CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES: VIRTUAL ONBOARDING IN THE POST-COVID-19 ERA
Nine months later, as the second wave of infections emerges, the world continues the uncertain war against coronavirus. But just like the struggle continues, so does the relentless human ability to adapt and learn how to navigate the new realm. The response is clear: the show must go on.
The pandemic might be stubborn, continuously affecting all aspects of our lives, but so is our determination to overcome its aftermaths. Recruiting is one of the best examples of how COVID-19 can entice evolution and idea generation.
If one year ago somebody said that in 2020, hiring and onboarding will be remote, the majority would probably think that person has seen too many sci-fi movies. But when coronavirus took over the world, recruiters didn’t fall into desperation. They found an opportunity within the challenge. Instead of being frozen in time, onboarding progressed and found its place in virtual reality.
Although the new virtual onboarding is exciting and promising, it is also a source of obstacles and questions. It is time to reflect on the last nine months and examine virtual onboarding and its future in the post-COVID-19 era.
COMMUNICATIONAL CHALLENGES OF VIRTUAL ONBOARDING
Only 33 per cent of organisations had a recruitment strategy that covers remote recruiting. As most companies weren’t ready when the pandemic hit, they had triage procedures trying to address the new challenges.
Talent management and employee onboarding couldn’t stop, meaning that recruiters had to come up with effective strategies while keeping candidates engaged. If office onboarding wasn’t safe anymore, remote welcoming of employees was the next logical solution. But there are a few elements virtual reality can’t replace, and one of them is face to face communication.
Recruiters use video platforms to conduct virtual onboarding, which can impair participants’ ability to decode a message. Both the hiring managers and new employees have to rely strictly on words when getting to know each other, without the help of body language and hand gestures. Thus, audio delays can deter virtual onboarding because they have the potential of triggering distrust between the participants.
Recruiters must develop an all-encompassing virtual onboarding program that can mitigate the lack of in-person communication by nurturing transparency and allowing weekly webinars and frequent updates. If employees receive a comprehensive introduction that emulates the one they would receive in person, they will feel a sense of connection and trust. That is crucial because 69 per cent of employees are more likely to stay with a company after a great onboarding experience.
THE MISSING HUMAN ELEMENT
Virtual onboarding tends to feel depersonalised and distant. Employees no longer have the opportunity to have their manager walk them through a building, show them where a coffee machine is, or how to find cantina. It is easy to perceive virtual reality as a killer of warmth due to the lack of human element. Yet, it’s not impossible to make virtual onboarding more genuine and pleasant.
As long as humans are running the program, employees shouldn’t feel that element missing. Recruiters can still achieve a friendly and welcoming atmosphere by implementing encouraging veteran and passionate employees to have greeting sessions with the new employees. They can talk about their experience and transfer their zest for the company to their new colleagues.
Besides, new employees might find it hard to form connections in a remote workplace. Managers can organise virtual gatherings for those that joined the company recently, allowing them to exchange stories and build relationships. That is also a chance to nurture an inclusive and diverse culture, connecting fresh hires from different backgrounds and cultures.
Understanding the company’s culture and brand will have a beneficial effect on new employee’s integration. It is recommendable to create an insightful onboarding program that answers all employee’s questions and doubts. Putting in place an app or virtual help desk is a great idea to keep employees in the loop and provide them with all the information they want to know.
ENGAGING AND STABLE CULTURE
No matter how thorough a virtual onboarding program might be, some employees still won’t feel as comfortable as they would in a traditional setting. No solution will satisfy every person, which is why recruiters need to listen and respond.
Well-being surveys as a part of virtual onboarding are an effective way to check up on everyone and identify those employees that might still feel lost or disconnected. By integrating regular well-being checks, recruiters will gain insights into how the employees are feeling, what would they enhance, and what they can add to the program to make it more complete.
When employers listen and address their employees’ needs, they grow a culture of adaptability, which helps it be stable and immersive. That way, their virtual onboarding strengthens the capacity of adjusting to uncertainties and making employees feel safe.
THE POTENTIAL OF IMMERSIVE TECHNOLOGY
The average new employee onboarding experience consists of 54 activities, including 41 administrative tasks. That can be beyond overwhelming because most organisations stop their onboarding processes after the first week. Because of that, many start using HR software or ATS, especially larger companies, that are more likely to use technological solutions.
Many organisations will find technology to be their best support in virtual onboarding in the post-COVID-19 era. The pandemic is triggering a new virtual realm where various recruiting systems and platforms will become traditional tools in remote onboarding. But there is a potential for the rise of another kind of technology. – Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR).
A VR experience doubles information retention among new employees compared to viewing a video or text-based learning materials. Thus, VR training in a virtual onboarding allows employees to genuinely experience and meet their workplace and culture. The engaging nature of VR lets new hires even see how their usual coffee break might be, it can be something that can really highlight culture and behaviours of the teams.
By allowing immersive training that simulates real-life experience, VR can enhance remote onboarding and become its crucial element in the post-COVID-19 era. Thanks to that, immersive technology might be the last step in virtual onboarding’s evolution, and it has the potential to revolutionise the entire HR.