How to Master Virtual Onboarding Programs like Google and Amazon

How to Master Virtual Onboarding Programs like Google and Amazon

If you hired anyone for a remote role in 2020 or 2021, you might have heard that some new employees felt out of sight and out of mind. As successful as remote work has been for many organizations, their virtual onboarding programs can still seem a bit disjointed.

TINYpulse recently compared 100 organizations that onboarded 500 face-to-face new hires in 2019 with the same organizations' onboarding of 500 remote new hires in 2020. From the study, new employees gave 34% less recognition to colleagues through the cheers-for-peers feature when working remotely in 2020 than when working face-to-face in 2019. 

They were also 20% less likely to "tag" the praise to a specific organizational value for the peer recognition given.

It is obvious that employees are significantly less engaged in the onboarding process when they are remote. But it's not their fault. The problem is that organizations aren't doing enough to help new hires get adjusted, feel welcomed, or be prepared to take on the role.

So, we took a look at two cutting edged virtual onboarding programs (Google and Amazon) to see what can be done differently to inspire new hires. 

amazon virtual onboarding program

Why are virtual onboarding and the new hire experience important?

Virtual onboarding and the new hire experience are so much more than handing out log-ins for company systems and email. It is establishing a rapport with managers and sitting on calls for important client meetings. Most importantly, it is telling the story of your company in an engaging way.

The goal of any remote onboarding process is to set up a new distributed employee for success. If you don't, it can have dire consequences for your turnover. According to Udemy, employees who have a negative onboarding experience are twice as likely to look for other career opportunities in the future. 

But a positive onboarding experience can increase new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.

However, it doesn't only have to be engaging. A Wynhurst Group study even found that new employees who experience a "structured onboarding process" are 58% more likely to be with an organization after three years

virtual onboarding program

This means setting milestones, an itinerary, and multiple introductions.

It all comes down to first impressions. If a new employee doesn't feel accepted or part of their new team, why should they put in 100% effort? They could easily collect a paycheck somewhere else. 

So how do organizations get virtual onboarding right? How do they combat this disconnect that happens without face-to-face interactions?

One way is to take a page out of the book of organizations working well remotely and have high employee retention rates. 

Google's Virtual Onboarding programs

In the Google Blog, The Keyword," They do a Q, and A with a recently hired Agency Lead on the Google Customer Solutions team

Not only did he join during the pandemic, but he is also working in a different country than the office he would relocate to. 

Google virtual onboarding program

Recruitment process

The agency lead had the opportunity to fly to the Dublin office for the initial interview but continued the rest of the hiring process remotely. He had a contact from day one that followed him through the process all the way to signing the contract. They even keep in touch beyond the hire start day! 

This set the right expectations for the actual onboarding program that he would begin.

Forging new contacts and relationships 

One of the things that make Google's introductions to new team members unique is that on the first call, you show everyone around your house. It makes people open up about their interests, and you start discovering personalities pretty quickly.  

There is also an action-packed event schedule for new Googlers. Just in his time since joining Google, his team has had a pizza workshop with a Michelin-starred chef, a bartender training, a gingerbread house competition, and a virtual science camp for kids.

The idea is to cut the distance between team members through personal interactions. Now, not every remote or hybrid company has a google-sized budget for activities. However, you can still be creative with what you offer for new team members in their first month. It's not all just happy hours.

During the onboarding process, Google supports employee development by educating employees and inducting them into company culture (with both presentations and drinks).

It starts with one email

Google also likes to hit the ground running. Even before most of their new hires went remote, they had a practice that started with one email and created a sense of urgency. Just one day before a new remote worker joins, their manager is sent an email with five small tasks that will need their attention.

  1. Have a discussion about roles and responsibilities
  2. Match the new hire with a peer buddy
  3. Help the new hire build a social network
  4. Set up employee onboarding check-ins once a month for the new hire's first six months
  5. Encourage open dialogue

Amazon's Virtual Onboarding programs

In an interview with LinkedIn's Senior Editor at Large, Amazon's new head of diversity and inclusion for the thousands of people working in Amazon's ads and music departments gave his impression of their new remote onboarding process. 

amazon remote onboarding process


It is important to note that there is a significant difference between Amazon's onboarding procedures for white-collar office workers and blue-collar warehouse workers. 

While the onboarding for most warehouse workers lasts just a day, knowledge workers often begin with optional "pre-boarding." 

This is a week or two before employees working in specialties such as engineering, marketing, or product management start. This is the time when new employees get their laptops and fill out their health insurance forms.

It continues with individual calls with senior coworkers or virtual buddies from related departments.

Emphasis on Communication

Amazon doesn't just stop with buddies, either. New hires will also be assigned a mentor who acts as their personal guide to understanding the company culture

This becomes necessary at an organization with such infamy as Amazon and over 14 organizational values to memorize. For example, the head of diversity will have weekly 1:1 video chats with a 10-year veteran at Amazon who's now vice president for ad sales.

These coaches can answer tough questions and show the proper procedures for creating morning briefs and preparing meeting notes. They also help to provide constant intros to their own network in the organization-simple things like tagging a new hire in emails and mentioning them in meetings. 

This helps open new conversations, and slowly they will become familiar with the many faces of the company.

Introduction to Culture

Telling your company's story is important to make a new employee feel like they made the right decision to join. Some companies will have a presentation of their founding or tell stories of previous clients that defined their business. 

At Amazon, the company's training team created bite-sized videos during the pandemic to fill the gap of in-person presentations. 

Each video told a different story in the company's history and related to a core value (We are talking about a lot of videos).

The narrators included leaders of everything from E-commerce to logistics. They told dramatic personal stories as if it were a Masterclass.


9 steps to design the best virtual onboarding workflows

virtual onboarding workflows

  1. The best virtual onboarding workflows always start with a written plan in place. Before the new hire starts, develop a schedule for their pre-boarding and onboarding. Have a process documented with all the steps present that the new hire can check. Don't forget to create a list of resources and tools that require log-ins and passwords.
  2. The whole purpose of pre-boarding is to create a connection to the company before the first day. This is the moment when you should share Share log-in information for email, Zoom, Teams, and/or Slack. Confirm that the new hire knows how to effectively use these tools.  
  3. Set up technology before the start date. If you provide laptops, care packages, or home office stipends, you will want to make sure you have their delivery set up before someone starts. Send an equipment survey to gauge their current setup and security standards. For globally distributed teams, try a remote equipment provider like GoWrk that can deliver to over 150 countries. 
  4. Identify points of contact.  Find out who on their team besides managers are available to connect and answer their most immediate questions. Try having a mentor and working partner. These two people help fill the gaps even if procedures and company standards are well-documented. New hires will slowly understand the company's tone and level of formality, their dress code, how videoconferences are conducted, asynchronous work methods, messaging etiquette, and working hours. 
  5. Schedule time for your new remote employee to begin sitting in on group discussions from day one. These can be sales calls or team meetings of other departments. These sessions help show how work gets done in your organization.
  6. Prepare the hiring manager for effective onboarding. The hiring manager should be held accountable for a new remote employee's success, but they also need to be given tools to implement the program. They should at least check in with the employee daily the first week.
  7. Involve senior leaders. Make live sessions with the founder, other executives, and HR leaders available. These interactions let leaders share stories and tell a captivating vision of the future. This part of the program is part of conveying culture and communicating core values. 
  8. Create both structured and unstructured opportunities to interact. Although you want to emphasize formal introductions, don't leave it to all business and virtual training. There should be opportunities for a social group experience to form bonds. Include virtual social events, encourage get-to-know-you sessions, add them to employee social channels. 
  9. Leverage feedback from new employees at the end of their virtual onboarding program. They will now have a perspective if the onboarding met their initial expectations of the company. 

Wrapping things up: Ensure a successful virtual onboarding experience

Did you know that when Amazon rolled out their virtual onboarding program last spring, it took as long as two weeks for new employees to get their laptops?

Even the number one e-commerce company in the world struggled with the logistics of getting equipment to their globally distributed workforce.

It took some months, but they finally got the time down to four days. With GroWrk, your HR team can accelerate the remote onboarding learning curve by letting us handle the laptop logistics. 

growrk remote

You can simplify and reduce the cost of technology deliveries by having everything you need in one intuitive dashboard.

5-day shipping to over 150 countries, 24-7 hour help desk support, and collections when a virtual employee leaves.

An end-to-end inventory management solution that allows employees to order Apple products or other popular brands like Dell, Håg and HP.


Grow remote with GroWrk. We provide and manage laptops, devices, other equipment and services to remote teams in over 150 countries.


Schedule a call now 


Growrk remote partners
GroWrk Team

July 22

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