Remote work has changed the employment landscape, but it has also given employers an advantage: location is no longer a barrier to talent. This is true of your employees, but it’s also true for students—you now have an entire country of eager and hardworking students to choose from, and you should take advantage of the opportunity.
While remote work placements do take more up-front planning for employers, students tend to be comfortable communicating and collaborating online, so they’ll be able to dive into the work easily. Even still, preplanning is essential: organic introductions now need to be well organized; you’ll need to ship key equipment in advance of start dates and it’s important to have a plan for regular communication and project management. Luckily, you’ll quickly establish a process that can be replicated for each student that you bring on board.
There are generally four phases to virtual onboarding, each with a different number of steps depending on your business’s needs:
While these may seem daunting, there are lots of virtual onboarding resources online, and we’ve rounded up the most useful links and articles to help you make the onboarding process easy and effective for both you and the students you hire.
Our experiences with remote work placements have given us a lot of insight into how employers can effectively onboard students. We’ve put this experience to work, and created a comprehensive and streamlined list of onboarding tips to provide a framework for success:
Job posting sites like Monster, Indeed and Randstad can be a great resource for employers, and they also offer excellent advice when it comes to navigating virtual onboarding.
Indeed’s 16-step list and Randstad’s guide to virtual onboarding covers anything and everything you’ll be planning for, from completing paperwork, setting an agenda for the first week and delivering equipment, to holding a virtual orientation, scheduling one-on-ones and facilitating spontaneity. Indeed’s guide even features checklists for pre-arrival, the first day and the first week, plus a sample virtual onboarding schedule, all of which are easily customizable for your operations. Keep in mind these guides are very detailed, so they’re most useful if you’re looking for a clear, complete step-by-step plan of action.
Monster’s remote onboarding best practices blog post emphasises the welcoming process over specific administrative tasks, which can be especially important when onboarding students. A virtual welcome event or first-day care package can go a long way to helping a student settle in and feel valued, while providing a “buddy” and scheduling opportunities to connect and check in will ensure they remain engaged and have people to turn to when questions arise.
Employers and students can quickly and easily learn about the best practices for remote onboarding through a collection of LinkedIn Learning videos. While some videos require a paid membership, the Onboarding Employees Virtually video is open to anyone with a LinkedIn account and features a lot of great advice, spanning topics like having clear documentation, setting expectations, establishing processes and training, making resources accessible, introducing a new hire to the team and providing a virtual buddy.
While this government guide is aimed at federal Treasury Board students, it gives employers a strong framework for the kind of resources and information students are going to need during a remote work placement.
You can easily reverse-engineer the advice in this guide, or others like it, to make it applicable to employers. For example, this document suggests students ask their manager to put tasks in writing—you could proactively create a shared task list so your student always knows what is expected and you can more easily manage their work experience.
If your company uses Microsoft Teams or Zoom, both offer content that can help you navigate virtual onboarding and remote work. Microsoft’s blog about how it made smart use of its own software in the pivot to work from home is very illustrative and can give you ideas of where you may experience pain points, and also how you can make the experience a bit special for students. They also have a useful guide to making the most of Microsoft Teams when working remotely.
Zoom, meanwhile, has a lot of great blogs with tips and advice to maximize the use of its platform. Advice on successfully managing a remote team, making virtual training sessions engaging and tips for collaboration and building a virtual culture can facilitate welcoming a student to the team and establish some great remote work processes.
It’s worth remembering students are very comfortable in digital spaces and have been studying in virtual environments for a year or more. They’re used to working with a lot of the software and systems your team is using. Focusing on engagement, open communication and clear processes and resources during onboarding and throughout their work placement will set everyone up for success.