Remote work may have reigned supreme last year as companies scrambled to adjust to the pandemic, but now that the world is slowly opening back up, both hybrid and in-office have reentered the conversation. This means onboarding can look very different for new employees, but with any model, it’s important to create an environment where your new team members feel a sense of connection and belonging right from the start.
To help you design an engaging and memorable onboarding experience regardless of which of these three models you use (or plan to transition to in the future), we’ve put together the following best practices below.
1. Amplify new hire engagement and build stronger connections through gamification
Most onboarding and orientations take a traditional approach consisting of introductions around the office and more personal meetings over coffee or lunch. While this approach can certainly help new hires build out their support networks and better acquaint themselves with co-workers and leadership, it’s not always the most engaging. Gamification can help with this, whether it’s as simple as a scavenger hunt around the office, trivia, or other fun team building games that help break the ice while also being engaging and memorable!
Hybrid teams may eventually meet in-person, but not necessarily soon after they’re hired. One fun way to help prepare them for an eventual in-office visit is with employee “player cards” they can reference before actually meeting their peers in person. This way, employees can learn about peers who share similar interests, working styles, and aspirations before stepping through the doors of your office, which can help reduce stress and anxiety associated with meeting many people at once.
The gamification approaches above work just as well for remote teams; they just require the use of more virtual infrastructure. For example, Deloitte has their new employees form teams with other starters and learn about privacy, compliance, ethics, and procedures online. The teams are then tasked with coming up with a unified answer to pre-set questions about what they’ve just learned. Not only does this collaborative approach help new hires learn and retain functional elements about the company, but it also helps to build bonds with their peers from day one.
Deloitte also created a virtual office tour, which is set-up like a video game. It starts with a scene at the airport where visitors choose their destination. Then visitors “fly” to that city and arrive at the local Deloitte virtual office, where they can talk to employees, getting a sense of the culture.
2. Provide new hires with the resources they need to thrive in your workplace
We once saw a tweet that said, “starting at a new job feels like you’re a new character on the ninth season of a tv show” and honestly, there’s no better way to describe it! That’s why it’s crucial to provide lots of structure for your new hire’s first week. This should include providing your new hire with a first day and first week schedule (e.g. booking in their training sessions, meetings, and desk time), as well as assigning them a new hire buddy or mentor to rely on for all things support during their first few weeks at the company. That way you can avoid those feelings of “floating around” and not belonging.
Generally speaking, it’s safe to assume that hybrid teams will be in-office at least a couple of days a week, which means they’ll require both virtual and in-person training. In addition to giving them a physical tour of your facilities, you’ll also want to provide new hires with a “virtual” tour as well, complete with your virtual processes for communication (e.g. Slack, email, and Zoom), documentation and project management (e.g. intranet sites), and general support.
Go beyond a screen sharing call when giving your remote team members the lowdown on where to go when it comes to resources and processes. Create a branded, interactive virtual employee guidebook that includes a complete breakdown of the tools and processes employees will need to know to not just excel at their job but also receive any support they need virtually. This should include an overview of the internal communications channels you use as well as a list of the go-to person(s) for common requests.
3. Create a workspace that setsyour employees up for success
Make the new employees’ desk feel like their next professional home from their first day. Set it up with materials they can flip through to learn about your company, or even decorate it to make it feel like a real celebration!
If possible, find out their workspace’s preferences ahead of time. For example, if your company provides both Mac and PC laptop options, let them choose! Beyond their laptop, do they prefer a standing desk? Do they like to sit in a chair or an exercise ball? If possible, get their workspace as close to “perfect” as possible for day one!
This is also a great opportunity to find out how they like to work while at their desk. Ask their communication preferences ahead of time and if they like informal chats to meet people, encourage team members to stop by their desk to introduce themselves in their first week.
To really help employees settle in, regardless of if your new team members are at home or in the office, you can follow in HubSpot’s footsteps to provide workspace options tailored to their preferred at-home/in-office distribution. Depending on whether they want to work one, two, or three days in-office, HubSpot employees receive different kinds of support to ensure their workspaces are tailored to their needs so that they can be as comfortable and productive as possible.
And if you’re using the “hot desk” or “hotel” workstation approach for your hybrid employees, remember that this may be a new concept. Depending on your organization’s approach, you may want to consider booking a desk for them for the first few visits. Bonus tip: make it even “sweeter” by providing them with a caddy of travel treats they can enjoy at their desk — similar to entering your hotel room and discovering a little wrapped chocolate perched on your pillow!
Remote employees don’t have access to any of the perks or facilities that in-office or hybrid employees do. First things first, if you’re providing any hardware (i.e. laptops), make sure new hires receive it and have it properly set up well before their start date.
Given another major challenge of starting a new job remotely is feeling connected, invite a few employees on different teams into the group onboarding video calls to share their experiences and tips for getting involved at the organization.
And don’t forget to emphasize remote-specific perks and benefits! Depending on what you offer, these might be stipends for home office equipment, meal delivery services in lieu of in-office lunch catering, and discounts for childcare, and other areas supporting employee wellbeing while working from home.
For more help creating an engaging and memorable onboarding experience, be sure to read our Onboarding for Success Guide. And if you’re looking for a helping hand, get in touch with our expert team of hiring professionals today!
ML6 is a recruitment and talent advisory firm located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We provide customized solutions to support our clients throughout the employee lifecycle. We help our clients attract and retain talent by advising on people programs, processes, and best practice