Onboarding new employees was a difficult process even before the pandemic. But now with millions of professionals working from home offices under a new hybrid-working model, it’s become even harder than ever to find people who align with your business’ values.
With employees spending less time in the office and more time in virtual meetings, it’s difficult for new hires to absorb the culture of the business, build relationships with other employees, and improve their skills through observing others. This creates unique challenges for businesses looking to onboard new talent after they’ve been hired – which, in turn, requires businesses to make adjustments to their traditional onboarding process.
1. Plan for their (virtual) arrival
Even before their first day, you can help your new hire to feel valued and at ease by ensuring that you have a detailed plan for their virtual arrival. Make sure that they are set up with the right technology to work effectively while remote. For example, Xero has a home working allowance to ensure that everyone has the correct furniture and environment equipment to be successful.
And alert new hires to your onboarding process in good time before their first day, you can avoid any first day awkwardness entirely. It’s also important to communicate this plan to their new team too so they are ready to support and play an active role in the onboarding journey. This will create a better experience for everyone. Remember that employee welfare and safety still applies virtually, as well – so make sure that you still conduct desk based risk assessments.
2. Set up regular catch-ups and debriefs
Going forward, create a process that involves attending regular catch-ups and debriefs. This will help them to integrate within their team and get them up to speed on their responsibilities quickly – and give them plenty of opportunity to ask as many questions as they want.
Since there are so many aspects of working within a business that are absorbed observationally, it will be harder for them to get up to speed as quickly. Invite feedback from all of your colleagues – and especially the new hires themselves – on the different stages of the plan. Most of all, be open to implementing changes that could make it more effective in the long-term.
3. Introduce the wider company
Traditionally, an employee on their first day would be shown around the office and introduced to the members of the team. This was a great opportunity for everyone to meet the new recruit and for them to feel like part of the team. While this is no longer possible, there are ways that you can recreate this atmosphere virtually.
By arranging a virtual welcome meeting, for example, introductions can be just as seamless and effortless as they would be in person, allowing new hires to connect and engage with their managers and teammates.
You could also consider linking new employees up with a ‘buddy’ – this might be an existing employee in a similar role, or a friendly face from the office who has gone through the traditional onboarding process and is able to advise on how to have a successful start at the company, and is a great first step towards building relationships with other employees in a virtual setting.
4. Set up regular communication methods
While it may not be ideal, being able to communicate with your team virtually is an essential part of the hybrid-working model – and it provides a great way to expand your company culture beyond the office.
Consider arranging regular virtual meetings as opportunities for employees to engage with each other in an informal setting during the week. The calls could focus around updates, celebrations or simply check-ins – while they’ll be especially effective for new hires, they’ll have the added benefit of motivating all of your employees to remain engaged, motivated and connected.
Take a look at other companies to find out how best to keep your employees engaged within a hybrid-working model – Xero, for example, has successfully introduced a ‘Future of Work’ initiative to encourage greater flexibility and choice in terms of when, where and how our people work.
Onboarding new employees within a hybrid-working model presents unique challenges for businesses – hires can no longer absorb the culture of the business, build relationships with other employees, and improve their skills through observing others in the same way – but there are also great opportunities as a result of it. By establishing a plan, making a special effort to build personal connections and engaging with a virtual culture, businesses can make small adjustments to their traditional onboarding process to overcome these challenges.
Ian Chaplin is talent experience manager – UK & EMEA – at Xero