Jenna Stocks

June 22, 2020

Posted by Network HR

Virtual onboarding - how do candidates really feel about the 'virtual experience'​?

Having read numerous articles and blogs abound the global pandemic, there appears to be an awful lot of research and insights out there for organisations that have had to quickly adapt to change. One of the biggest changes being ‘virtual onboarding’ for new employees. Having worked in recruitment for 15+ years and understanding just how important the onboarding and integration process is, I wanted to dive deeper in to, potentially one of the biggest changes to the recruitment process and what it feels like from a candidate perspective.

There is no question about it, businesses that have adapted to this change and still managed to onboard during some of the toughest times businesses have faced, deserve the recognition and a round of applause. The general feeling is that candidates feel grateful to be able to start a new role (in some instances their ‘dream job’) as opposed to pausing on start dates and pushing start dates back, which can make candidates feel very nervous about whether the offer could potentially be pulled somewhere down the line. The general feeling is that candidates would rather be onboarded virtually as opposed to delaying the start date for a more ‘traditional onboarding’ experience.


Having engaged with my HR network who have experienced the virtual onboarding process first hand, I wanted to explore some key questions (which I am sure my clients will want to hear);

1)     How was the virtual onboarding process?

There is no doubt about it – it feels VERY different. Whilst the onboarding platforms (depending on which one you use) are sophisticated, user friendly and pretty simple to navigate, candidates feel slightly dis-engaged by the use of technology as opposed to a traditional induction process.

There were certainly some pros in this department, particularly around the time it takes to onboard. These platforms can reduce onboarding time by 66% which is great, however I would be interested to dig deeper around attrition rates in 1-2 year’ time to see whether this process runs the risk of higher attrition due to the lack of engagement from the off.

Overall, candidates felt this is a great short term solution, and in some cases (particularly for blue collar, technical environments and senior roles) this would be the perfect solution.

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2)     How does this compare to the traditional onboarding process?

The biggest thing highlighted in this piece of research is the cultural environment which is one of top three reasons why candidates look for a new role is cultural change. Think about your very first day starting a new role. Can you remember what it feels like walking in to a new office? Greeted by friendly faces (in most cases), the countless conversations trying to cover your whole life story in a 5 minute introduction, the bottle of bubbles left on your desk and greeting card surrounded by all your brand new stationery. But most importantly, being surrounded by experience! Being able to instantly lift your head and ask the closest person to you a question is invaluable. Watching, listening and absorbing as much detail as you possibly can in your new surroundings is invaluable. Countless face to face meetings, 121 time, recognition and direct feedback from your colleagues and managers is invaluable. However, we all know that all of the above can have an impact on productivity and one thing that became apparent from my research is that candidates had less ‘downtime’ and are able to work more quickly and effectively.

Please note; I am fully aware that not everyone works in an office by the way, but based on my research and the candidates who came back to me, they all worked in white collar environments.


3)     What would you change about the virtual process?

The main point that was highlighted is the disconnect that candidates feel. Feelings like;

How am I doing?

Should I be doing more?

Where can I find the answer to?

Who should I speak with regarding?

The feedback from candidates was that it really is a great solution however, some companies have reacted quickly and haven’t really thought about the minor details. Don’t get me wrong, there are some organisations out there who have been virtually onboarding for quite some time and do it very well, but for many they have had no choice but to react quickly meaning that the little details have been left behind.

Below are some valuable suggestions that I discussed with candidates;

Links to join into any video conferences taking place (may sound simple but there is a lot of downtime and meeting cancellations due to not planning and organising in advance)

·        A clear agenda of what they should expect for their first few days

·        What time their onboarding sessions will begin and end

·        How they can prepare (strong wifi connection, a quiet space to work, web cam etc)

·        Virtual team meeting to discuss the team culture and expectations

·        Virtual introduction to support teams / leaders and cross functional-teams

·        Virtual team meeting to discuss the team culture and expectations

Assigning 3-4 tasks they can complete over their first few weeks

·        Virtual team lunches

·        Out of work virtual social event (quizzes, karaoke etc)

·        Having a buddy / mentor – a ‘go to’

·        Document and refine the process - ask candidates the value they got from your virtual onboarding process. By constantly evaluating and improving the process, you can help remote workers adjust to their new roles more easily and can refine for future remote hires

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Successful onboarding ensures a clear path for employees as they join a new company. Even in these unprecedented times, the shift to remote working shouldn’t prevent new employees from having a positive experience when starting a new role. Indeed, a good onboarding experience will eliminate many of the ambiguities and confusion surrounding virtual work, allowing new team members to settle into their roles quickly and begin to build the relationships and trust they need to deliver results.