How to improve your onboarding process for hybrid workers

man in black sweater using macbook pro


Employee onboarding is one of the most important aspects of any organisation’s recruitment process. It’s always been important, but as many businesses continue to navigate and adapt to hybrid or remote working styles, it’s become even more so.

But it can’t be denied, the onboarding process can be a difficult one for both workers and employers. In fact, only 29% of new hires feel fully prepared and supported in their new role after being onboarded.

With more than 30% of full-time UK employees now working a hybrid schedule, many HR departments have been tasked with overhauling their onboarding strategies to address new ways of working, and are now looking for effective ways which can blend face-to-face and digital.

It’s worth the consideration though, as those that succeed in improving the onboarding process for hybrid workers could see improved operational efficiency, higher profits and happier employees. Those that don’t could see lower staff retention numbers, lower productivity, and a hit to their bottom line. 

So, that leaves the big question… what can businesses do? In this article, we will share several strategies to improve the onboarding process for hybrid workers.

MacBook Pro on table beside white iMac and Magic Mouse
The questions organisations are facing… How can they make sure they meet the onboarding requirements of their hybrid workers?

Why is an effective onboarding process for hybrid workers so important? 

In order to stand out in a market where many key skills are in short supply, employers must do everything they can to attract, engage and retain top talent. Studies suggest that new starters who experience a positive onboarding process are likely to be 18 times more committed to their employer, increasing staff retention by 82% — a clear indicator that an effective onboarding process and strategy has long term benefits for the business, so it can’t be overlooked.

The onboarding process can vary in different organisations. It usually involves introductions to team members, mandatory compliance, a welcome gathering, an overview of tools for productivity and anything else to help employees feel settled. But an effective onboarding process helps employees feel valued. It’ll engage them, help them acclimatise to their new role, the company’s philosophies, and everything else the company has to offer whilst also providing them with the learning and tools they need to succeed in their role.

How to successfully onboard hybrid workers

While the benefits of hybrid working are clear for many businesses, onboarding staff in a hybrid work model isn’t without its challenges. In fact, more than a third (36%) of HR Managers felt that remote or hybrid onboarding made it hard to provide effective, role-specific training for new starters.

However, as hybrid working becomes more commonplace across the UK, many organisations are finding new ways to improve their process for onboarding hybrid workers. 

Start the onboarding process before the employee’s first day

Despite an organisation’s best efforts, an employee’s first day can often feel overwhelming. With new systems to learn, people to meet, and administrative tasks to complete, new hires are expected to navigate their way through lots of new information and processes. 

It is therefore important to implement a pre-boarding period that begins from the moment a new employee signs their contract. This period is one of the first experiences an employee will have with your organisation and can be used as a window to introduce new hires to your company culture whilst laying a solid foundation for engagement. 

Think beyond the first 30 days

Beyond onboarding, employees need a tailored process to support success in their new roles. For example, onboarding a new salesperson will require a different set of activities to onboarding a senior finance partner – a fact some businesses overlook when executing their onboarding processes for hybrid workers.

By enabling departments and managers to create tailored plans, the onboarding experience can transition into a best-practice opportunity for upskilling and ongoing development that extends far beyond the first 30 days. When executed correctly, organisations can deliver bespoke programmes that enable them to deliver training, monitor each employee’s progress, and schedule events with colleagues that will keep new hires engaged, whether they are in the office or working from home.

Clarify the setup process

It is important to keep new hires in the loop throughout the onboarding process, but some managers often forget to discuss the setup process. Be sure to explain what equipment will be sent and when to expect it – and most importantly, what to do with it. Many new starters benefit from understanding what logins are being created, when they will be activated, and any other actions they might need to take, such as downloading software or connecting with a VPN.

Schedule check-ins with new starters

Virtual onboarding can often leave employees feeling lonely, isolated and as if they don’t fully belong. So that’s why it’s so important for managers and team leaders to have regular 1-to-1 meetings so new starters can raise any challenges, concerns and even positive feedback about their onboarding experience.

woman in gray and white striped long sleeve shirt using silver macbook
It’s important to have regular check-ins booked in as part of an onboarding process.

Connect people

Which brings us to the importance of human connection. When onboarding virtually, close attention needs to be paid to helping them to connect with colleagues and get to know the company culture.

The most effective HR teams set up new employees on their communications platforms before they join the company. With 42% of hybrid and remote workers experiencing difficulty forming new working relationships, this process allows new hires to meet their teammates and build relationships before they begin their new role, helping improve engagement and making the onboarding experience smoother for all parties.

Assign an onboarding buddy

Another source of connection is an onboarding buddy. They would be the best person the new starter would turn to advice if they’re having issues with things like technology, administration, or project leads, and would direct them to the right people within the organisation. They provide a connection to the rest of the business; which helps new starters to feel comfortable enough to approach people and ask for advice, as well as settle into the new company culture. This is even more important virtually than it is face-to-face.

Use informal communication

We’re all human and we all feel slightly overwhelmed when starting something new and unfamiliar. Having a digital space where people can chat informally to co-workers can make introductions a lot easier. Even scheduling informal coffee chats, virtual video calls or chatting on internal social media channels can all make a new starter feel more settled in those first few weeks.

Employ asynchronous learning

Onboarding in a hybrid work environment is different to onboarding in person, so it is important that new hires receive training that reflects this. The biggest mistake employers make is to try and replicate the in-person onboarding process online, over Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Unfortunately, this is rarely an effective onboarding practice — Zoom fatigue is a real issue. 

Instead, HR and L&D teams should look for tools that allow asynchronous working and collaboration, and embed these into their onboarding process. Online courses, discussion forums and company wikis are invaluable tools that give new starters the freedom to complete tasks at their own pace, ask questions, and reflect on what they have learnt. This can help them feel more comfortable and confident when taking on a new role.

Set expectations

When working in a hybrid environment, it can be difficult for new starters to understand what is expected of them when working remotely. The onboarding process is the perfect time to set these expectations and introduce employees to your company culture. Whether you encourage employees to work flexible hours, require an ethernet connection instead of Wi-Fi, or discourage the use of blurred virtual backgrounds, the onboarding process is the best time to discuss these with any new hires — their experiences with other employers could have been very different.

Collect feedback and implement change

It would be unreasonable to expect any HR department to get the onboarding process for hybrid workers right on the first try. 

Because of this, a continuous process of learning and iteration should be built into your onboarding culture. Employee feedback taken at various stages of the onboarding process can prove to be an invaluable tool for many employers, as it provides real-time feedback and suggestions at each point in the onboarding journey. 

This article is a blend of two articles we originally published on our Virtual College by Netex site: Onboarding in a Hybrid World and Changing the Onboarding Process: the impact of COVID-19.

If you’re looking for more onboarding insights, check out:

Why do companies struggle with their onboarding process?


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