Insight Blog

6 Considerations for Virtual Onboarding

6 Considerations for Virtual Onboarding In the midst of a global health and economic crisis, organizations are adapting and continuing to conduct business. According to Helbling Managing Director (Southeast) Wes Miller, “We are in a unique time and although some industries have paused hiring decisions, we have certain clients with critical hiring needs. They must continue to interview and onboard key candidates to their organizations.”

Miller cites university and healthcare clients among those needing to maintain, clean, and provide utilities to their campuses as well as architecture, engineering, and construction industry clients faced with ongoing projects.

Many Helbling clients have conducted video interviews with candidates, and some have implemented virtual orientation and onboarding activities. If work must begin remotely, how can they acclimate a new team member? Our talent acquisition experts provide six considerations for virtual onboarding:

Computer and Equipment for Remote Access

It is important to start with the basics. Will the new employee use a computer provided by the hiring organization? If so, can it be shipped to the person’s home? IT personnel recommend that individuals test home internet speed and connectivity upon setting up new devices. It is actually a good practice for anyone working from home. Here are links to two common providers’ tests: 

A representative from the hiring organization should also be in contact prior to the new hire’s start date to evaluate whether additional equipment (printer, scanner, camera, phone), accessories (mouse, keyboard), or office supplies are needed. If these items were not pre-ordered, the organization may provide the new employee a budget to acquire them from an online retailer that offers home delivery.

Orientation with Human Resources

Usually, a new employee meets with someone from the human resources or talent management office for an orientation about the hiring organization. This may include a review of a handbook or operations manual containing policies and procedures for staff members, information about schedules, pay periods, paid time off (PTO), and medical benefits as well as how to pose any questions or concerns.
For organizations with multiple campuses or office locations, the orientation may already be web-based. If not, can a slide presentation be shared via an online meeting platform? Ideally, can the facilitator lead the orientation via video conferencing to make it a more personal experience?

Completion of Form I-9 and Other Documents

Paperwork required by the organization, such as an acceptance of offer for employment and acknowledgement of receipt of a handbook or manual, may need to be processed in a timely manner. USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office) mandates that an organization verify an employee's identity and employment authorization using Form I-9 within three business days of their date of hire. The employee must present evidencing documents, and the employer must examine the documents. Since impossible to do this virtually, some organizations now utilize E-Verify, a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm an employee is authorized to work in the United States. (For more information, visit

Sometimes local tax forms must be completed prior to an employee’s first pay period. Is the new employee working from home in one state for an organization based in another state? If so, there could be additional documents involved. The general rule for telecommuting is that an employee files a return only in the state he/she is physically present in when performing services. However, the states of Delaware, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania have a much harsher rule: If employees do not meet an exception, they may be expected to file a non-resident return for “working” in one of those states as well as a resident return in their home state.

Tour of Campus

For those hired for a facilities management, capital construction, or asset management role, a tour of the university or business campus was likely part of the interview process. It is important to also provide visual access to the space once the employee has accepted an offer of employment. What options exist to view the buildings and grounds without physically being on campus? Is there a drone that can conduct a flyover tour? Could a facilities team member with access do a walk-through on FaceTime or a mobile video conferencing app? Can someone record videos or still images of problem areas or areas that will need to be addressed quickly? Does the communications department have images or video on file?

Providing a virtual tour is not only helpful for the new employee, but also a thoughtful and welcoming gesture.

Meetings with Teammates or Staff Members

With physical distancing and shelter in place orders still in effect for many states, meetings will be via phone or video conferencing platform for now. As the hiring organization, allow time for the new employee to adjust to technology that your team has adopted. [Editor’s note: For tips on video conferencing, view the recent Helbling blog post.]

Schedule a combination of one-on-one and group meetings so the new hire can interact with and get to know people on an individual basis. Allow time in the agenda for casual conversation and consider virtual lunches, coffee breaks, or happy hours to encourage camaraderie.

Goal Planning

Goal planning is a common practice so that the hiring manager and new employee can determine KPIs (key performance indicators) and collectively set milestones for success. Usual circumstances dictate planning by quarter and year. As coverage of the current crisis dominates the news media, organizations and individuals are processing information quicker and planning week by week. Most people are asking: What will it look like when we come out of this?

Miller’s take: “Although we cannot predict what will come in the following weeks or months, it is certain that we will need to adapt and evolve. Clients are strategizing now on how they can best conduct business when we get to a ‘new normal’.” 
One suggestion is to goal plan by one week, two weeks, one month, two months, and one quarter (7/14/30/60/90 days). Consider three scenarios for each time frame; for example, in an educational setting, think about remote work and classes, transitional time, and a new normal for campus life. Even though the plan may have to be updated and shifted often, it provides a roadmap for the team and some stability in a most unstable time.

Other Advice

What advice is there for those apprehensive to hire or onboard in the near future?
“While we are seeing some organizations aggressively pursue talent to better position themselves, other groups are extremely cautious at this time,” says Miller. For those organizations that have considered making an offer but are unsure when the candidate can start or relocate, or when either party can address other factors, he recommends the use of a contingent offer letter. The letter could state: We are presenting the following contingent letter of employment offer as an act of good faith of our intent for formal offer once the business environment stabilizes.

This can help to ensure the candidate and hiring organization agree on the terms, and it can reassure both parties that the alliance will be solidified when the timing is appropriate.