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Virtual Onboarding

Virtual meeting with two employees

Management Topic: Virtual Onboarding

Dear Colleagues, 

Congratulations! You have completed the recruitment and selection process and have successfully chosen the best candidate for your vacant position. Your candidate has accepted your offer and Campus Human Resources (CHR) has initiated the pre-boarding phase, while working to provide your new employee’s university ID number. So now what? Where should you begin? What steps should you take to onboard personnel? How does this look different in a remote environment?

You might have felt the recruitment and selection phases to be the most difficult and time-consuming process or where your primary role as a hiring manager is most important. That is not the case. Selection is only half the battle and your role as the hiring manager has actually only just begun. As a leader, it is critical that you provide new hires with a positive onboarding experience and truly set them up for success at UCLA.

This month, we will provide managers with various tools, tips and resources to ensure an efficient and positive onboarding experience for both you and your new hire in alignment with their FlexWork agreement.

Step 1: Will your new employee work a flexible or hybrid schedule?

As we progress beyond COVID-19, long-term planning has resulted in FlexWork arrangements as an option for eligible positions at UCLA. While this can be an extremely beneficial feature for your recruitment phase, it may present other unique challenges when it comes to how we invest in our employee onboarding. Onboarding employee programs should be tailored to accommodate on-campus, off-campus and hybrid working schedules. The percentage of time your employee will work on or off campus may dictate their onboarding path.

Step 2: Understand what new employee onboarding is

“Onboarding, also known as organizational socialization...refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors in order to become effective organizationally.” (Bauer, T.N., & Erdogan., B. (2011))

Onboarding is often mistaken for HR’s role in processing your new hire in UCPath and registering them for their New Employee Orientation. New Employee Orientation should be on every new employee's onboarding checklist, but is just one critical step in the overall process that provides new UCLA employees with valuable information about the University and the services and programs available. It is not where the onboarding process ends.

Step 3: Define when onboarding begins and ends

Most HR Professionals would agree that onboarding should take at least three months (the employee’s first 90 days), however research suggests companies can increase employee retention by extending the onboarding throughout the employee’s entire first year.

  • It is recommended that you begin preparing a tailored onboarding plan as soon as you initiate the recruiting and hiring phases. Develop onboarding plans based on the position level.
  • Your prepared onboarding process should begin as soon as you select your candidate.
  • While Human Resources works through the pre-boarding phase, you should be preparing your new employee’s onboarding schedule. UCLA CHR provides an orientation checklist that you can expand and make specific to your department and the position roles and responsibilities(sample list here).
  • Create standardized checklists, playbooks or virtual processes that guide both hiring managers and employees through the process for at least the first 90 days.
  • Campus Human Resources provides a variety of new employee resources to help you get your new employees settled including this Getting Started, which is divided into first days, weeks and months.

What does it mean to onboard new personnel successfully?

Several studies have shown that a structured onboarding program tailored for your employee’s needs and a positive first impression will increase overall employee satisfaction, engagement and retention. It is imperative as the hiring manager to create an environment for your new employee that provides them with a sense of belonging and sets them up for success as a member of the UCLA community even if they will work from home full time. An effective new employee onboarding process is well organized and structured with consistent communication and a clear plan. To be truly successful, onboarding experiences should “stoke an employee’s passion for the job and desire to innovate while ensuring they feel included, welcomed and committed to departmental and” university goals. (Holliday, 2020)

  • It is critical to introduce our new employees to UCLA’s Mission and Values, True Bruin Values, and Principles of Community.
  • It is also important to share your department’s and team’s culture with your new hire and familiarize them with ways you nurture the team and culture.
  • Share UCLA’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) efforts, as well as your organizational and departmental commitment to EDI and belonging.
  • Ensure your new employees are familiar with current strategic goals and objectives including UCLA Administrative Vice Chancellor Strategic Themes and Goals.
  • Provide an organizational chart and discuss priority departmental goals.
  • Review the various career development programs and training opportunities available through CHR.
  • Ensure new employees understand their roles and responsibilities. Outlining clear personnel objectives with measurable outcomes is highly recommended.
  • Develop a learning track through EH&S’s Worksafe that covers all required trainings to develop employees' skills and knowledge and to provide tracking, trending and transcripts.

Creative tips for onboarding personnel with hybrid or remote working schedules

Keeping employees engaged is more important than ever and even more challenging for staff who may never get to meet their colleagues in person. With many of us working remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can make employees feel isolated and possibly affect motivation levels, resulting in the need for creative approaches and solutions to onboarding new personnel in a remote environment.

Welcome Aboard card

The following tips are creative suggestions for helping you make your employee feel welcome:

  • Post or circulate a message to the department welcoming the new employee (you may consider including a brief introduction and biography).
  • Bring new hires on site if possible to meet colleagues and pick up equipment. If that is not feasible, make sure employees have everything they need to be online Day 1.
  • Introductions:
    1. Assign an IT resource to make sure employees can connect securely and access all needed systems.
    2. Identify key individuals for the new hire to meet with and introduce them. Then work towards introducing them to as many of their coworkers as possible.
    3. To create an inclusive work environment, new hires may feel more comfortable if there is a team discussion on learning, communication and work style preferences.
    4. Include Executive Management during the first 90 days to orient employees to the department’s aspirations.
  • UCLA has its own language. If there is a work glossary with acronyms, that may help a new hire become more familiar with the work language and jargon. UCLA’s Office of Emergency Management has provided their sample for reference and help in creating your own.
  • Consider sending Zoom kits including webcam, headset and UCLA backgrounds.
  • Tie a balloon to the employee’s work station to help colleagues find new employees (if working on-site or on a hybrid FlexWork schedule).
  • Provide your new hire the opportunity and time to settle in, but build in time for them to touch base and ask questions, especially in the first few weeks.
  • Organize a scavenger hunt to familiarize employees with the campus.
  • Host a virtual office tour and share virtual campus tours.
  • Provide an individualized remote onboarding plan with video check-ins and goals.
  • Send a handwritten note and/or some UCLA swag.
  • Schedule a Virtual Teambuilding Program.
  • Plan a team lunch or gathering in person or via zoom.
    • Consider a fun game or ice breaker: Share a UCLA fun fact you may not find online or in a history book.
  • Consider use of a Buddy program to assist you with onboarding. Here is a free Buddy Program Playbook (Google Document) you can use to get your Buddy Program started.
  • Introduce new employees to staff/employee resources and professional groups, including affinity groups, as well as other staff resources like SFCC, the LGBTQIA Resource Center, UCLA Staff Assembly, and more. Additional information can be found in August’s MMT.

Things to avoid while onboarding new personnel

  • Lack of structure, preparation and organization
  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of shared responsibilities
  • Unclear goals/expectations
  • Information overload
  • Lack of feedback regarding the process. Make sure to ask your new hire what about your onboarding process can be improved!

Follow up & the employee experience

An onboarding/new hire survey is recommended after the first few months to measure the experience for new employees and help management improve the new employee onboarding process. At UCLA, Administration’s Organizational Effectiveness and Development (OED) team offers employee satisfaction survey services to help leaders and managers maximize and optimize the investment they make in hiring and training new employees. For more information regarding these surveys, please contact


Next steps

It is your responsibility as a manager to help employees stay motivated and engaged by:

  • Ensuring your new employee has a comfortable working environment
  • Developing a career development plan and having regular career discussions with employees
  • Promoting group work across teams, departments and different levels
  • Encouraging team building through social activities
  • Recognizing and celebrating employees for their achievements

Helpful tools to learn more about this topic:

Interested in reviewing prior months’ topics? Visit our Monthly Management Tips website.

Stay Safe!

Leadership 2029

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