Offering a Robust Virtual Employee Orientation

Informative and inspiring from the first day

virtual onboarding

Every Monday, Cleveland Clinic’s Mandel Global Leadership & Learning Institute (MGLLI) holds new caregiver orientation for all recently hired employees in North America, from administrators and executive leaders to physicians and nurses. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, delivery of those sessions needed to pivot.

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“We had about 48 hours to switch from an in-person experience at different locations to a virtual experience,” says Lisa Minor, MBA, CPC, Director of Caregiver Development at Cleveland Clinic. “Since then, we have iterated on the virtual experience to make it even better for our caregivers joining this year and beyond.”

A look inside the virtual onboarding experience

Creating a virtual onboarding experience within a couple of days required a lot of collaboration and coordination, says Minor. Her team in MGLLI partnered with colleagues in talent acquisition, operations and other areas to develop the program.

“We mapped out the ‘must haves’ and the ‘nice to haves’ for orientation,” she says. “The goal was for employees to start on time with the essentials with no impact to patient care.” As the pandemic persisted, Minor’s team realized that the program they built as a stopgap measure would become permanent.

In the fall of 2020, Cleveland Clinic contracted with vFairs LLC to create a robust virtual onboarding program using the company’s all-in-one hybrid and virtual events platform. A year later, they rolled out the Global New Caregiver Experience for North America.

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The orientation has two primary components – a live welcome session and a self-directed virtual experience. Seasoned facilitators lead the 90-minute welcome session, held each Monday at 8 a.m. EST. They share Cleveland Clinic’s history, mission and vision. “It’s a very inspirational time to connect with others,” says Minor.

The self-directed portion, which takes approximately 90 minutes to navigate, opens with a view of the outside of Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell & Arnold Miller Family Pavilion. Caregivers click on an “enter here” sign near a door and are whisked inside virtually to the lobby and greeted by an avatar of K. Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-NC, FAAN, Chief Caregiver Officer for Cleveland Clinic. From there, they can visit two primary areas:

  • The Virtual Auditorium features four learning modules: the healthcare system’s mission, vision and care priorities; a global tour; Cleveland Clinic’s values and its history. The auditorium also includes compliance modules on topics such as safety, emergency protocols, and diversity and inclusion. Caregivers complete an attestation form once they’ve viewed the modules.
  • Virtual Information Booths resemble trade show booths and include resources and documents on employee benefits, caregiver wellbeing, employee resource groups, onboarding logistics and much more.

“With the help of vFairs, we were able to make the experience personalized so that a caregiver can access the documents relevant to their location,” says Michelle Lampton, Learning Experience Designer for MGLLI. “This way every caregiver is able to learn what it means to be a part of Cleveland Clinic while also getting the personalized information needed for their unique circumstances.”

Tips for taking your orientation virtual

Minor shared her team’s experience and expertise in a session titled “Virtual Onboarding – A Pandemic Pivot” at the Society of Consulting Psychology Virtual Annual Conference in early February. If you plan to build or revamp a virtual orientation, consider this advice from Minor and her colleagues:

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  • Get input from key stakeholders. This may include representatives from talent acquisition, occupational health, operations, executive leadership and other areas. “With nearly 29,000 nursing caregivers at Cleveland Clinic, our nursing orientation colleagues were instrumental in talking through how a virtual orientation would best work for our clinical caregivers,” says Minor.
  • Be flexible and open to change. “Being able to lead through changes is a critical part of the shift to virtual,” says Minor. This means not only accepting the monumental pivot from in-person to virtual, but also adapting the experience along the way. For instance, Cleveland Clinic’s virtual orientation included a self-directed scavenger hunt that some new caregivers felt was stagnant. The team listened to their feedback and improved it.
  • Pick the right supply chain partner. “A strong partner can help you sift through options, making sure you ask the right questions for what you need and want out of a technology platform,” says Minor. For example, vFairs helped Cleveland Clinic think through not only what it required short term, but what they might want in their virtual orientation several years from now.
  • Think beyond information. “Focus on the feeling you want your new employees to have as they go through the orientation,” says Jill Muencz, Administrative Program Coordinator. “We wanted our program to not only cover important information about our mission, vision and values, but also ensure when caregivers complete the day they feel as proud and excited to be part of Cleveland Clinic as they did after attending our in-person experience.”
  • Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. “Highlight the similarities and honor the differences in your organization,” says Lampton. “In the global space, we wanted to make connections and show what we all share, while also recognizing the diversity and differences that every Cleveland Clinic location brings to the organization.”
  • Be realistic with your timeline for innovation. “Give yourself grace,” says Minor. “We stood up a virtual orientation in 48 hours, but to get where we are today has been more than a 12-month project. Take time to ideate, innovate and make the best version of a welcome day for your organization.”

Putting its best foot forward during the Global New Caregiver Experience is paramount for Cleveland Clinic, which onboarded more than 12,000 new employees worldwide in 2021.

“We strive to be the best place to work in healthcare anywhere, so our first-day experience needs to reflect that,” says Minor.