Six Tips for Employee Onboarding in a Hybrid Workplace

Congratulations. You’re hiring. Perhaps your business is experiencing a growth spurt requiring a high volume of new hires and newly promoted managers. Maybe you have found talent to replace those employees who left searching for greener pastures as part of the Great Resignation. Whatever the scenario, you need to ensure that everyone becomes productive as quickly as possible.

Onboarding is more than rolling out a welcoming red carpet or the administration associated with orientation. This is not a conversation about making sure people have the equipment they need (although please have it ready for them on Day One). It’s about ramping up employees in new roles quickly and laying the foundation for their long-term success.

The problem is that onboarding has always been, well, problematic. It’s an activity that often falls through the cracks in the handoffs from recruiting to HR to the hiring manager. In a hybrid workplace, with more remote workers and decentralized teams, those cracks can be bigger than ever. We offer, therefore, six tips for making it more successful.

Don’t forget about internal transfers

Hiring from within and increased talent mobility serve both the interests of your organization and your individual employees. You save money and time, and employees achieve their career aspirations in, not outside, your organization. Then why are you investing exclusively in onboarding external new hires? Welcome them again. Make sure their managers have appropriate onboarding conversations (more about that later)—especially with new remote team members who may be more hesitant to reach out with questions than they would if they could walk down the hall and pop their head into their manager’s office.

Blend high touch and high tech for reach, engagement, and community

The days of gathering people in a room and passing out the hefty employee handbook binders were gone long before the spike in remote work. Online resources can portion out content and tasks while using technology to drive return traffic to the resources. One client of ours recently showed us an onboarding program that laid out 12 weeks of activities for new hires and included a forum for community building. Self-directed, online tools aren’t enough, though. Informal, virtual meetups of recent new hires or monthly department get-togethers can fuel personal connections when the team is not in a central location. So can assigning new team members “buddies” to help them learn the ropes.

Set career development expectations from the start

We’ve helped organizations establish a career point of view to shape career management tools and to manage expectations throughout the employee experience. During onboarding, answer questions like: How does the organization define “career”? Who is responsible for what? What resources exist to support career growth? What kinds of career journeys have other employees had?

Focus on organizational values and culture

Core values and culture guide how people in an organization get their work done, regardless of their function or role. In the last decade, we’ve seen more organizations make this content a priority, often with videos or live presentations by key executives and “regular” employees. As with any organizational messaging, it’s worth getting this right. Stick with authentic stories of, “here’s how we do things” and, “here are the tenets that guide our work together” to avoid crossing the line into soulless corporate propaganda. (Yes, you know what I’m talking about.)

Hold managers accountable for onboarding conversations

Productivity and long-term success depend on what happens in the first 90 days between managers and new team members, particularly in a hybrid work environment. This is especially true for internal transfers and promotions, where new team members are expected to hit the ground running. Results and relationships can be hampered by misunderstandings that could have been avoided if people talked to each other. Expect managers to conduct critical conversations about how they’re going to work together, which tasks are top priorities, what capabilities will make a difference, and what’s expected in the team’s work environment. An alternative: Provide employees in new roles with guidelines for leading a conversation about clarity of work priorities, work environment, and working relationships.

Survey employees new to the organization or in a new role

With the advent of listening tools, it’s easier to check in with employees wherever they work. Set up a survey at the three-month tenure mark for new hires. Make sure to check in with employees who moved into new roles, especially those individual contributors you just moved into people manager roles. Include items about the onboarding experience, sense of community, clarity of work priorities, and what their manager did to accelerate ramp-up and set them up for success.

Once again, congratulations. Your hiring and talent mobility efforts are working. Now use the tips above to fine-tune your onboarding process. The enthusiasm and good intentions of your employees, managers, and organization aren’t enough. And your organization can’t wait for employees in new roles to sort through the rules of the road on their own.

About the Authors

Mary Ann Masarech

Mary Ann Masarech spent the first third of her career writing, designing, and marketing skills training for top-notch consulting firms. She acquired a broad base of instructional design and client experience building learning experiences in sales, negotiations, account management, customer service, selection interviewing and leadership skills. The programs she designed were all about the “how.” (When “X” happens, do “A, B, C.”) When she joined GP Strategies’ BlessingWhite division in 2000, Mary Ann began to explore worlds beyond skills: The internal workings of individual learners – expressed as personal values and goals, the puzzling workings of organizational culture, and the often complicated dynamics of trust and relationships at work. She quickly realized there was no going back. As Lead Consultant for BlessingWhite’s Engagement Practice, Mary Ann creates practical tools and strategies that clients worldwide apply to create successful businesses and thriving workplaces. Think of her approach as "research meets real world." She is passionate about great days at work – where individuals experience the highest levels of personal satisfaction, apply their skills to what matters most, and deliver their best work to drive their employers’ strategies. As lead consultant, she also works with senior HR and business leaders on how to take meaningful action on engagement survey results to drive organizational performance. She is co-author of The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce (Wiley, Oct 2012), has written numerous research reports and articles, and is a well-regarded speaker on the leader’s role in engagement and building a culture of engagement. Mary Ann's commitment to meaningful lives and meaningful work extends beyond her day job. She is a founding member of the Norma Pfriem Urban Outreach Initiatives, a not-for-profit that addresses food insecurity (serving 10,000 meals a year) and education of underserved adults and children. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University. She enjoys her mostly-empty nest with her husband, 2 cats and a dog, cooking, reading and running (not simultaneously) in her spare time.