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It seems that even with the siren call of vaccinations, we are still some way off from any sustained sense of normality. And that normal may even look a whole lot different. Companies have been through an intense spin-cycle of change, and this is set to be the narrative for the foreseeable future. While some were able to adapt and flourish remotely, the opening-up of society again presents another conundrum for the businesses who were able to grow and hire during the pandemic – what happens to those new, virtually employed staff if the office becomes the hub of work again?
For some industries, remote will continue to be the prefered method of work after seeing the advantages. But others will be eager to have their employees back in the office, in some form at least. However, it’s imperative to keep in mind how disorientating this can be for those fledgling hires. Especially when they have no concept of your bricks-and-mortar setup. While they may have been virtually onboarded well and are already contributing greatly to the goals and success of this business, this significant environment change can bring about a number of challenges.
And there’s no point in adopting a sink or swim mindset here. We know the data behind successful onboarding. Employees who are engaged and informed are significantly more likely to perform and, according to SHRM, are 58% more likely to remain at the company. So, if you don’t want to lose talent and incur extra hiring costs, it’s important to reboard these employees. Onboarding in all its forms is strategic. It’s not a one-and-done process, but a continuous initiative that helps both employees and companies succeed. Let’s dig in…
First day 2.0
You’re likely to know well in advance of the date that you’re returning to the office. Use this time to check-in with “new” virtual staff members and bring them up to speed on the nuances of office life. Reiterate important information like start times or other now relevant insights. Make sure they have any I.D. cards or documentation they require so they don’t have to scramble. Even give a virtual tour of the space before kick-off, show them around the building and identify any important points of note. Just like initial onboarding, you want to lay a secure foundation for success.
On the day, have a firm reboarding plan in place with your now previously virtual staff members. It will take a while for them to acclimate but you can speed this process up by making sure they are comfortable, set-up with whatever tech or systems they need and are made to feel welcome. They may not be the “new kid” anymore, but there’s a good chance they haven’t met any of their colleagues in person. Be mindful of this – even offer to set them up with a buddy to show them the ropes. Remember, the faster these employees feel engaged, the faster they can get back to performing. In his article, Matthew Burr even references the importance of a reimagined “stay interview,” whereby you sit down with these employees and focus on their needs in terms of wellness and any particular concerns they may have coming back to the office that are barriers to success.
Set manageable expectations
It’s important to manage expectations when reboarding. Your “new” staff are dealing with more of an upheaval compared to the others. Allow this knowledge to inform how they are performing initially. Tasks that were potentially a breeze when working remotely may take a bit longer now – and this is okay. Give them the space to reaffirm their work habits and don’t heap pressure on them the minute they walk through the doors. You know their capabilities but a new working environment can throw anyone off their axis. In his mission on managing expectations on our learning platform, Jason Lauritsen states that “clear expectations help fuel motivation for the employee by creating autonomy and reinforcing the purpose of their work.”
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It’s worth keeping in mind that some of your employees will have preferred working from home. Companies need to be very deliberate and careful in their approach to a return to the office. Get a sense of what the workforce sentiment is with surveys and gauge your plan-of-action to this. In most cases, if success was had in WFH, allowing for some flexibility in this regard could be unendingly advantageous. Why? Because top talent will walk if they feel unheard. Companies need to acknowledge that there is no “returning to normal.” Forcing old methodologies could lead to lower engagement and dissension, increasing employee attrition and reducing morale. According to Bev Kaye in her onboarding mission on the SocialTalent platform: “there is a direct correlation between shortened tenure and actions you do or don’t do” as a people manager or HR leader.
Some progressive companies, like Spotify, have come out in full favour of WFA, even post pandemic. Others, will veer more towards the traditional. Goldman Sachs, notably, are the latest to put an almost complete end to remote work and have mandated that employees are to return to the office. It was always going to be a tricky situation to manage, and most companies will probably fall somewhere in the middle, offering a blend of in-house and remote work. But even a hybrid approach will necessitate reboarding. Think of it as a perfect opportunity to set expectation and be strategic in how your staff operate. What are the best practices for WFH, for example? What should be focused on when in the office? This kind of reboarding is all about the long-term. And this doesn’t just apply to new virtual hires, but any employee unaccustomed to the hybrid method. Reboarding will set them up for success.
A Gallup study found that only 12% of employees feel their organizations succeed in implementing good onboarding programs. And while there is no playbook for the world of work right now, there are best practices. Making sure your virtually-hired staff feel included, are engaged, comfortable and informed will contribute greatly to long-term success, lower attrition rates and help improve that overall bottom-line. Reboarding may be a new concept. But it is one that should be embraced as we continue to adapt.