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How to ace hybrid onboarding

Nikolas Kairinos, CEO -

After observing businesses’ responses to flexible working for almost two years, the evidence points towards one key conclusion: hybrid work is here to stay. As large segments of the global workforce continue to quit their roles in record numbers, some research suggests that this is, at least in part, related to the renewed push for a return to the office. One survey from Microsoft even suggests that more than half of UK workers would consider quitting if hybrid work was axed at their organization. Clearly, the demand for more flexible working opportunities has stuck.

Whatever the reasoning behind this trend – whether workers are craving a better work-life balance, or a new challenge – the reality is that businesses will be putting a lot of work into hiring new starters. Given that in the height of summer, there were about 1 million more job openings than there were candidates in the U.S., organizations will also have their work cut out for them from a resource perspective. Indeed, the task of successfully onboarding new employees across both remote and in-person settings at this scale will require a lot of careful thought and manpower.

The challenges of onboarding remotely are manifold: while some individuals may be concerned about connecting with colleagues in the virtual environment, others will be worried about taking in all of the necessary information about their new role without being in the office five days a week.

Building relationships
In truth, acclimating new employees to a company and its culture when teams are dispersed is a difficult task. Yet cultivating strong relationships between employees and their colleagues is vital – after all, a well-connected team also makes for a happy and productive one. With staff working from different locations, it is more important than ever to ensure that employees are all on the same page about the day-to-day happenings of their roles, and any important company information that they may need to know.

This is not as easy as one might expect, even with digital communication platforms on hand to ease the burden. According to recent research from SoffosTM, while half of the workers surveyed wanted their next job to allow fully remote work, the majority (60%) were concerned about their ability to quickly integrate into the company culture.

The way to resolve this problem first in foremost, is organizing company data. After all, it is not possible for organizations to deliver a successful onboarding strategy, without considering the knowledge they want to impart to their new employees. Here, it would be wise to consider the quantity and type of information stored and keep this well-organized. Thereafter, the information can be presented as a centralized employee portal, where staff can find all the information they require to get up to speed with company activities, policies and the minutiae of their roles. Often, the right document is found buried in a set of sub-folders and miscellanea, so such solutions will be invaluable when it comes to helping new employees.

Likewise, it can be useful to pair new employees up with existing members of the team who can help to show them the ropes. In this regard, it’s important that the welcoming committee stretches beyond just the management team, so that individuals know who they can turn to for informal support. In practice, this should allow workers to expand their networks, become more productive, and, on a more basic level, settle into their new organization. Often, a friendly face can go a long way – whether this is a chat about the job over a coffee, or a quick Teams call.

Conversational AI and centralized employee portals
Naturally, individuals will have plenty of questions leading up to their first day, and while some of these queries can be answered in person, it can be difficult to allay all concerns out of company hours, for example. As such, organisations would do well to invest in technology to aid the process.

Applications that utilize conversational AI (CAI) and natural language processing (NLP), for example, allow individuals the opportunity to ask questions about their specific role or wider company matters on demand, before their first day. These solutions provide far more specific guidance than just run of the mill ChatBots, which are only built to provide more generic guidance.

A new starter might want to know whether they have an itinerary for the first week, or even what the office dress code is. State-of-the-art platforms will be able to proactively inform workers about any mandatory or important information they need to know, so that they don’t have to worry about asking their new manager ‘too many’ questions. In any case, these technologies will help to soothe any anxiety on behalf of new starters, as well as lessening the load of busy management staff, which is a win-win.

Businesses should remember that sticking with hybrid working practices doesn’t mean that they must sacrifice a personal touch, or a rigorous onboarding process. Small moments shared between colleagues, whether virtual or in-person, along with the right tech can do wonders, contributing to a successful onboarding strategy.

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