UPDATED MAY 2023
Work is now hybrid. Your onboarding experience should be, too.
After the tumult of the last few years, many companies are settling into hybrid work models that combine remote and in-person work. This is a welcome compromise for workers who can be remote, combining the flexibility and balance they enjoyed during the pandemic with the camaraderie and productivity that comes from collaborating in an office setting.
According to Pew Research, 6 in 10 workers have jobs that still cannot be done remotely, but of those who do, Pew finds that 41% are already working hybrid — up from 35% in 2022.
When it comes to employee onboarding, however, remote and hybrid work can be a real complication — even a headache. A hybrid model might find employees alternating between working remotely or in the office on any given day. When someone new joins the team, how can you ensure that their onboarding process is welcoming, informative, and speeds their time to productivity? Traditional approaches to employee onboarding simply can’t make that transition.
The Value of Employee Experiences
The hybrid work model is rocking the boat for companies trying to maintain consistent engagement during the onboarding process. But by creating a more personalized onboarding experience, companies can use technology to their advantage and set the stage for a quick ramp toward employee engagement.
Employee onboarding is crucial to employee engagement because it sets the tone for the entire employee-employer relationship. A successful onboarding process can create a positive first impression for new employees, help them feel welcome and valued, and build a strong foundation for their ongoing relationship with the organization.
When employees feel immediately connected to their company and its mission, they are more likely to be engaged in their work and motivated to contribute to your company's success. On the other hand, if new hires feel disconnected or unsupported during their onboarding process, they may become disengaged or even leave your organization entirely.
Overall, employee onboarding is an essential component in creating a positive employee experience — but it requires providing new hires with an immediate, consistent onboarding experience across teams, regardless of the team’s preferred working arrangements. By providing effective onboarding, organizations can foster a sense of belonging and commitment among new employees, which can translate into improved engagement, job satisfaction, and retention rates.
Remote and hybrid work models are showing they’re here to stay — which means as businesses, we have to step up and ensure that onboarding processes both compensate for and complement these new ways of working.
Employee Onboarding Is Just the Start
Some hiring managers treat onboarding like a one-and-done task that can be handled in an afternoon. In reality, if you think about introductions, early meetings, training, answering questions, and follow-ups, onboarding is an ongoing process that helps explain the job to new hires and integrate them into your organization — while building real human connections.
A study conducted by the UC Davis Graduate School of Management showed that maintaining work relationships is a huge challenge for remote workers, and people who feel connected with their managers (even if it’s through video calls and chats) are more likely to get promoted and stay in a company for the long term.
When onboarded remotely, new hires face the early challenges of a work environment minus social connection and guidance to help navigate the new office’s culture. This is compounded by inconsistent access to managers and the inability to observe cultural norms in action. (There’s no water cooler and no way to hang back and watch how things work.)
Onboarding is a very important time for setting the tone and expectations for new employees — helping them to understand both the written and unwritten rules around getting work done. Much of this culture transfer used to take place as small talk that happened in between formal onboarding moments. Similarly, the emotional connections that occur during onboarding information transfer can be important for helping new employees quickly acclimate to and contribute to your culture, even beyond onboarding.
No need to panic. There are ways to create these same emotional and informational moments in a hybrid environment — through personalized onboarding.
Personalized Onboarding Creates Strong Connections
Research shows that 91% of new hires who go through a thorough onboarding process feel a strong connection to the organization, and 87% feel they understand the scope of their role better.
Using standardized procedures, mobile devices, and personal messaging, HR teams can ensure new hires are all equally in sync with important company values and goals.
However, as important as consistency is in onboarding, organizations also must take the time to create a more individualized, personalized onboarding experience that matches the unique needs and preferences of your incoming hires.
Begin by understanding those needs — for which you will need to establish an effective two-way flow of communications during onboarding. In a dynamic and effective work environment, decision-makers need to hear and respond to feedback from employees. This is especially important because onboarding interactions lay the foundation for every new hire’s relationship with the organization.
Make sure feedback is collected in a structured and useful manner. When teams are spread across different physical locations, it’s a good idea to have regular follow-ups to keep them in the loop about the received feedback.
This may sound like a lot. Fortunately, there are innovative solutions, intuitive software, and intelligent algorithms that can help you by providing access to simple pulse surveys and customized follow-up requests. This helps you create a culture of open communication and collaboration, building strong relationships right off the bat.
Which brings us to the importance of human connection. Over the last ten years, multiple studies have shown the importance of having strong workplace relationships, resulting in positive outcomes such as lower employee turnover and higher job satisfaction. In preparing for a future where employees can come to the office or WFH, keep in mind they’re also more likely to be isolated, which weakens co-worker and manager relationships.
Keep your teams connected. Video conferencing and regular check-ins help manage the relationship between on-site and remote staff. Unfortunately, these interactions are often limited due to a lack of structure and consistency. Managers end up having a hard time using these casual conversations to receive feedback or to evaluate how well a new hire has integrated with the rest of the team.
Onboarding Solutions for a Hybrid Workforce
Onboarding a hybrid worker — or a worker who will work with a hybrid team — will require a personalized onboarding approach. Here are some ideas to consider:
Create a detailed onboarding plan to introduce people to your company.
A clear onboarding plan that outlines the employee's first few weeks can help them feel prepared and confident in their new role. The plan should include details on both remote and in-person training, meetings, and events.
Create a journey that begins before they are hired and continues to integrate employees throughout their employee lifecycle.
Hybrid workers will rely heavily on technology to stay connected and productive. Some of their earliest and most consistent connections with your company will be through technology tools — from email to texts, feedback platforms, and other prompts. Use nudges and targeted communications to elevate important information and prompt key actions — connecting people back to the software and digital tools that will help them work efficiently and effectively from anywhere.
Assign buddies and mentors to socialize people to your culture.
Connecting people with people is as important as connecting them with tech. Introduce people to buddies and mentors who can help a worker adjust to their new role, team. and company culture. These people can answer questions, provide guidance and support during the onboarding process, and jump-start workers’ feelings of belonging.
Check in regularly to acquaint people with new information and to support them as they learn and grow into their roles.
Regular check-ins with the hybrid worker, both remote and in-person, can help ensure they are adjusting well and receiving the support they need. It can also provide an opportunity to provide feedback and address any concerns.
Make Every New Hire Feel Welcome With Enboarder
Overall, onboarding a hybrid worker requires a strong foundation — through a combination of remote and in-person support, technology training, and clear communication. By providing a comprehensive onboarding experience, hybrid workers can feel prepared, supported, and engaged in their new role.
Enboarder’s fully integrated onboarding platform keeps you informed about how often employees are connecting with their managers, what channel they communicate on, and the content of these conversations. This fosters deeper relationships beyond occasional coffee chats and check-ins, regardless of work location.
The onboarding process is your chance to set clear expectations, develop personal relationships, and improve communication between employees and employers. To maintain an effective onboarding process, business leaders need to adapt to a hybrid work future by embracing modern technology that provides structure and environment, embodies the businesses’ values, and promotes inclusivity across the board.
We’re Enboarder. Our Human Connection Platform makes delivering best-in-class onboarding simple. Learn more here.