Necessity is the mother of invention.
As so much of the world’s workforce continues to adjust to working in a more virtual environment than we ever have before, I will admit that I had my initial doubts on how successful a VIRTUAL new employee orientation program could be. As I prepared to wrap my head around this concept out of necessity, my mind immediately went to reminiscing about how incredibly effective our pre-pandemic in-person orientation programs flowed and the valuable bonding that occurred amongst our new associates participating in the program as we shared in interactive exercises in groups, enjoyed lunches and dinners together as a work family … this list goes on. Fast-forward to having approximately 20 new associates on our orientation registration list with no hope of traveling anytime soon and there you have it – the need to invent a new way of hosting orientation!
Amazingly, I am thrilled to share that we not only accomplished our goal of transitioning our standard orientation program (known as Impact Ethos) to a virtual environment, we did it with great success!
Here’s how we did it:
1) INITIAL EVALUATION: We evaluated each presentation that was typically shared within the traditional program to validate that it could both easily translate to a virtual delivery method and that it was valuable enough to make our abbreviated timeframe for hosting the orientation program. For the content that was easily shared in advance of the video conference via email or some alternative means that still allowed us to deliver the content to the new employees without taking valuable video-conferencing time to present, we took full advantage!
2) VALIDATE FLOW: We evaluated the flow of the content to make sure it was still necessary and optimal. For example, when the program was offered in person, we typically had our Operations team members who worked in a nearby office come to the orientation venue and personally introduce themselves. While there, one of them always liked to take a few minutes to share some tips on our time and expense system – which made it convenient for this particular team member to maximize their time contribution to the program. Once we went virtual, it was easy enough for this same resource to dial into the program at the very beginning to introduce herself and then wait until the very end of the program to dial back in and share her tips on using our time and expense system. This allowed for the flow of the content to be optimized for the new employee participants.
3) TECHNOLOGY TIPS: We also learned some technology tips along the way. In our case, we had one primary host who was responsible for advancing presentation slides at the presenter’s request. Depending on the technology you use to host your virtual program, there may be slight response time delays when the host advances the slide and when the other participants actually see the slide advance. With this in mind, we now plan on notifying all participants at the beginning of the program of these potential system response delays as to avoid presenters asking multiple times for their slides to be advanced, etc. Having some flexibility, patience and grace on the front end helps the day go that much smoother just in case you encounter any technology issues.
4) PREPARING PARTICIPANTS: As the big day of virtual orientation began, we inspired our associates by sending pre-exercises for them to work on and letting them know they would have a chance to share their exercise responses as a part of the program. This both inspired the participants while also letting them know that they would each have an opportunity to shine during the program, beyond their initial personal introductions to the team. This also serves as a great way to learn more about what is important to each new employee as they share their responses to questions like: 1) If you could only choose one word to describe Impact Advisors, what would that word be and why? or 2) Where have you seen our Impact Advisors mission to create a positive Impact in action and what fellow Impact colleague(s) were involved in your story? These questions can obviously be tailored to your organization to further reinforce your mission, values and guiding principles with your newest team members participating in the orientation program.
5) CELEBRATE YOUR VIRTUAL SUCCESS: I also write a weekly news message that is distributed to all of our employees. Once the virtual orientation program is complete, we always get a fun group shot of everyone who participated and then share the photo (along with the name of each “graduate”) in our message to share the good news across the firm.
6) ASK FOR FEEDBACK: The best way to keep improving an important program like our Impact Ethos orientation is to ask participants for their feedback. My second point about evaluating flow is inspired by talking to previous participants about the content and how it flowed throughout the day. We then incorporated feedback from the initial Ethos program to improve future virtual sessions
For a guy who wasn’t initially convinced a virtual orientation program could be an effective way to welcome new team members through your doors, I am happy to report that my initial inclinations were unwarranted. To the contrary, virtual onboarding can be (and definitely is) FUN!