Gartner Research

Managing the New Hire Experience During and After COVID

Published: 22 April 2020


HR professionals can use this research to learn about the different stages of the journey of a virtually onboarded new hire and identify areas where they need to take action to enhance the new hire’s experience.

COVID-19 has had an inconceivable impact on the world so far and continues to create new challenges. The global outbreak of COVID-19 has prompted many organizations to instruct large numbers of employees to work from home temporarily as a business continuity strategy and a form of social distancing to contain the spread of the virus. To tackle this new work situation, organizations are quickly adjusting their talent processes.

Organizations that are continuing to hire new employees in this scenario are compelled to onboard them virtually. This is a significant departure from the traditional onboarding process in which new employees typically participated in a series of in-person meetings with HR, managers, leadership and team members to build a first impression of the organization.

By being onboarded in a virtual setting, new hires tend to lose the spontaneous learning opportunities offered by informal interactions with their peers. Our research indicates that 74% of new hires consider their peers to be the most helpful source of support during onboarding. When onboarded virtually, new hires may not explicitly seek information about the team’s values, structures, or procedures and lose the opportunity to learn about informal workplace norms that they could by observing their peers. Moreover, at the organizational end, managers may be overwhelmed as they may still be learning to manage their teams virtually.

In order for HR to pivot the process and ensure that they enhance the experience of new hires getting onboarded virtually, they first need to understand what a new hire might be experiencing in their virtual onboarding journey. Using a journey map approach will help identify areas where the virtual onboarding experience differs from the in-person onboarding experience and help organizations prioritize areas where they need to enhance the virtual onboarding experience.

What is a Journey Map?

In order to successfully understand the virtual experience of new hires, the first step is to map the entire gamut of stakeholders the new hires would be meeting through the different stages of their onboarding journey. Use the sample provided below to modify the touchpoints and stakeholders for your organization’s new hires.

Conduct interviews or group discussions with recently onboarded employees, remote working employees and managers to identify specific challenges related to onboarding in a virtual setting. Gather information on what the new hire was expecting, doing, feeling and thinking at each stage. Some ideas to collate this information are listed below:

  • Have a check-in with new hires who have recently joined and experienced the virtual onboarding process.

  • Conduct virtual focus group discussions (2-5 members) with remote workers who were onboarded virtually to understand what they went through at each of these stages.

Once you complete your interactions, use the sample below to understand how to embed your insights from the interview and consolidate the new hires’ experience in a journey map.

Identify gaps between the new hire’s experience and expectations at each stage. Prioritize actions that you can immediately take to ensure a better experience for the next batch of new hires. Partner with other stakeholders such as HRBPs, recruiters, learning advisors and managers to create an updated onboarding plan. Assign ownership for each activity in the onboarding plan, identify the right stakeholders to conduct each activity and create new content that is specifically relevant to a virtually onboarded new hire.

The sample below provides the potential action steps that HR Professionals could take to enhance the new hires’ virtual onboarding experience. Use this sample to customize solutions for your organization.

Considering these COVID times, the new hire experience doesn’t end here. There is another extremely important stage in the new hire journey.

New hires who are onboarded virtually will start coming to the workplace once the restrictions on movement are lifted. This will be a completely new stage in their onboarding journey. They will be in a whole new setting and again be the ‘new person at work’. They will have information about their role, about the organization but will need to start socially integrating themselves with their team. They would have to unlearn the remote working norms and learn the behaviors and cultural norms of the workplace.

This is where HR professionals will have a crucial role to play in enabling managers and peers to empathize with the new hires and help them acclimatize to the new environment.

Managers will be required to re-welcome the new hire and help them feel included in the team. Peer mentors will be required to help the new hire set up their workspace and introduce them to the larger team and to employees who sit in the vicinity of the new hire’s desk. HR will need to set up a real estate orientation session for the new hire that would include a workplace tour.

As organizations deal with the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, it has become imperative for them to prepare for its short- and long-term impact. Organizations that continue to hire or onboard new hires need to ensure they understand the needs of the new reality and tailor their processes accordingly.

Recommended by the Authors

This resource outlines considerations for HR professionals transitioning their organization’s onboarding from an in-person to virtual setting.

Use this guide to understand how employees interact with and experience the organization, represent the employee experience in a compelling journey map, prioritize gaps to address and create a plan to enhance employee experience.


2017 Q2 Gartner global Labor Market Survey; n = 1,897 employees.


HR Practitioner Research Team

Access Research

Already a Gartner client?

To view this research and much more, become a client.

Speak with a Gartner specialist to learn how you can access peer and practitioner research backed by proprietary data, insights, advice and tools to help you achieve stronger performance.

By clicking the "Continue" button, you are agreeing to the Gartner Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Gartner research: Trusted insight for executives and their teams

What is Gartner research?

Gartner research, which includes in-depth proprietary studies, peer and industry best practices, trend analysis and quantitative modeling, enables us to offer innovative approaches that can help you drive stronger, more sustainable business performance.

Gartner research is unique, thanks to:

Independence and objectivity

Our independence as a research firm enables our experts to provide unbiased advice you can trust.

Actionable insights

Not only is Gartner research unbiased, it also contains key take-aways and recommendations for impactful next steps.

Proprietary methodologies

Our research practices and procedures distill large volumes of data into clear, precise recommendations.

Gartner research is just one of our many offerings.

We provide actionable, objective insight to help organizations make smarter, faster decisions to stay ahead of disruption and accelerate growth.

Tap into our experts

We offer one-on-one guidance tailored to your mission-critical priorities.

Pick the right tools and providers

We work with you to select the best-fit providers and tools, so you avoid the costly repercussions of a poor decision.

Create a network

Connect directly with peers to discuss common issues and initiatives and accelerate, validate and solidify your strategy.

Gartner ReimagineHR Conference

Join your peer CHROs and HR leaders from leading organizations to discuss specific HR challenges and learn about top HR trends, insights and priorities.

©2022 Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Gartner is a registered trademark of Gartner, Inc. and its affiliates. This publication may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without Gartner’s prior written permission. It consists of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization, which should not be construed as statements of fact. While the information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartner research may address legal and financial issues, Gartner does not provide legal or investment advice and its research should not be construed or used as such. Your access and use of this publication are governed by Gartner’s Usage Policy. Gartner prides itself on its reputation for independence and objectivity. Its research is produced independently by its research organization without input or influence from any third party. For further information, see Guiding Principles on Independence and Objectivity.