Compared to being onboarded in the office, is onboarding remotely more effective, less effective or equally effective? Why?

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CIO / Managing Partner in Manufacturing, 2 - 10 employees
COVID has changed the way we think about some of these things, and onboarding remotely can still be effective. When I started this role, I didn't actually meet any of the senior team face-to-face for almost three months. But the company has done a really good job of developing onboarding practices. The first two weeks consist of a series of one-hour sessions with different departments to give you an overview of what each department does. They do this for new employees at all levels. The sessions give you an introduction to the business via departments across the company, and understanding the products is included in that as well. 
CIO Strategic Advisor in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees
I think that you have a much richer onboarding experience if you can do it in person. If I'm going to work for someone and the two of us are going to get a cup of coffee, we might talk about things that we do outside of work, like leisure activities, family or personal interests. Or, if they decide we’re just onboarding for the day, they can get a group of folks together for lunch. I would say that nine times out of ten, the conversation at lunch is not going to be about the company or the work. It will be about something else completely different.

That’s important, not just to get a sense of belonging, but also to help build a deeper relationship with the person you’re working for. It’s an opportunity to get to know what their interests might be. Knowing those things is important because then you know what they might be incentivized or motivated by. You're not going to get that when you're onboarding virtually, so I don’t think it’s a better experience. I would personally get a better experience if it were in person.
1 Reply
CIO / Managing Partner in Manufacturing, 2 - 10 employees

Even though I've done it virtually, I agree in lots of ways. But I think you can form strong relationships without being there in person. There are benefits to in-person interactions, as you said, like grabbing lunch or coffee; they do help to build those bonds. But if you work at it, it can be done without them.

Sr. Director, Information Technology in Manufacturing, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
When it comes specifically to the onboarding post-pandemic, the process is actually being accelerated.  Due to the extended virtual working arrangements, the level of investment in digital content for thinks like company policies, procedures, welcome messages from senior leadership, benefits overviews, etc. increased overall. This allows onboarding associates to review these materials at their own pace.  The amount of time spent in “live” (virtual) meetings can reduced and be focused on areas requiring discussion, Q&A, review of various paperwork and enrollments, and so on.   With the amount of fully remote roles increasing across industries, companies must be prepared to deliver an onboarding process which is consistent with the overall remote working experience. 
Group CIO in Finance (non-banking), 1,001 - 5,000 employees
There are pros and cons to both in my opinion.  Remote onboarding gives more flexibility - it readily facilitates the onboarding of persons who do not live in the vicinity of the office thus expanding geographical reach.  It also facilitates flexible timing.  I find you are able to virtually meet more persons in a shorter space of time, so for a large team you will "meet" everyone a bit more quickly.  However, it does not support building strong relationships as readily as in-person interactions.  It takes much longer to feel like you "belong" and to become part of the fabric of the organization which is important to really fostering engagement.  Remote onboarding gives some short-term gains that may result in medium-to-long term pains.
CISO in Healthcare and Biotech, 2 - 10 employees
More effective, more convenient.  Touchless Just-In-Time provisioning allows hardware to be shipped directly to remote users, not requiring a visit to the office.  Video conferencing has become the norm and the use of applications like Teams or Slack allows everyone to stay connected. 

In my opinion, person to person still remains the best way to interactively exchange information, or brainstorm - however tools like Mural allow better whiteboarding experiences, with simultaneous updates for users.  Person to person, face to face interaction with your manager or half day new employee onboarding sessions remain the best way to imbue focus and culture than just reading the company employee manual cannot hope to match. 
Director of IT in Software, 201 - 500 employees
It’s certainly less effective and more challenging. Now, during Covid, there was not much options.
Now that we are back in office, I find it beneficial if the onboarding cannot be done in person (for remote employees) to bring them to the office for at least a week to meet with their team, build a relationship and do some training. This has been very effective.
Director of I.T. in Education, 51 - 200 employees
The process of completing required paperwork while onboarding remotely can be more flexible.  However, it's sometimes difficult to build relationships or meet other members of your team if you're the remote worker.  For small businesses without mature remote onboarding processes it might all feel very ad hoc, particularly for the new hire.  I agree that the work relationships can still be successfully built remotely, but it takes time.

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