L&D Best Practices: Strategies for Success (September 2023)

Training magazine taps 2023 Training APEX Awards winners and Training Hall of Famers to provide their learning and development best practices in each issue. Here, we look at Greystar’s National Virtual Onboarding program.


Greystar Property Management Division designed an onboarding program focusing on people, genuine relationships, and shared values. “Our Core Values and our people are at the heart of everything we do,” says Greystar Founder, Chairman, and CEO Bob Faith.

Greystar created its National Virtual Onboarding program as an innovative way to facilitate a seamless transition for new team members joining the company across different locations. Recognizing the challenges distributed teams pose and the increasing need for effective onboarding in an industry with high turnover rates, this program combines virtual onboarding techniques with personalized mentorship.

The program aims to introduce new team members to the company culture, processes, and workflows; foster a sense of connection and engagement; increase productivity; reduce turnover rates; and cultivate collaboration and networking.


The high turnover rates in the property management industry have been a persistent issue, with a prepandemic turnover rate of 32.7 percent, as reported by the National Apartment Association. The challenge of replacing team members and training new hires creates a delicate balance for a constantly growing industry.

Despite facing obstacles such as inflation risks, delinquencies, and staffing issues, property management companies are optimistic about expansion and improvement opportunities in 2023, according to the annual AppFolio Property Manager Benchmark Report.

Traditional onboarding processes often involve face-to-face interactions and orientation, which can be challenging in a national multi-site work environment. Virtual onboarding requires a different approach to ensure new team members feel welcomed, supported, and connected to the organization from day one.

Program Details

Utilizing Workday LMS (learning management system), Greystar offers a wide range of resources—including orientation materials, eLearning modules, and interactive tools—to familiarize new hires with the company’s culture, values, policies, and processes.

Our highly trained facilitators lead virtual orientation sessions by introducing new team members to key stakeholders, providing an overview of our mission of enriching the lives we touch by doing things the right way, and offering insights into their roles and responsibilities.

Our virtual onboarding journey comprises three destinations:

Day One welcomes new hires to Greystar globally and provides an overview of our property management business.

Day Two focuses on customer service training and relationship selling.

Day Three delves into role-specific systems, tools, policies, and procedures.

Our onboarding program doesn’t end with week one. It includes the RISE (Respect, Impact, Succeed, Engage) Mentorship Program, in which peer mentors act as co-pilots to guide new team members throughout their journey. Our algorithmic matching system pairs mentors with mentees in the same role based on their skills, experience, and interests. Mentors provide guidance and support for 12 weeks, helping new hires navigate challenges as they settle into their roles.

Recognizing that each team member has unique learning needs, our program includes customized learning paths that align with individual goals and job requirements. These paths ensure that new hires receive relevant training in their current role and feel prepared for their next steps and ongoing development.


“With our virtual onboarding program, we offer an engaging experience while increasing consistency and driving business value and impact,” notes Helen Trapp, senior managing director, Strategic Services, Greystar.

Assessing key performance indicators (KPIs) such as team member satisfaction, retention rates, and time-to-productivity is crucial for success in the business world. Greystar’s new hire onboarding completion rate has improved significantly from 36.5 percent to 71.5 percent between first quarter 2021 and second quarter 2023. Kirkpatrick Level 1 learner satisfaction surveys averaged 4.95 out of 5 in the same period.

The business results likewise have been impressive, with a 20 percent reduction in turnover in 2022, saving $1.4 million in attrition costs. In addition, our promotion rate has increased by 20 percent, leading to higher productivity and engagement among new hires.


Here are recommendations if your company is considering virtual onboarding with a mentorship program:

  • Set business objectives: Determine what you want to achieve through mentorship and virtual onboarding, such as reducing turnover, increasing engagement, or improving knowledge transfer.
  • Create a structured onboarding plan: Outline new hires’ activities, resources, and timelines. Consider incorporating virtual orientation sessions, online learning modules, and interactive activities to engage and educate new members.
  • Select and train mentors: Identify experienced mentors for new hires and train them to coach, communicate effectively, and understand the onboarding program’s goals. This will help new hires succeed in their roles.
  • Assign mentors and mentees: Match relationships based on relevant skills, experiences, and job roles. Consider the mentee’s preferences and goals when making the assignments to ensure a good fit.
  • Set clear expectations: Define the mentorship’s purpose, meeting frequency, communication, and expected outcomes. The hiring manager encourages and supports open communication between mentors and mentees.
  • Leverage technology: Use virtual collaboration tools, videoconferencing, and online learning systems for effective communication and training. Ensure everyone has access to the necessary technology and resources.
  • Supply resources and support: Provide onboarding resources and support for hiring managers, mentors, and mentees, including guides, templates, activities, orientation materials, training, FAQs, and company information. Establish a mentor support system for guidance and problem solving.
  • Gather feedback and evaluate:
  1. Regularly collect feedback from mentors, mentees, and other stakeholders to assess the program’s effectiveness.
  2. Use this feedback to make improvements and adjustments as necessary.
  3. Measure critical metrics, such as turnover rates, engagement levels, and performance indicators, to evaluate the program’s impact.
  • Continuously improve:
  1. Treat your onboarding as an iterative process.
  2. Refine the program based on feedback, industry best practices, and evolving organizational needs.
  3. Stay updated with recent technologies and virtual collaboration tools.

Greystar’s National Virtual Onboarding process embraces virtual methods and mentorship to welcome new team members from any location. It familiarizes them with our culture, processes, and workflows while providing ongoing support and growth opportunities. This promotes productivity, retention, engagement, and adaptability, preparing our team members for the workplace of today and tomorrow.

Jill Neighorn
Jill Neighorn is a Learning & Development advisor at Training APEX Awards winner Greystar.