of work for this position. Prepare the tools and software. Notify and prepare the team and managers for the hire. 

Structured onboarding process

Aside from the task list, you also need to effectively communicate timelines, activities, and milestones. These are the goals, objectives, and key checkpoints where you can set up meetings to track progress, receive feedback, and do temperature checks.

Integration of company values and culture

This is something that you should do even during the interview process. It’s about letting hires know the company’s beliefs and how you expect them to conduct themselves in light of that.

This includes how they should communicate to colleagues and clients and how they handle mistakes and conflicts. By setting this expectation, they also know how relaxed or professional you expect them to be. 

Continuous support and feedback mechanisms

It’s important to provide point persons and emphasize standard communication lines. That way, hires have the support they need if they come across barriers or have follow-up questions.  

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Virtual Onboarding Training Program

Creating your program from the ground up is tough, especially if you don’t have experience with remote hiring. You can use this guide as a template to create your own personalized, optimized process for your company. 

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Pre-Onboarding Phase

What to communicate before the first day

This involves, but is not limited to:

  • Finalizing the hiring documentation, including onboarding documents
  • Going over the list of duties and responsibilities
  • Asking additional questions that you may not have been able to during the interview process 

Setting up technology and access

This includes login information (usernames and passwords) so they can access the appropriate accounts, software, and tools. 

The First Week: Orientation and Foundations

Welcome activities and ice-breakers

This part is mostly about building rapport. Here, the one in charge of onboarding leads the introductions and may host games and team familiarization/ team building activities. 

Overview of company, mission, and culture

The next part involves providing more information about the company. This includes:

  • Type of company and industry
  • Company history 
  • Specific long and short-term goals and objectives
  • How the company plans to attain them
  • Company beliefs and values 

Initial training sessions and resources

The first few training sessions focus more on role orientation and familiarization with tools and software. They act as an overview of general roles, responsibilities and relationships between other job roles. 

An older man giving a thumbs up to a younger man on a video call.

The First Month: Role-Specific Training and Integration

Detailed job role training

This involves more in-depth training related to specific tasks, skillsets, and applied knowledge. This is where you train them on specific methods and processes they need to implement. 

Assigning a mentor or buddy

Think about it like a customer service representative. They help with navigating services and are readily available to answer questions customers may have about or around their purchase.

Just like a CS rep, an onboarding guide acts in the best interest of both the company and the hire. They can not only help with their transition into the company but also help build rapport and exemplify a spirit of collaborative growth. 

Regular check-ins and feedback

There are multiple reasons you would do this:

  • It gives you an opportunity to check if their work meets the job prompt and company standards. 
  • It can reveal potential gaps in your training process. 
  • You provide a space where your hires can inquire and contribute via constructive criticism. 
  • You can ask them about their experience with the company so far and if they have comments on how to improve your onboarding process. 

Ongoing Development and Engagement

Continuing education opportunities

Keep your hires updated on any training opportunities within or outside the company. These can include seminars, webinars, free training on new trends or software updates, and other resources like blogs and business podcasts.

By investing in your hires, you are investing in both the quality and care given towards the output. 

Creating channels for communication and feedback

If you don’t have one already, you should set up a way for your hires to communicate with their mentors or managers.

Give them a space to ask questions, relay concerns, and offer suggestions. This can be through Trello, email, Slack, etc. 

Encouraging social interaction among team members

This involves creating an environment that fosters collaboration, relationship and community. You can do this through regularly scheduled team checkups and even company game days. 

Common Pitfalls to Avoid in Virtual Onboarding Training

5 hands piled on top of each other as a symbol of teamwork.

Insufficient preparation and support

A lot of the time, companies focus their resources solely looking for the right hire. While important, there is a need to prepare them for the role.

A skilled actor still relies on the director and their vision to produce the expected results. When you don’t give your workers the right information, tools, resources, or communication channels, the logical conclusion is poor performance.

However, that isn’t necessarily fully on the workers’ end. Just like actors working with poorly written scripts, they can only act upon what you give them. 

Overloading information

We get it. Business must go on. The sooner you can get working on projects, the better. However, make sure workers have enough time to learn and process all the onboarding training you’re giving them.

Otherwise, it’s the equivalent of forcing a student to cram before giving them an exam. It’s a risk that can’t guarantee excellent performance and doesn’t help them in the long-term. 

Neglecting company culture and hiring engagement

Company culture provides a level of cohesion that unites people towards a common goal with a set of operating standards. Failure to communicate this to people you intend to bring onto a team will most likely create friction and delays. 

You also have to consider morale. If your new hire feels like the odd man out, that can lead to tension, poor performance, and even turnover. It can also lower the morale of the entire team by disrupting the workflow. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best practices for conducting virtual onboarding for a global team with different time zones?

When working with hires from various time zones, adjusting is a given. It’s important to communicate with your team and find a compromise for synchronous meetings. You can also try recording meetings or set multiple meetings based on time zones. 

How often should we update our virtual onboarding training program?

We recommend looking over it as often as you hire someone. Because every person is different, you will likely find areas in need of improvement with each training. Alternatively, you could change it if/when hires provide constructive suggestions during a feedback session. 

What are some creative ways to make virtual onboarding more engaging and less transactional?

Here are two suggestions:

  • Gameify it through methods like interactive quizzes covering company history, facts about the founders/members, etc.
  • Use storytelling and visual guides like slide presentations and infographics 

Note that this is pure opinion and there really isn’t a true right or wrong way to make it engaging. We say go for whichever you enjoy or what best fits your company culture and environment you wish to foster. 

What Is Outsource School?

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Outsource School helps you to unlock the potential of virtual assistants and accelerate your business growth.

This is the exact system Outsource School’s founders, Nathan Hirsch and Connor Gillivan, used to go from zero to 8 figures and 40+ virtual assistants with an exit in 2019.

Since being founded in 2020, Outsource School has helped 1,000+ business owners hire 2,000+ virtual assistants for their companies.

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An onboarding training program is more important than some realize. It helps transition hires smoother and gives them a better sense of belonging. Through this process, hires become better prepared and motivated to continue working and growing alongside their team and your company, 

Was this helpful? Check out more from us if you’re interested in learning more about outsourcing and hiring tips.

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