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10 things to remember while creating an employee onboarding plan for a hybrid workplace

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There’s one thing we would all unanimously agree on and that is: employee onboarding is a very crucial touchpoint in an employee’s journey. 

A beautifully crafted and executed employee onboarding process can make your employees feel welcome in your organization. It gets them acclimatized to their roles, their team, the organization’s culture, processes and more. At the same time, it is an unmissable opportunity for organizations to deliver a good first impression.

However, the pandemic upended every one of those familiar ways in which onboarding was previously done.

Earlier, you could have a new employee walk into your office for the very first time and be greeted by the HR, get introduced to their team in-person, have coffee with teammates, meet their manager one-on-one and sit through an induction program with other new employees just like them.

Not anymore.

Moving forward, employees are going to mostly experience onboarding in some combination of ‘remote+physical’ depending on the return-to-workplace route your organization takes. This means, there is no going back to how onboarding was done prior to the pandemic. And if you’ve had a stop-gap virtual employee onboarding plan in place to get through the pandemic, then it is time to revisit and structure it into a brand new hybrid onboarding practice that will become your new normal.

To make this evaluation and restructuring easier for you, we’ve identified 10 things that must be a part of your hybrid onboarding experience.

1. Don’t skip pre-onboarding engagement

The period between an employee accepting a job offer to the actual day of their joining is very crucial in the hybrid onboarding experience. 

It is a great time to break the ice and slowly introduce your new hires to the organization. One way to do this could be by scheduling their interactions with a few current employees. An informal catchup with their manager or team would also be a great idea.

This way, you take the load off the actual joining day and new employees feel more ready and prepared on the day they join you.

Side-note: Planning to send an ‘everything-you-want-to-know-is-in-here’ kind of an employee handbook to your new hire? We would recommend not. Long handbooks often go unread and can overwhelm your new hires. Try sharing information in more digestible chunks and when needed, instead.

2. Create tailored onboarding experiences

Not all employees can be onboarded the same way. Onboarding a fresher in the marketing team will be very different from that of a software developer at a mid-level role or an analyst at the senior level. Preferences and expectations of employees vary based on their roles, experience levels, age group, and so much more.

Thankfully, accessibility to data and automation has made it possible to customize onboarding for all personas of employees at scale. 

When it comes to customization of employee onboarding experience, there is so much HRs can learn from Customer Experience (CX) professionals. You can check out this video of Guneet Singh, Head of Marketing & Creative Services, Google sharing insights on how EX can adopt best practices from the CX playbook. 

Additional resource: Do check out our in-depth guide on How to design a consumer-grade Employee Experience. In this step by step guide, you will find all the tried and tested CX methods and principles that you need when planning your employee experience.

3. Discuss terms of hybrid work

Hybrid work comes in various shapes and sizes. To avoid ambiguity, have an open communication with the employee about how the hybrid work setup works at your organization. Make sure the employee completely understands when they are expected to come to the office and when to work from home. Be absolutely transparent about the policies that guide hybrid work at your company.

4. Skip full-day induction programs

Long induction programs delivering every information possible about the organization in two days is a no-go in the hybrid work environment. Sitting through such long sessions over a video call is exhausting, to say the least.

In a hybrid setup, organizations are introducing shorter induction modules, broken down into digestible chunks, delivered by different people based on priority and at the right time. 

In addition, self-help video modules can also be created that can help employees go through the HR policies more at their pace.

5. Increase visibility with roadmaps

Unlike a full-time in-office setup, in hybrid work, new hires do not always have immediate access to a colleague sitting at a nearby desk to reach out to for guidance. In such a scenario, employees may find themselves at a loss as to what to expect in the first few days or months of their joining. 

If proper visibility into the onboarding process isn’t shared with the new employee, they will be pretty much left wondering when they need to submit documents, who will help them with their email set up, how to connect to their team, and more.

Not a great experience for new hires to have, isn’t it?

That’s why it helps to have a ready roadmap available to employees that will show them everything they need to do and can expect from their HRs, managers and teams in the upcoming days.

At Tydy, we’ve specialized in creating onboarding journeys that give new hires full visibility of what is expected of them, send them reminders, and also nudge other stakeholders who are expected to interact with the new hire, be it IT, HR, their managers or others. 

6. Create opportunities for socialization

In an in-office setup, when employees find themselves at a watercooler or the lift lobby, it leads to organic conversations and rapport building.

But things don’t happen as organically in a hybrid setup.

Therefore, initiating these opportunities for socialization for a new hire to feel included is important.

What can that look like?

A virtual meet-and-greet for the new hire. A surprise welcome package being sent home. Or sharing video welcome messages from team members. 

7. Deliver training in technology

Digital is where everything is happening in a hybrid work environment. You must not only equip new employees with the necessary tools and resources, but also train them on how to use it.

From sending across a laptop and other necessities for setting up a home office to organizing training sessions with IT teams, introducing them to the operations, documentation and knowledge repositories will enable them to get working in a more autonomous and speedier way.

8. Virtual check-ins by HRs

In a hybrid work environment, it helps for HRs to break the traditional formats of checking in or taking feedback from new employees. Contextual feedback taken immediately after some initiative is delivered is better than waiting for a 30, 60 or 90-day milestone to check in with new hires. 

And while scheduling surveys are great, don’t forget to also have quality face-to-face time with the employees. 

9. Nurture relationship with managers

We recently spoke to working professionals across various industries to put together the EX 2021 Report: Onboarding Out of Office. According to the survey, just about half the new hires we interviewed felt that their managers were actively involved during their onboarding period. On similar lines, research done at Microsoft shows that when managers play an active role, new employees are 3.5 times more likely to say they are satisfied with their onboarding experience. 

But for managers to be truly participative in the employee onboarding process, you must enable them to support the new employee. Guidance in terms of how they can lead the onboarding experience for their new team members and ensuring that managers have the time to give attention and support to the new hires is very important.

10. Assign a virtual onboarding buddy

At a time when an employee cannot simply walk up to a colleague in the next cubicle for help, it is important to consciously build a virtual buddy system for new employees.

What does this mean?

Assign a tenured employee from the same team who can give peer-to-peer guidance to the new team member. And this buddy can serve as the go-to person for the new employee for any help, support, or query they may have.

That way, your new hires will feel supported and find it easier to make their way around their new virtual organization.

Final thoughts

Technology is leading the hybrid onboarding experience in a pandemic-informed world, which is great! A good employee experience tool can help you build and automate unique employee onboarding journeys, customize at scale and also nudge people to effectively complete their onboarding processes. At the same time, we mustn't miss the fact that human connection is what people have been missing the most in a remote work setup. Therefore, it is important to welcome a balance of both - technology and human connection - in your onboarding plan for the new normal.

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