They say when you meet someone for the first time, you only get one shot to make a mark. The expression, “first impressions last the longest,” has always proven true.

With companies, as with people, the onboarding process is your chance to kick things off the right way with your new employee. Virtual, or personal, the processes for welcoming your new hire should be the same.

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Why Is Onboarding Important?

To be clear, orientation and onboarding are two different events. Employee orientation starts the onboarding process but only lasts a day or two. It’s a crash course on what the company is all about, including the tools and equipment that are used to perform tasks. By contrast, onboarding starts from the day you hire your employee, and can take many months or years.

Orientation can be done even before the employee does any work, you can get administrative details out of the way, and begin acquainting the new hire to your company culture. This is then continued by the onboarding process, which works to make the employee comfortable with his role in the company, and works to nurture him into a happy, productive employee.

The Points to and Purposes of Having a Proper Onboarding Process:

1. Onboarding reduces employee turnover.

“How an employee initially perceives a company in terms of opportunity has a huge impact on how long they will stay.” (Michelle Hoover, Principal of Beam Leadership)

The orientation and onboarding processes let your new virtual assistant know all about your company: its vision and values, corporate social responsibility, the organizational structure (who reports to who), and go in deeper depth to explain what the job entails, how it is expected to be done, the deadlines for tasks and other key responsibilities.

These days, employees have an average of 11 jobs before they turn 42, with the numbers expecting to rise given the pickier, millennial mindset possessed by the incoming workforce. 87% of employees are less likely to leave if they are engaged and happy. This is more probable with a great onboarding process in place, allowing the company to introduce their company culture, mission and vision to the new hire.

2. Onboarding teaches the nitty-gritty of their job roles and the expectations they are required to fill.

A proper onboarding process includes, but is not limited to:

  • Training for your new virtual assistant
  • Policies and procedures they have to follow
  • Major responsibilities
  • Expectations on deliverables
  • And other major tools they will need to excel in the job they were hired

To do these and be able to perform her job to the best of her ability, your new virtual assistant needs the following:

a. Access to software and online tools.

Even if your virtual assistant has been working in the field for many years, she will need training to learn about your company’s unique processes and systems. Each company uses different tools to accomplish tasks, and your virtual assistant will be expected to know all these. Make a list of all tools, applications and software you utilize, provide her with a company email that she can use for access, and make sure this email is enrolled in all of them.
Giving her an official email address with the company domain not only helps in separating business from personal emails, but you can also more easily remove access to your business files by deleting the email you had assigned in case of employee resignation or termination.

b. A list of tasks to be done.

Together with a written and easily accessible guide to policies and procedures, make sure your virtual assistant also has a list of tasks that need to be done, together with a good description and end goal for each.
Virtual assistants do better in their jobs if they are taught the context for their tasks. Letting them know and understand the company’s shared goals make them feel more a part of the organization despite the virtual nature of the work.
This can also help them assess where the task lies in urgency and importance, and enable them to see the impact of their role in helping the company achieve its goals.

c. Clear expectations.

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Expressing your expectations can go a long way to starting your relationship off on the right foot. You need to express what she can expect from you as a boss, and what you expect from her in terms of work, attitude, and communication.

The list of expectations can include:

  • How she can get in touch with you
  • The frequency of communication (every day/ once a week, etc. depending on what you require) and the modes to be used (email, text, video call, etc.)
  • Dates set for regular meetings
  • Deadlines and deliverables
  • What to do if a deadline is missed
  • What to do in case of sickness, dates for days-off and holidays (this is especially important if you live in a different country from your VA, and you celebrate different holidays and festivals)
  • Accountability and measurement of performance
  • Key responsibilities
  • Compensation and benefits (if any)

3. Onboarding Allows Your Virtual Assistant to be Productive ASAP.

For a business to hire a virtual assistant, usually means there’s a desperate necessity for one. The learning curve is big, and it’s steep. Most businesses underestimate how much the virtual assistant ensures a smooth flow of all transactions, and serves as the gatekeeper of all details.

When new employees are onboarded properly, they learn more things about their new company and their roles, not just from you, or human resources, but also from other employees, especially those who have been in the company longer. This allows them to reach productivity faster and easier. Without onboarding, it will take your virtual assistant up to a year to get used to your company and figure out how things are done. This can result in losses of up to 2.5%!

Longer onboarding training has been proven to have the most impact on whether or not an employee stays or leaves. This is because it can take up to 6 months for an employee to decide if your company is a place they see a future in. To convince her that your business is a great place to work at, continuous follow-up and training can help alleviate concerns and make your virtual assistant feel comfortable and at home.

This will show her that you’re not only interested in training her, but that you have an interest in her continuous growth, improvement and well-being.

“Organizations with strong onboarding processes improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.” (The True Cost of a Bad Hire)

4. Onboarding alleviates anxiety.

Training can be tough when it comes to virtual employees, and you should take advantage of whatever online tools you have at your disposal to welcome your virtual assistant into the company.

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” (Sybil F. Stershic)

Onboarding provides your VA with a first look at your company culture and how it will be like to work for you. We’ve all experienced new employee anxiety; teaching your virtual assistant everything she will need to know to do her job will empower her and help alleviate this stress.

A strong onboarding process results in happier employees. If you do your onboarding properly, your virtual assistant should be able to know not only what her role is in the company and how to go about succeeding in it, but also how she contributes to what you’re trying to accomplish, and how this role fits in with the rest of the company. This will help build relationships between your employees and foster communication between them despite the physical distance. Being friends with your co-workers always makes responsibilities easier to bear.

Final Thoughts

Employee engagement and retention are great measures that companies keep an eye on. When your employees are happy and motivated, it can affect all aspects of your business. Onboarding is a great way to engage your employees from the very beginning. Even working virtually, having a clear-cut and organized onboarding process in place for your virtual assistant and other new employees is of utmost importance. You have the chance to push forward a positive and welcoming first impression and kick things off on a high note.

Onboarding is crucial, not just because this is the time you provide your virtual assistant with everything she needs to succeed in her job, but because it shows a concern for the bigger picture. Beyond the training, it shows an emphasis on continuous development. In today’s employee-centric world, the onboarding process can give you an edge to hiring and keeping great talent. By aligning your virtual assistant’s role with that of the company, she will realize how her role fits in your company’s culture, and how it is valued and important to achieving business goals and success, resulting in a happier, more engaged, and productive VA.

“The only thing worse than training employees and losing them, is to not train them and keep them.” (Zig Ziglar)