How to Onboard New Employees in a Hybrid Workplace
On the heels of the Great Resignation, millions of Americans are settling into new roles at companies all over the country. This transition marks the next phase of the future of work — The Great Onboarding. Even though the tech sector is seeing a hiring slowdown, the job market in general is “red hot,” CNBC reports. As of June 2022, the U.S. unemployment rate is at a low of 3.6 percent, and there were 372,000 new positions created in May alone, reports The Washington Post. And nearly 60 percent of job opportunities are hybrid, with an option to work from home at least once a week, a McKinsey poll reveals.
This recent surge in new hires has led to a unique challenge for managers: How to onboard new employees in the hybrid workplace. In this article, we’ll highlight how the onboarding experience shifts with hybrid employees and show you how to build an onboarding framework to help new hires thrive in your hybrid organization. This will be the first post in our Great Onboarding series, so stay tuned for more articles on this critical topic in the coming months. But for now, let’s drive right into some practical, effective onboarding tips.
The Hybrid Manager’s Role in Onboarding
Workers have high expectations in the new post-pandemic normal, and many will quit if their current organizations do not meet these standards. In fact, the number of U.S. employees leaving jobs reached a 20-year high back in November 2021, according to the Pew Research Institute. The Great Resignation has started to calm down since then, but businesses are not out of the woods yet. The takeaway: It’s critical for hybrid workplace managers to build a culture that will retain employees — and that begins right away with the onboarding process.
“Strong relationships aren’t built on poor foundations. If you want to improve talent retention, you need to improve [the] onboarding experience,” write Sinazo Sibisi and Gys Kappers, senior executives of the engagement solutions firm Wyzetalk, for the Harvard Business Review. “Gallup reports that only 12 percent of employees feel their company does a good job onboarding new team members, leaving 88 percent of workers with lackluster onboarding experiences.”
For organizations who do invest in successful onboarding, the results speak for themselves. These companies could see a 50 percent increase in retention and a 62 percent boost in productivity among new recruits, Sibisi and Kappers point out. Not to mention, workers who have a positive onboarding experience are almost three times as likely to feel supported, confident, and well-equipped in their roles.
But while the onboarding process is traditionally delegated to HR, in a successful hybrid workplace onboarding process, the new hire’s manager should take a more active role. After all, let’s face it — it’s harder to join a new team in a virtual or partly virtual setting.
What’s more, according to Gallup: “Gallup research shows that the effectiveness of an onboarding program is largely contingent on the manager's active involvement in the process. … Ultimately, when the manager takes an active role in onboarding, employees are 3.4 times as likely to feel like their onboarding process was successful.”
What Are the 4 Phases of Onboarding for Hybrid Work?
Just as no two companies are exactly the same, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for how to onboard new employees either. To best serve your recruits, the onboarding process must be tailored specifically to the team dynamics, internal culture, core values, and hybrid workplace policy of your organization.
With all that being said, there are four main phases of a typical onboarding process that are generally recognized by HR onboarding teams. These are:
- New Hire Orientation
- Role-Specific Training
- Easing the Transition
While HR will likely use an onboarding process that resembles the above in some way, shape, or form, for the future of work, we recommend that hybrid workplace managers take it upon themselves to follow the four steps below for onboarding hybrid employees. The more proactive you are at each step as manager, the higher your chance of a successful onboarding experience.
Phase 1: Set Hybrid Schedule Expectations
The first step is to establish your new team member’s schedule with respect to which days they’ll be in the office versus working remotely. Depending on your company’s hybrid work policy, your new hire may have flexibility to choose their on-site and off-site days, or they may need to comply with an established schedule. If there’s flexibility, make the suggestion that they go into the office on the same days you do, at least to start, so that you can get as much facetime with each other as possible as they learn the ropes and settle into their new role.
Team Sync, our free hybrid work offering, makes coordinating those in-office days a cinch by instantly surfacing work statuses across teams. This is especially helpful for new hires who are looking to make in-person connections vs having everything happen over Zoom.
Phase 2: Schedule In-Person Intro Meetings
With in-person communication greatly reduced in the hybrid work model, it can be especially challenging for new team members to develop key relationships and connect with a company’s culture when they’re not in the office every day. This can impact performance as well as job satisfaction.
In analyzing the results of a Microsoft-UC Berkeley study, The Atlantic concluded, "Remote work made people more likely to hunker down with their preexisting teams and less likely to have serendipitous conversations that could lead to knowledge sharing.” Indeed, the research suggests the most valuable aspect of in-office time is “soft work” — defined as “the sort of banter that allows for long-term trust and innovation."
This makes it critical for managers to maximize communication between new hires and their colleagues by setting up 1:1 meetings with core team members — in person when possible.
Phase 3: Establish Company Norms
Every company has its own way of doing things in the hybrid workplace with regard to scheduling flexibility and work hours expectations. For instance, some companies such as GoDaddy and Doist have embraced asynchronous working hours to accommodate employees with other obligations. Close has even gone a step further by doing away with a minimum number of work hours, focusing instead on weekly deliverables. Establish with your new hire when they will be expected to be online and how to deal with asynchronous communications.
Phase 4: Introduce Virtual Tools
In today’s new workplace, as virtual communication and other hybrid workplace tools play a central role, every team seems to have its own unique tech stack for getting work done. How well you acclimate new hires to these tools and the etiquette around using them can potentially make or break their overall onboarding experience, as it impacts their ability to communicate with team members and execute the functions of their role. Make sure onboarding includes an in-depth introduction to these hybrid workplace tools and how your team uses them.
Onboard and Upward
Onboarding employees has always been a challenge, but in a hybrid workplace model, it can be even more demanding. At the same time, against the backdrop of The Great Onboarding, it’s never been more important. By understanding the key role you play — and the four main phases of the process as outlined above — you can ensure that you’re able to meet the needs of new hires now and well into the future of the hybrid work.