A n undervalued element of in-person onboarding programs is the importance to new employees of social interactions with their peers and associates. Numerous studies have shown that these connections help to both orientate and encourage.

Being well connected to your coworkers reduces turnover and generally improves early productivity.

There’s also some evidence that this process helps “imprint” corporate culture. The interactions set expectations and communicate some of your culture’s subtler elements that otherwise may take a new person a while to identify and adopt.

An online meet and greet will just not offer the same level of connection or interaction as an in-person meeting, coffee, or lunch.

If your onboarding is now virtual, how can you ensure that an appropriate social dimension is included and effective?

Build in a social element from the ground up:

Make an effort to include a wide variety of virtual social elements. It’s not the same as in person, but at least it can be a reasonable facsimile.

Group events, meet and greet, and one-on-ones with colleagues, coworkers, and management are just some of the possibilities. Recruiting established employees and leaders to spend “quality” time is a good approach. Avoid the situation where busy leaders pop-in, dump data and run to their next meeting. Coach your presenters to allow for extended discussion and interactions after their sessions. Explain the importance of this process and how their participation can really make a difference.

In addition, there are a number of virtual event platforms that are relatively simple and inexpensive to use. They give you a chance to create self-serve interactions with various groups or departments. Employees can follow their own path depending on their role and interests. Hold a “Welcome” conference for a few hours. It’s not an unreasonable investment and after all no one has to leave their desks to take part.

Job satisfaction is often associated with workplace attitudes such as involvement in the organization, relatedness with co-workers/customers/managers, attachment, motivation — Semih Tumen & Tugba Zeydanli

Incentivize Network Development:

It sounds like a computing thought! There are a growing number of programs and systems to help encourage and measure how connected someone is to their new organization.

They typically offer a way to book informal meetings, provide guidance as who to meet with and even background material. Their aim is to encourage as many interactions as possible with the minimum amount of effort on the part of the managers and coworkers involved.

A component of any such system is measuring and monitoring progress for both HR and the employee’s management and providing the employee both encouragement and feedback.

Some programs involve gamification, leader boards, points, and even achievement awards. There are a lot of attractive tools to consider, but it’s important to find one that fits your culture and employee population.

Recognize the need for extended onboarding:

It’s common to think that virtual onboarding saves time and money. In some obvious ways, it does—for example, no travel costs, hotel expenses, etc. It doesn’t end there, though. In many ways, virtual is less effective at achieving the primary aim of onboarding – getting the recruit mentally engaged and contributing effectively.

Remote onboarding allows some people to remain aloof, reserve judgment, and avoid making commitments that would occur more naturally in in-person settings. It’s hard to tell who is in and who is not connected.

Repetition and reinforcement are a good solution. When the employee begins to interact with the organization, they are naturally more engaged. Examples are more real to them, early issues can be used as coaching opportunities, and regular sessions help improve professional connections with their coworkers.

Take every opportunity to get real:

Even in today’s modified work environment, there are still times when employees travel to your home office. Getting management agreement to take every opportunity to continue the onboarding process is a great practice. It’s never too late to encourage interaction and the development of connections.


Onboarding has become a lot harder work for trainers and HR. The benefits are still there – employee retention and effectiveness, but it’s harder to measure your success and it’s a lot more work.

You don’t want to wait until the turnover numbers shoot up to find out you’re not entirely on the right track.

Take heart, though. There’s a lot of satisfaction to be had from getting a virtual onboarding program right especially if it includes a comprehensive social dimension.

Read more about onboarding here.