This article has been written by Tonia Lawrence, pursuing a Diploma in Labour, Employment and Industrial Laws for HR Managers from LawSikho and has been edited by Oishika Banerji (Team Lawsikho). 

It has been published by Rachit Garg.


The first day at a new job is always exciting for an individual, more so if you are a fresh graduate or if it’s your first job. Though the excitement comes along with anxiety about the new environment, an effective onboarding puts the employees at ease and starts off the journey on the right foot. New employee welcome celebrations, introduction to peers, welcome kits, orientation programs, etc provide various occasions for in-person interaction which in turn leads to a healthy start to gel with the new surroundings and work. This article discusses the impacts of COVID-19 on employee onboarding. 

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How COVID-19 impacted socialising at work

The business world was forced to make drastic changes to the workplace when the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the world. All the companies had to build a business continuity plan quickly to float through the unknown times. Social distancing has kept individuals from coming to the office, social interactions were nullified, and the concept of work-from-home has taken root which in turn disrupted the employee experience. The Human Resources department now had to face the most difficult situation as every function that was once interaction based, had to be remote. The recruitment, interviews, onboarding, orientation, and work were held online. With the limited interactions, the non-verbal feedback was close to nil. The intangible aspects of working from the office were absent. The human resource had to place employee well-being and mental health as a priority failing which in turn reduced productivity.

Accommodating the new onboarding process

Adapting to the new situation was the need of the hour. Companies of all sizes had to move online for continuity of business. As the first step, a communication platform for the employees had to be set up if not already implemented. An online employee portal, where the employee can log their time, can access the handbook, policies, contacts, training manuals, and other important company documents. Introductory video meetings with the manager and the teammates are critical to know the people who the employee will be working with and to develop a good relationship with them for a long-term association.  

The onboarding team of the company should have a meeting with the new employees to give a walk-through of the policies and their expectations when working remotely. Their point of contact for queries should be informed of any clarifications in the future.  While designing the onboarding process, care was to be taken to include different types of content to keep the employees engaged and for the process to be effective. The goals to be achieved were to be realistic and should not burden the employee.

To find out if the new process was being welcomed or if there were any hiccups, a feedback system was considered to be helpful for the onboarding team to revisit the process and make effective changes. The repetitive documentation workload of the Human Resources Department has thus greatly reduced, thereby increasing the efficiency of the department by focusing more on the employee engagement. 

Increasing employee engagement through effective onboarding 

Employee engagement begins with the onboarding process. Effective onboarding keeps an employee engaged for a longer period.  Keeping an employee engaged was arduous during the pandemic. Creating a positive work environment was a challenge as the environment shifted from office to home. Work now had to fit the employee’s home rather than employees fitting in the workplace. Work-life balance was considered more than ever and new company policies such as paid-time-off, mental health days, and parental time off were incorporated in many companies.  

The pandemic reinvented the employee engagement process. Keeping an open and frequent communication channel was the key. Daily team meetings and frequent, transparent communication between the management and the employees developed trust in the leaders. The performance of the employees who were truly engaged could be measured by their high productivity and good quality work. This could be achieved only by keeping the communication lines open with the team and the manager. 

Organising creative team-building activities online was quite a new concept and when organised was enjoyable and increased the comradeship among the team. Dedicated social time, which the employees quite often looked forward to when in the office, had to be taken online. As lunches and sports were out of the question, the human resource team had to find creative ways to find alternatives. And they did so! Some companies even had virtual online pizza parties!

Adverse effects of ineffective onboarding

On the contrary, if the onboarding was ineffective, the employees would require more training and guidance which takes away time for real work. This increased the cost of training and brought loss for the organisation.  The sudden change from working from the office to working from home increased the work pressure which also increased the feeling of insecurity about the job. If the job expectations were vague with infrequent communication, the employees tend to perform less and become dissatisfied with the job quickly. Thus, ineffective onboarding leads to attrition and even moonlighting. 

Though the initial months of the pandemic saw companies laying off employees, afterwards the environment changed as there was massive recruitment in technology companies. The disengaged seemed to find new work and jump ship frequently. 

Current state of onboarding

The changes brought about by the pandemic in the onboarding process have had many positive impacts on companies. The pandemic has revealed the pitfalls in the traditional onboarding process, and companies have revamped their process to maximise productivity and effectiveness. 

Advantages witnessed

The manual documentation and paperwork had moved to the online portals and the hassle of organising and managing them was eliminated. The repetitive tasks have been automated and hence increase efficiency and reduce time. All the documentation will be available readily in the portal, thus saving time and reducing stress for the HR department. The information in the portal will be consistent and can be updated if required without the struggle of paperwork. The documentation through the portals ensures that the data entered are correct and without errors. This helps in adhering to the compliance rules. 

The one-on-one training has moved online, which helps the new hires revisit the sessions and clear their doubts at ease, thus saving time and increasing productivity. A mentor or buddy can be assigned as a point of contact for the employee. As all the new hires go through the same onboarding program and tutorials, there is no ambiguity, which helps them start their job confidently and produce positive results. This increases employee satisfaction and helps in being an engaged and motivated employee. 

Since a solid remote onboarding process is in place, the employees can work from anywhere and still be connected to the system without being left out. This in effect helps businesses acquire talent from anywhere around the world and onboard them easily. An effective onboarding system helps employee retention thus reducing hiring costs and increasing efficiency. 

Disadvantages experienced

Though there are many advantages to the new online onboarding process, there are disadvantages also.

  • A poorly planned onboarding program will be ineffective and will only increase the cost of the operation. 
  • Some employees may feel isolated without direct interactions as in-person interactions can build relationships faster than online modes.
  • If there is too much information, the employee may feel the process is too overwhelming.
  • An employee might feel disengaged due to lack of in-person interactions.
  • Teamwork might be affected due to lack of communication or misunderstanding in the team. 


For remote onboarding to be successful the following steps have to be followed:

  1. The employee must be briefed clearly about the onboarding process and realisations must be set.
  2. The online training and other resources must be easily accessible to the new hire.
  3. A feedback system should be implemented to resolve any issues in the process.
  4. As the first step of introduction to the team, a buddy can be assigned to the employee. 
  5. Schedule video meetings with the team often, so that the employee is familiar with the team mates and feels inclusion is imbibed.

There is clear evidence that remote onboarding has multiplied efficiency and has reduced the time and cost which otherwise was reducing productivity. Since the resources are easily available online, there is much convenience and accessibility. Hence, an employee can be onboarded to the company from anywhere at any convenient time as online onboarding gives ease of use to both the employee and the company administration. 

Digital transformation of the online onboarding process has completely changed the productivity of the Human Resources department and the new hires. This, in turn, has favoured the companies that have adopted the system to perform better. Though there are some disadvantages to the online onboarding system, the advantages clearly outshine the disadvantaged. We are still in the early stages of adapting the new system but we can be sure that remote work and online onboarding are here to stay. 


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