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Virtual onboarding and socialization, an exploration of employee discussions and experiences

Jillian Williamson Yarbrough (Department of Management, West Texas A&M University, Canyon, Texas, USA)
Leslie Ramos Salazar (Department of Computer Information and Decision Management, West Texas A&M University, Canyon, Texas, USA)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 9 May 2023

Issue publication date: 18 August 2023




During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, employers struggled to develop virtual onboarding (VO) experiences among new employees. Prior research has examined VO processes. This study, by contrast, compares online commentaries in relation to current research findings to determine a functional description of effective VO.


Using a qualitative, inductive thematic analysis, the researchers explored new employees' online, anonymous, public commentary about the employers' VO experiences. Through analyzing 83 posted communications, the researchers sought to not only categorize themes, but to also identify meaning within the employees' commentary. From the thematic analysis, meaningful themes were established and compared to existing literature to identify comprehensive trends in effective VO.


The analysis developed nine themes of discussion question (DQ) prompts and nine themes of discussion responses. The professionals' online discussion about VO in the workplace as well as attributes of each theme was compared to contemporary VO research. In combination with a review of established literature of effective VO and an examination of organizational socialization theory, the study confirms that some virtually onboarded employees are excelling with, and some are challenged by the communication deficiencies of the remote experience. Employee experiences are highlighted to develop a description of contemporary effective VO experiences to support future workplace efficiencies.

Research limitations/implications

Data were gathered via Blind and each response shared on Blind is subject to the viewpoint of the participants. For future research, face-to-face interviews might offer context regarding new hires' VO experiences. Also the generalizability is impacted because not all participants of VO participate via Blind. Participant bias is possible given the perceived dissatisfaction or negative experiences. Future research can perform a national random study of employees. Finally, the data and participants in this study were USA based. Future research should consider other international contexts such as Europe.

Practical implications

The thematic findings of this study yield valuable practical recommendations. New hires that experience VO are seeking improved virtual communication channels between themselves and the managers and colleagues of the hires. As such, corporate managers/trainers can implement a virtual mentoring program to have senior employees prepare and guide new hires into employees' new remote working environment to reduce employees' uncertainty. To improve VO processes in a post-pandemic society, corporate managers/trainers can incorporate social media communication given that employees participate in social media to develop their careers. With social media work groups, new virtual hires can be better socialized through effective peer-to-peer informal internal communications where the hires can freely ask questions and build better work relationships.

Social implications

In each onboarding experience and evident in each of the five themes, learning is an underlying concept. New employees are describing that it is challenging to development organizational shared values, skills, attitudes, knowledge, abilities, behaviors and relationships in a VO process. As organizational leaders continue to develop VO experiences, a focus on learning as dependent on the virtual learning process and content can be significant in terms of creating a positive employee VO learning experience.


The findings are unique in exploring new hires' self-reported VO experiences. This study offers insight into effective VO practices such as developing virtual trainings that are well planned, engaging and supporting of relationships, collaborations and career goals.



Yarbrough, J.W. and Ramos Salazar, L. (2023), "Virtual onboarding and socialization, an exploration of employee discussions and experiences", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 707-723.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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