Whether you are hiring someone externally, transferring someone to a new department, or promoting someone, it is essential to plan for their successful ascent from “offer accepted” to “fully performing the role.” The manager has invested so much time into creating the job description, sourcing candidates, interviewing applicants, conducting reference checks, and making a successful offer, that they may feel their work is done at that point. However, I suggest that this is when the real work begins. Your role, as the manager, is to ensure that the time it takes for the new hire to become fully effective is minimized and this means careful planning and attention to what it will take to make that happen.

Onboarding virtually is quite different than onboarding in person. Think about the simple fact of not being able to lean over to a colleague to ask a question, or the additional effort it takes for someone to show you how to do something.

As a manager, I recommend you think about what, who, and where as you build the new hire’s onboarding plan. By this I mean:

  1. What — What are the tools they will need to do their job? Think beyond the computer, phone, email address, and badge (all of which you should have readied for them by their start date). Think more about things like being added to pertinent distribution lists, access to shared files, invitations to upcoming scheduled meetings, etc.

  2. Who — Who do they need to know/know of? Again, think beyond colleagues in the department. Familiarize them with the senior leadership of the organization. It can be embarrassing for a new hire to be in a meeting with a senior executive and not know who they are. Likewise, who are the stakeholders that this person will interact with (internally and externally)? And, finally, who are those key resources that the new hire can turn to if they need help, clarification, etc?

  3. Where — Where can they find what they are looking for? Start with where resources can be found (e.g. how to navigate the intranet; the organization system of the shared drive; etc) and then begin expanding to items such as where various communications occur (e.g. “if it’s a quick question, we use Slack.” or “Monday is where we keep all of our project communications,” etc).

I suggest that you co-create a weekly onboarding checklist/calendar with the new hire. To be clear, let’s say that you believe it takes 90 days for an individual to be fully effective in the role you’ve just hired this person into. You’re going to draft a 12-week onboarding plan that breaks down what they’ll be doing each day and then you’ll meet with them to walk through the entirety of it so they can see how it maps out and offer their own thoughts and ideas. As part of this, you should meet with the new hire at the beginning or end of each week to calibrate progress — what got in the way? Where may the employee need a bit more time? What were they able to pick up faster than expected? This allows you to adjust the plan accordingly.

Finally, I would encourage you to think about how much time you are asking your employee to spend in front of the computer. Balance this with time for them to read and absorb what they are learning.