Almost two years ago, organizations around the world quickly shifted every aspect of their operations to take place remotely. This included the onboarding of new hires, and many of those who didn’t begin the recruitment process until the pandemic was well underway haven’t stepped foot inside the office even once.
It’s safe to say that we’re in a much stronger position than we were in when the pandemic began. Now, as organizations look at returning their office staffing to pre-pandemic levels, there’s an opportunity to re-onboard employees who started their jobs remotely. This will help to encourage a continued positive employee experience.
Onboarding Helps to Boost Retention
Research by Glassdoor says that organizations that have strong onboarding practices improve employee retention by 82 percent and productivity by more than 70 percent. Yet, a survey by American analytics and advisory company Gallup found that only 12 percent of employees feel that their organization does a good enough job of onboarding employees.
At a time when organizations are facing increased employee turnover due to the so-called Great Resignation, organizational leaders can’t afford to ignore the value of a robust employee onboarding strategy. This includes re-onboarding where necessary.
In determining which employees to re-onboard, organizations should consider any new hire that was brought on board during the pandemic or immediately prior to the sudden shift to working from home. You may also want to include employees who moved into new roles or transferred to new offices during the pandemic. All these people are likely to have had their onboarding experience disrupted by the then-present situation.
Why It’s Vital to Re-Onboard Remote Hires
If you’re somebody who has ever gone through an onboarding process, think back to your own experience.
Those initial few days on the job were crucial for helping you find your feet, learn where everything was, meet your colleagues, and begin to understand the culture of your workplace.
In contrast, those who were hired remotely had an entirely different experience. Nothing can fully replace the experience of in-person, on-premises onboarding.
Given that your cohort of all-remote employees might not yet have had the opportunity to meet many, if not all, of their colleagues, visit the office, or participate in social events, re-onboarding will help to socialize them and encourage further integration into the organization’s culture.
Strategies for Re-Onboarding Your Remote Hires
With all this in mind and on top of other pre-boarding and onboarding best practices, here are five strategies to help your organization re-onboard its remote hires as they begin working from the office for the first time.
1. Onboard Remote Hires as One Cohort
Your remote hires share a common experience that differs from any others — they all started their jobs during a global (and, hopefully, once-in-a-lifetime) pandemic.
Consider building your re-onboarding activities and processes around your remote hires as a single cohort who will undertake them together wherever possible. This will give individuals who share this common bond the opportunity to dispel some of the awkwardness and anxieties of the re-onboarding process together.
2. Give Remote Hires More Control
Your remote hires have had a lot of control over shaping their working lives because they worked from home. One of the reasons remote hires might be hesitant to begin working in the office is because they think they’ll have to give up the autonomy over their working experience by being told when and how to work.
When you re-onboard remote hires, reinforce the idea that you want to help them re-create the things that have worked for them during the pandemic. Give your remote hires — or rather, all your employees — more flexibility over work schedules and setups. This will show that you care about their experience and improve employee engagement.
3. Show That You Care
On the subject of showing that you care — do it! Make more of an effort to help your remote hires feel especially welcome if it’s their first-ever time stepping foot in the office. Consider leaving a small token gift, letter, or other gesture at their desk. This is a small touch that will go a long way in helping your remote hires feel that they are valued and recognized.
Other small acts that could help integrate your remote hires might include ensuring that their desks are in areas where they will be able to interact with colleagues more easily or organizing in-person social events for them.
4. Orient Them to the Physical Space
Working in a new office environment can feel intimidating when you don’t know which way is up. For remote hires who have never set foot in your office, this is extra challenging. Colleagues may innocently assume that remote hires who have been on the team for two years will know what they’re doing or where they’re going despite this not being the case.
It’s therefore important to orient remote hires to their new workspace. Conduct tours in small groups to provide remote hires with the opportunity to ask questions, meet and get to know each other, and learn about important aspects of the physical space such as security protocols and potential hazards.
5. Clearly Communicate Preferences and Expectations
Remote hires have grown accustomed to remote processes and expectations. It was quite normal for them to ping a Slack message across to a manager regardless of how busy they were.
In the office, however, the dynamic can be quite different and there comes an adjustment period for new preferences and expectations. Abruptly disturbing people who are busy, for example, isn’t always appropriate; it’s easier to ignore a Slack notification than it is to ignore a colleague face-to-face. As part of the re-onboarding process for remote hires, it’s a good idea to re-establish principles, processes, and expectations — everything from procedures for booking meeting rooms to individual communication preferences — so that everybody is on the same page.
Get Ready to Re-Onboard
Although returning to the office after almost two years will be a big adjustment for everyone, it will be an entirely different experience for remote hires.
Given that your remote cohort of all-remote employees might not yet have had the opportunity to meet many, if not all, of their colleagues, visit the office, or participate in social events, re-onboarding will help to socialize them and encourage further integration into the organization’s culture.