In today’s modern world of work, the hybrid work culture has become the desired way of working for many, a growing trend that was accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. A recent survey of 9,000 workers in six countries, found that 72% of workers prefer a hybrid remote-office model with only 12% of workers preferring to always work in an office setting.

Hybrid work is not only the more popular option, but the additional autonomy and flexibility has also has been shown to boost productivity. As workplace flexibility stands to become the norm, it presents an opportunity for human resources (HR) leaders and executives to reimagine the onboarding experience.

Onboarding New Employees

Onboarding is much more than the logistics of ensuring that a new starter has all the technology they need. When new employees excel in their roles sooner, there is also further opportunity to see greater results sooner, which has a direct impact on company performance. A study by the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) found that employees who worked at companies with excellent onboarding had a 50% higher productivity rate in their first year and 53% higher retention.

6 Tips for Successful Hybrid Onboarding

  1. Start with the end in mind: At the end of a new employees first 90 days, what do they need to know and what should they understand?  Are you addressing all four areas of content that are important to a new employee?  How do you want the new employee to feel? These questions form a checklist to review your onboarding plan.
  2. Design the experience: Dedicate time to personalizing onboarding manuals originally designed for in-person training and rethink the experience. What will provide more valuable in person and what is better suited from a remote experience? Often, short videos can be made to introduce concepts that are repeated in onboarding workshops. Company history, culture and processes can all be made more interesting and engaging through microlearning platforms.
  3. Too much information is not enough information: Previous in-person onboarding allowed relationships to be established sooner and the essence of content that isn’t written in a manual was felt. Organizations should be open to sharing as much information as possible when welcoming someone in a hybrid manner and designing opportunities for the informal to occur.  Virtual meet and greets, coffee talks and mentoring can operate well in a hybrid work model if organized effectively.
  4. Personal check-ins: Allocated time for an informal catch up that is not business-related, and finding out how the new starter is really feeling, on a personal level, will be valued. A manager should be checking in on a new hire several times a week during their first 90 days. A 15-minute video chat is easy to schedule and support.
  5. Very clear expectations: It’s important new starters are aware of expectations, this limits opportunities for assumptions and mistakes. Talk specifically about operating in a hybrid environment and their preferred style of communication. By clarifying communication styles, you and your employees will start off on the right foot.
  6. Appoint an onboarding buddy: This will give the new employee a point of contact within the business, allowing them to build further relationships and gain a better sense of the company culture even if they are not on-site all the time. Feeling connected to people is one of the greatest drivers of employee retention.

Why It’s Essential

Maslow’s five levels of basic human needs theory, explains that psychological and safety are critical to obtain in the very early stages. If a new starter is not onboarded successfully, they may feel emotionally disconnected from the company or thoughts of imposter syndrome could become overbearing, which ultimately will limit how well they can perform — eventually leading to turnover.

A 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that nearly three in four employees are impacted by a bad hire, with each bad hire costing companies an average of $15,000. Consider all the time that has been spent training up a new hire or the amount of time the position remains vacant for, as well as the impact this may have on team members. There should be particular attention to the initial period when an employee joins a company, as this is a critical moment and will influence whether the probationary period is successful or not.

To ensure the onboarding experience continues to improve, design and roll out onboarding feedback surveys, collecting information at multiple points along the onboarding journey over the first few months. Not only does this demonstrate to the new employee that the company is listening, but it is a valuable source of information to continually improve the onboarding experience for future hires.

Onboarding for a hybrid work experience is a great opportunity for companies to reimagine their employee experience. People are a company’s most valuable asset, and research emphasizes that the return on investment (ROI) from onboarding is enormous. The cost of not doing so is a risk to the very survival of the business as tight labor markets are expected to be the norm for many years. Companies who recognize this opportunity, leverage new technologies and reimagine their employee onboarding will win.