Case Studies of Companies that have Implemented Successful Virtual Onboarding/Training Experiences for New Hire Employees

The research team has curated six case studies of companies that have implemented successful virtual onboarding/training experiences for new hire employees. Notably, NEO, LinkedIn, ServiceNow, Sprouts Farmer’s Market, Dell and a professional services company exemplify how different, virtual approaches to new hire onboarding can address the varied needs of large and/or digital-first organizations that are expanding their ranks of customer service staff and employees in general.

1. NEO

  • Marketing automation software startup NEO recently implemented a new virtual employee onboarding program in order to facilitate the rapid expansion of its customer sales and support teams.
  • After closing a Series B funding round, NEO needed to quickly deploy this new working capital to hire and train the “best and brightest inside sales and customer support talent.”
  • However, the startup had the unique challenge of training a geographically dispersed team of new recruits that worked entirely in remote settings from home-based, virtual offices.
  • Additionally, NEO wanted to ensure that any virtual onboarding program went above and beyond product education to fully educate new hires on the company’s “brand, mission, messaging, policies and procedures.”
  • Considering these physical limitations and broad training goals, NEO decided against more traditional and/or costly classroom-based training and embraced a blended online training delivery model for its new employees, which combined “custom e-learning courses, live virtual ILT sessions and on-demand reference resources.”
  • Additionally, through a centralized onboarding portal, new hires were given the opportunity to interact with one another, thereby creating early opportunities for “peer-to-peer work relationships at a distance.
  • Meanwhile, the new “employee welcome program” was made available 24/7 to all employees while being managed and tracked through a central location.
  • Ultimately, NEO used its virtual onboarding program to triple its internal sales and customer support team over a six-month period, while providing new employees a consistent training experience and a clear understanding of the company’s brand.
  • Additionally, NEO reported that the remote training approach resulted in a “dramatic reduction in the time and costs associated with the delivery of the onboarding programs” at the company.


2. LinkedIn

  • Social networking company LinkedIn is another example of a digital-first organization that has transitioned to a virtual new employee training program, in this case due to the changing environment created by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Historically, LinkedIn has operated a one-day onboarding regimen for all new employees, however the company was reluctant to transition this one-day in-person program to a full day of virtual training when the company went remote in March 2020, because they “weren’t sure how new hires would respond after home life, which for so many people has changed so much.”
  • Ultimately, the company implemented a five-day virtual training program for all new hires, which was composed of “short bursts spread over a week” to allow employees greater flexibility, as well as recurring check-ins or touchpoints to maintain continuity.
  • Key content covered in the program included:
    • Day 1: company culture, values and products
    • Day 2: introduction video from key leadership
    • Day 3: hour-long session with a LinkedIn executive
    • Day 4: scavenger hunt within the company’s online resources
    • Day 5: question-and-answer session with a benefits expert, who helps new hires finish enrollment.”
  • Notably, the week-long program also included small group breakout sessions on Zoom, the use of LinkedIn Groups to help each cohort of new hires stay connected and the assignment of buddies for every new hire.
  • Meanwhile, according to LinkedIn, this five-day approach helped new hires “stay more engaged” while also reducing the burden on internal training teams.
  • Moreover, the program has been so successful that LinkedIn is now promoting it as a model approach for “Creating a Virtual Employee Onboarding Program.


3. ServiceNow

  • Global workforce management technology firm ServiceNow represents a bit of a hybrid between NEO and LinkedIn, in that the company has historically deployed components of its new employee training through virtual tools, but has transitioned to a fully remote onboarding process for all new hires amid COVID-19.
  • Notably, the newly expanded onboarding process began with a proprietary mobile onboarding app, which enabled new hires to complete any required paperwork as well as requisition equipment immediately upon their start.
  • Subsequently, all new employees engaged in a “completely digital orientation” program that used Zoom videoconferencing to connect new hires with a wide variety of guest speakers.
  • Specifically, during this first, six-hour session, new hires met company leaders from “product, global talent, finance, IT and sales,” among other departments.
  • Next, employees had the opportunity to ask related questions and meet other company representatives during a 90-minute Day 2 session.
  • Depending on department, ServiceNow new hires might also virtually participate in area-focused training sessions, meeting(s) with their new manager, all-team presentations, meetings(s) with an onboarding buddy and a virtual happy hour.
  • Beyond the self-proclaimed success of ServiceNow’s updated remote onboarding program, the company’s rapid, recent expansion in headcount (8.2% over the past 6 months17% over the past year34% over the past two years) is a testament to the efficiency of its virtual training plan.
  • Moreover, the company’s consistently positive reviews by both employees (e.g., GlassdoorIndeed) and customers (e.g., GartnerTrustRadius) serve as further testament to the efficacy of ServiceNow’s virtual new hire training efforts.

4. Sprouts Farmers Market

  • Supermarket chain Sprouts Farmers Market is one of a number of larger organizations (e.g., ADP) that are successfully deploying cutting-edge forms of virtual technology to enhance their new hire training programs.
  • In particular, Sprouts looked to Virtual Reality (VR) technology to help “assimilate new employees into the cultural norms of the organization” amid the pandemic.
  • Notably, the supermarket chain relies on employee culture and the behavior of its customer service representatives to “distinguish” its brand from competitors, and therefore needed to ensure that the company’s core values and culture were a central part of employee onboarding as it continued to open new stores and hire during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • To achieve this goal, Sprouts created and tested a “canon of VR experiences,” which exemplified each of the company’s core values by highlighting situations rather than prioritizing traditional skill-building.
  • For example, a new hire might watch one of Sprouts’ customer service representatives decide to deliver a product to an “elderly sick customer who can’t drive to pick up his favorite food.”
  • Notably, the results of Sprouts’ remote VR values training far exceeded traditional online training methods such as PowerPoint presentations, with 48% of VR participants learning “all six concepts perfectly,” compared with just 3% of those who were onboarded through more traditional methods.

5. Professional Services Company

  • A professional services organization recently launched a virtual onboarding program to complement the training efforts of local offices and “help new employees become more impactful, personally and professionally, from day one.”
  • Notably, most of the company’s original onboarding training was provided online, due to the fact that the company has “different locations all over the world.”
  • However, the firm reported significant issues with both the relevance of the offered training as well as the level of engagement demonstrated by new hires.
  • Recognizing these challenges, the professional services organization rolled out a supplemental virtual training program to take place eight to twelve weeks after an employee joined the firm.
  • Specifically, the onboarding program consisted of a two and a half day “cloud-based virtual classroom learning experience.”
  • This virtual classroom was complimented with a learning hub, which offered self-study material and team activities that could be accessed before, during and after the virtual training.
  • Despite the somewhat straightforward nature of this two-tiered virtual onboarding strategy, faculty and new hires involved in this program consistently reported that the overall experience was “positive,” and that it successfully addressed the company’s stated goals.

6. Dell

  • Meanwhile, Dell provides a case study of a multinational, digital-first organization that achieved significant benefits by optimizing just one portion of their new employee onboarding program.
  • Specifically, the computer technology organization was looking for a “faster, more efficient way” to onboard new hires from is variety of ongoing acquisitions.
  • Historically, the firm was challenged by the fact that most of its new employees were accustomed to working on different networks, domains, laptops and desktops, and therefore “lacked immediate access to critical corporate information” when they officially became part of Dell.
  • The fact that it would “take too long” to connect these employees not only hindered their work productivity, but delayed their ability to participate in other basic onboarding processes, such as benefits enrollment or compliance training.
  • As an initial resolution, Dell provided each new employee with a separate, secondary laptop, however it was determined that this approach was “inefficient” and too expensive.
  • Subsequently, Dell experimented with the Dell Wyse vWorkspace virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution, a virtual desktop management solution that enabled virtual desktop instances for all new employees on their existing hardware.
  • Ultimately, this simple shift in one part of Dell’s virtual onboarding program for new employees had dramatic results, including accelerating the onboarding process by “several days” or more for each new employee and saving the company $1 million over five years in additional laptop costs.
  • Moreover, this change simplified the onboarding process for both new hires as well as Dell, which was then able to centralize its management of new employee onboarding in a way that was previously impossible.
  • Although Dell has a much broader, fully digital onboarding process for new employees (e.g., website, documentation, video, Day 1 success team), the company highlights this single shift to its onboarding process given its substantial, positive implications.

Despite the wide array of commentary on the best practices for virtual training programs, it appears there is less consensus on the strategies or techniques that promote the optimal learning experience for employees. However, deploying a blended training approach, facilitating one-on-one interactions during training and making intelligent use of the right technology are consistently identified as critical to conducting a successful, remote training program. This subset of strategies have therefore been detailed below.

7. Blended and/or Varied Approach

8. One-On-One Interactions

9. Right Technology

  • Meanwhile, making intelligent use of the right technology was identified as a best practice for virtual onboarding programs based on the fact that a wide variety of industry experts routinely highlight this component as critical to the success of any remote training approach (e.g., Fast CompanyStrategic Enhancement GroupiSpringSolutionsFierceTraining FolksFinancial Edge).
  • Despite the fact that technology is easily recognizable as fundamental to the successful execution of any virtual learning program, Strategic Enhancement Group Vice President of Business Development and Performance Improvement Susan Hall and Strategic Enhancement Group Senior Facilitator Janis Lipsitz are among the numerous industry experts that highlight technology not only as a “best practice” but an often “painful” aspect of remote training.
  • Specifically, companies often fail related to one or more of the following technology-related aspects of remote learning:
  • In terms of having the right tools, iSpringSolutions asserts that any virtual training program should be supported by a learning management system (LMS), an eLearning authoring tool and video training tools, at a minimum.
  • Fast Company additionally highlights the necessity of community-building technology (e.g., Slack), given that remote learning makes it “easy to isolate and disengage with others.”
  • Meanwhile, LinkedIn is an example of a company that is well-prepared to leverage a variety of learning technologies during its employee onboarding process, while Sprouts Farmers Market is incorporating innovative tools such as VR to enhance its virtual employee learning program.
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