Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic made businesses all over the world rethink the in-office work model in order to keep team members safe. HR managers and employers worked quickly to transition in-person onboarding and training to digital processes. Now, nearly 18 months later, with the “new normal” in full effect, HR pros are considering yet another model: the hybrid work model.
The hybrid model brings together two very different methods of work, and many believe it’s the “best of both worlds.” It gives employees the option to work both in person and remotely, depending on their preferences and what makes them most productive.
While many components of hybrid work overlap with the fully remote work model, there are distinct differences that HR should know, particularly for the new hire onboarding process. Here are some tips and common mistakes for HR to consider when adapting to hybrid onboarding.
Do’s for Hybrid Onboarding
#1 Set clear expectations for remote and in-person employees.
Welcoming both remote and in-person new hires creates the potential for knowledge gaps around work expectations. HR managers should effectively and frequently communicate how performance is evaluated, how team members should communicate with managers, and which tools should be utilized for productivity.
Setting clear expectations for a mixed workforce can look like:
- Uploading new hire expectations and policies in an easily accessible virtual Human Resources information system (HRIS)
- Posting regulations and handbooks on office bulletin boards for in-office employees
- Using performance management and employee engagement tools to add updates for new employees around performance benchmarks
#2 Collaborate with department managers to standardize the onboarding process for everyone.
Onboarding team members in different departments adds a complicated layer to the already mixed welcome process. HR managers should set up meetings with each department manager to create a standardized onboarding process that is conducive to each role, whether it’s sales, marketing, engineering, or anything else.
#3 Help new hires make connections early.
Navigating a new work model is daunting for new employees. Virtual employees may be worried about making strong connections from behind a screen, so HR should facilitate networking opportunities within the workforce. Here are a few ideas for allowing both employee types to make lasting connections:
- Create personalized onboarding videos from team members so employees know their peers by face.
- Schedule frequent videoconference check-ins with both direct managers and cross-departmental team members.
- Assign buddies to new hires, both remotely and in person, to welcome them to the team. Buddies/mentors can schedule walk-and-talks, meet them for lunch in person, or give them a rundown of your organization’s perks.
#4 Demonstrate your commitment to developing effective mental health policies.
With nearly 47% of adults still experiencing negative mental health impacts due to the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that HR managers communicate mental health policies and support as early as the onboarding process. A strong mental health policy should cover formal and informal workplace mental health programs, provide mental health benefits information, and include additional resources about managing stress in the hybrid work environment. Once it’s together, make sure your new hires, both remote and in person, know where they can get help if needed.
#5 Create a resource for common questions and answers.
What do performance reviews look like in a hybrid model? How do I submit a reimbursement request? How do I get mental health assistance? Common questions like these are more daunting to ask when employees are scattered and don’t have a central reference point to find answers. HR professionals should create an easy-to-find document, a hub, or a database for in-office and remote employees alike to reference. HR pros can consider housing these documents in their digital HRIS or a shared electronic document or create an anonymous question box for unanswered questions.
This is a great way for new hires to find answers to questions when they may or may not be able to ask someone in person.
Don’ts for Hybrid Onboarding
#1 Don’t assume that all onboarding needs to happen virtually.
As we navigate the remote and in-person work model, do not assume that ALL employees must be onboarded and attend orientation virtually. Especially if your employees are local, offer to start new hires in the office on their first day if they’re comfortable. This helps them get a feel for the office environment and meet team members in person and creates outlets for new hires while working from home. Though you aren’t requiring them to visit the office, simply introducing them to the office environment can help create a sense of belonging.
#2 Don’t overlook the importance of emerging HR tech.
With the more permanent shift to hybrid and remote work models, it’s time to invest in HR onboarding tools to create a more frictionless process. While physical onboarding packets, employee handbooks, and in-person training dominated the past few decades, the HR landscape looks very different these days. Investing in an automated HR tool can help HR managers onboard a mixed workforce with digital offer letters, online benefits enrollment, and easy payroll setup. If your organization is currently working with paper and spreadsheets, the shift to the hybrid environment may be a good time to revisit your processes.
#3 Don’t stay silent through preboarding.
From the minute you extend an offer to your hybrid employee, you leave a lasting impression on the new hire. During this time, your new team members are feeling anxious, excited, and uncertain about their new role, especially as they take on a hybrid model they may never have before. HR managers should not stay silent in fear of bombarding a new hire; in fact, the new team member would probably appreciate frequent touch points, e-mails, and communication to make sure he or she is on the right track. This is a great opportunity to bring in department managers, as well, and make sure they’re frequently touching base with their direct employees.
#4 Don’t make your new hires sit through hours of virtual meetings on day.
Your new team members will likely be adjusting to even more than the “standard” in-person employee, so make sure your new hire orientation is fun and engaging. Zoom and technology burnout has become more commonplace as teams transition into remote settings, so be cognizant of what energizes your new hires. Set up time for breaks, self-study, video meetings, and phone calls to break up the day. Eight hours of video training is not new hire-friendly!
#5 Don’t forget to optimize for overlap.
Are you instilling a sense of belonging in both remote and in-person employees? As you go about the hybrid onboarding process, make sure you consider both employee settings for each. From sending onboarding documents to administering security training and providing a company overview, create a standardized process that can be easily accessible any time or place. For example, you wouldn’t want to host an in-person security training unless it’s easily accessible by remote team members.
Navigating Uncharted Waters
From in person to fully digital and all the way back to hybrid, HR is navigating rough and unprecedented times. Outdated processes are being challenged, and employee needs are changing with their work models. Though HR professionals can’t anticipate everything, taking these tips with them will help make the transition smoother.
Aimie Ye is the SEO Manager at GoCo, a modern HR software built to help small businesses streamline their day-to-day HR processes, from onboarding to benefits administration.