We’ve all started new jobs and felt inundated with mountains of paperwork and meetings in the first week. Remember feeling like you didn’t have time to connect with your team members because you had to keep up with training?

For many, these feelings of isolation accumulate during the onboarding process — and can make or break their journey with the company. In fact, even after a year, new hires report collaborating with just 68% of the colleagues they need to interact with to be most effective at their jobs.

This scenario is commonplace for remote and hybrid workplaces, where in-person guidance and social connection are often lacking. To maintain employee happiness and boost tenure, organizations must implement a people-first approach to onboarding. By bolstering learning and development (L&D) opportunities and creating avenues for team connections, organizations can better set up their new hires for success.

The Need for Onboarding Interventions

It’s no secret that onboarding is instrumental in providing a solid foundation for new hires and educating them on company culture and norms. However, traditional onboarding procedures are even less effective now that organizations are hiring remote and hybrid workers. In fact, according to a study, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organizations does a good job at onboarding new hires.

When new hires don’t have opportunities to virtually connect with others in the organization, they often feel left behind. In an Enboader study, almost 69% of employees report to their co-workers — pointing to a missing safety net that professional networks can often provide. This divide is exacerbated by the rise in remote work, pointing to a need for programming that enables one-on-one learning and allows for frequent debriefs with coaches.

Business leaders should stop thinking of onboarding as a process that ends after the new hire’s first day or week. A strong onboarding program is essential to employee satisfaction and is three times more likely to make new hires feel supported and prepared. But to see results, you must approach onboarding as a continuous process that takes place before, during and after hiring.

How to Enable People-first Onboarding

Instead of overwhelming new hires with hours of solitary training and paperwork, provide information and materials only when they need it and in digestible amounts. After initial training is complete, shift focus to fostering connections instead. Take time to discover what they need from you during their early days — instead of only focusing on what you need from them — to position them for long-term success.

Here are three tips to prioritize human connection and engagement throughout the onboarding process:

1.Empower managers to facilitate virtual connections.

As a learning leader, you have the most direct contact with your employees during onboarding, and it’s your responsibility to make sure employees feel supported and engaged every step of the way. After this process, encourage managers to facilitate professional and personal networking to keep this line of connection going. For example, rather than only delivering information through videos or reading materials, managers and their teams should play a direct role in new hire training. This human-centric approach to onboarding helps share the workload around and encourages connections between the new hire and team.

Managers can also foster friendships at work through virtual or in-person coffee chats and new hire get-togethers. But make sure you’re not only talking business. Help new employees connect with their teammates on a personal level by giving them space to discuss their favorite foods or what they like to do in their spare time. With this information, you can have their favorite food delivered to their homes during virtual movie events or even organize outdoor activities like kayaking for the whole office.

In the current landscape of hybrid and remote work — where employees are more disconnected than ever — managers are often the only touchpoint for new hires. In this case, it is crucial to provide thorough coaching to managers as they navigate new employee demands. Encourage managers to outline clear pathways for advancement to new hires so that they can see their future at the organization.

2. Offer mentorship and buddy opportunities.

Mentorship and bonding play a critical role in the workplace, especially in a remote or hybrid setting. According to the Enboarder study, 66% of hybrid workers worry they do not have as many opportunities for collaboration as in-person employees do. Growing into a role and building a network of professionals can help employees succeed throughout their careers — not just at your organization.

Many new hires that start remotely may also be reluctant to ask co-workers simple questions out of fear of bothering them. Instead, new hires often spend time trying to discover the answers themselves. But this time-consuming and unnecessary process can easily be avoided by pairing new hires with a buddy.

During the onboarding process, specify what mentorship or buddy programs and coaching support your organization offers. Then you can connect new hires with other employees who have similar professional interests. Talk about how each of these team members will help address different areas of skill building throughout their time at the organization.

3. Bolster learning and development programs.

To engage new hires and encourage them to bring their best selves to work, flesh out your L&D offerings. As with mentorship, L&D offers employees the opportunity to expand their current skill sets. This not only improves their current job performance but also gives them the chance to learn from and connect with their team members virtually.

Importance of Human Connections In a Virtual World

With the rise in remote work, it is more important than ever to design thoughtful onboarding programs to ensure employees feel connected to their teams and the company. By offering this kind of human-centric onboarding experience, you reaffirm to new hires that they have made the right decision by accepting the job offer.