Virtual onboarding: getting it right

05 Nov 2020

Virtual onboarding: getting it right

Joining a new organization is never easy, especially for senior leaders, but there are several things that organizations can do to create a great transition period. To get advice, Elaine Grotefeld, Partner in the Odgers Berndtson Technology Practice, recently caught up with Nancy Tichbon, Managing Director at Sage Canada. Now six months into her role, Nancy’s shares what she learned about effective onboarding and leading a virtual team—without ever having met a single colleague in person.

When Nancy Tichbon left a great leadership role back in late March, at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of her friends and colleagues didn’t understand her decision. Why would she leave something safe and secure amid so much chaos and uncertainty?  

But for Nancy, stepping into the role of Managing Director for Sage Canada was a dream opportunity. Joining the global tech company, well known for its accounting and finance, HR and business management software for small- and mid-sized businesses, offered the type of professional challenges and leadership growth that she was looking for. But in the middle of Nancy’s interview process, the world quickly began to shut down, everybody went into quarantine, and work shifted online. Nancy would now be joining an organization without having met a single person face-to-face and would need to onboard 100% remotely.

Elaine Grotefeld, Partner in the Odgers Berndtson Technology Practice, recently caught up with Nancy to learn from her experience and share some best practice advice for effective virtual onboarding. As Nancy shares, “this is a time when we need to do things differently and hold ourselves to a higher standard as leaders.”

Watch the interview now:

Joining a new organization is challenging at the best of times, especially in a senior leadership role where expectations are high and you need to build relationships quickly with your peers. Doing it 100% online creates several additional challenges and makes it harder to build personal relationships. Luckily, Sage is an organization that has always been committed to building a strong, supportive, people-first culture, and the organization was able to quickly pivot to deliver effective onboarding, despite the challenges. Nancy describes, “the team at Sage focused on creating many opportunities to connect and touch-base throughout my first few weeks. It felt like the global executive team completely wrapped their arms around me—all virtually, of course—and provided the support I needed to succeed in my new role.”

Nancy quickly learned that booking time to connect with staff beyond her immediate team and finding ways to recreate the water cooler chats in a virtual environment were key, as was constantly asking herself “what impact did I have today?” Her advice to new leaders? “Turn up your level of self-awareness every day and check in with yourself and your team to ensure that everybody is supported and moving together in the right direction.”

Getting Support

While most organizations are well intentioned, many don’t have the capacity or systems in place to adequately support their leaders during the onboarding process. Leveraging external onboarding services can support leaders through transitions and help executives forge relations with their board and senior team, focus on key deliverables, navigate complex external relations/stakeholders, and identify leadership opportunities.

At Odgers Berndtson, we have experience supporting newly onboarded leaders and helping them be effective as they transition. Learn more about our Executive Onboarding and Executive Coaching services now.