How to onboard in a hybrid work environment

Welcome to our new series where we explore the most important industries, trends, and topics related to your career. This month we are focusing on remote onboarding.

How to onboard in a hybrid workplace is a question on a lot of HR minds these days, now that COVID-19 has necessitated the world shift toward remote work.

The nature of a hybrid workplace means HR personnel is going to have to worry about two different types of new hires at the same time: remote and on-site employees. And depending on the company, two different sets of employees might require two different sets of time-consuming onboarding protocols.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Smart companies know that the question of how to onboard in a hybrid workplace is simply an invitation to streamline processes and knock out two obstacles with one carefully crafted plan.

Optimize for overlap

An easy way to streamline processes to work both in a remote and on-site capacity is to make adaptable and flexible onboarding tools. For example, take this bit of advice that author David Finkel penned for Inc. “Fast track [the process of getting new hires up to speed] by creating a company onboarding deck that includes all of the pertinent information about your business,” Finkel says. “You can then share this deck on day one and allow them to educate themselves and any others that work on their team in half the time.”

That advice works in a variety of situations for many different types of employees. Permanent full-timers, freelancers and contractors, remote and on-site workers—no matter who you need to get onboarded, a company deck can do the job efficiently and effectively.

It works because it’s essentially an independent homework assignment loaded with relevant information, meaning on-site employees and remote employees alike can peruse it at their own pace and learn at a speed that’s comfortable for them.

Considering it utilizes the same resources, knowledge, and distribution method for all employees, one deck can unify a hybrid team with ease and get everyone on the same page right away.

Make sure you have your ducks in a row

Speaking of getting employees on the same page right away, make sure that HR, IT, and any other relevant departments are all up to speed on what’s needed for each and every new hire. Nothing derails a hybrid workplace more than having logins, credentials, and necessary permissions set up just for your on-site employees while your remote workers are left high and dry.

Even if remote employees are out of sight, they cannot be out of mind. It won’t be good for anyone if some new hires have access to necessary job tools while others are left waiting around for the company to get its act together.

Kelly Ann Doherty expresses similar sentiments in a Forbes article she wrote on the subject. “It is so important that new hires and managers have the skills to work together while remote,” Doherty says. “Connecting with new hires before their first day to set expectations and provide relevant materials can also streamline the remote onboarding process and make both managers and new hires feel more comfortable.”

Doherty’s remarks align well with Finkel’s and reinforce the self-evident nature of the advice that if you don’t have everyone on the same page on day one in your hybrid workplace, some folks are going to get left behind and unintentionally throw a monkey wrench into your company’s operations.

Set expectations accordingly

If your business is set up in such a way that one-for-one parallelism isn’t possible between remote and on-site onboarding procedures, then make sure you’re accounting for that when you set bars for new hire integration.

If certain onboarding checkpoints need to be passed by particular dates, make sure you’re scaling them proportionately with the efforts and resources being allocated to whichever camp you’re trying to onboard.

Naturally, those in the office might have an easier time acclimating to key functions and processes simply because they’re always within arm’s reach of resources and people with answers.

In the era of Zoom and Slack, one would hope remote workers have the same sort of immediate access to help and onboarding assistance, but that’s still not the case for every company.

So if there’s any disparity between your company’s remote and on-site onboarding operations, make sure you adjust employee expectations accordingly so no new hires get a raw deal and sour on their new employer. You don’t want early turnover, given the expenses such an occurrence incurs.

Onboarding itself is already an expensive process when you factor in the cost of equipment the new hire will need, their diminished productivity during training periods, and the cost spent paying whoever is handling their training. It all adds up very quickly. So just imagine all that money spent only for a new hire to quit due to a bad onboarding experience.

You’ll be left having to spend all that money twice for half the gains. Gallup estimates it’ll cost anywhere from one-half to double an employee’s annual salary to find and onboard a worthy replacement, meaning with so much money on the line, it’s best to try to retain talent via a quality onboarding experience.

Check out our series on remote onboarding in 2021.