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6 Tips for Employee Onboarding in a Hybrid Workplace

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Congratulations. You’re hiring. Perhaps your business is experiencing a growth spurt that requires a high volume of new hires and newly promoted managers. Maybe you have found talent to replace those employees who left searching for greener pastures as part of the Great Resignation. Whatever the scenario, you need to ensure that everyone becomes productive as quickly as possible.

Onboarding is more than rolling out a welcoming red carpet or the administration associated with orientation. This is not a conversation about making sure people have the equipment they need (although please have it ready for them on their first day). It’s about quickly ramping up employees in new roles and laying the foundation for their long-term success.

The problem is that onboarding has always been problematic. It’s an activity that often falls through the cracks in the handoffs from recruiting to HR to the hiring manager. In a hybrid workplace, with more remote workers and decentralized teams, those cracks can be bigger than ever. Here are six tips for making it more successful.

Don’t Forget About Internal Transfers

Hiring from within and increased talent mobility serve the interests of your organization and your individual employees. You save money and time, and employees achieve their career aspirations within your organization. Welcome employees to make these changes. Make sure their managers have appropriate onboarding conversations, especially with new remote team members who may be more hesitant to reach out with questions than they would if they could walk down the hall and pop their heads into their managers’ offices.

Blend High Touch and High Tech for Reach, Engagement, and Community

The days of gathering people in a room and passing out the hefty employee handbook binders were gone long before the spike in remote work. Online resources can portion out content and tasks while technology can be used to drive return traffic to the resources. But online tools are not enough. Informal, virtual meetups of recent new hires or monthly department get-togethers can fuel personal connections when the team is not in a central location. So can assigning new team members buddies to help them learn the ropes.


Set Career Development Expectations From the Start

During onboarding, answer questions such as:

  • How does the organization define career?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • What resources exist to support career growth?
  • What kinds of career journeys have other employees had?

Focus on Organizational Values and Culture

Core values and culture guide how people in an organization get their work done, regardless of their function or role. During the last decade, we’ve seen more organizations make this content a priority, often with videos or live presentations by key executives and “regular” employees. As with any organizational messaging, it’s worth getting this right. Stick with authentic stories of, “Here’s how we do things,” and, “Here are the tenets that guide our work together,” to avoid crossing the line into soulless corporate propaganda.


Hold Managers Accountable for Onboarding Conversations

Productivity and long-term success depend on what happens in the first 90 days between managers and new team members, particularly in a hybrid work environment. This is especially true for internal transfers and promotions, where new team members are expected to start working right away. Results and relationships can be hampered by misunderstandings that could have been avoided if people talked to each other. Expect managers to conduct critical conversations about how they’re going to work together, which tasks are top priorities, what capabilities will make a difference, and what’s expected in the team’s work environment.

Survey Employees New to the Organization or in a New Role

With the advent of listening tools, it’s easier to check in with employees wherever they work. Set up a survey at the three-month tenure mark for new hires. Check in with employees who moved into new roles, especially those individual contributors you just moved into people manager roles. Include items about the onboarding experience, sense of community, clarity of work priorities, and what their manager did to accelerate ramp-up and set them up for success.

Once again, congratulations. Your hiring and talent mobility efforts are working. Now use the tips above to fine-tune your onboarding process. The enthusiasm and good intentions of your employees, managers, and organization aren’t enough. And your organization can’t wait for employees in new roles to sort through the rules of the road on their own.

About the Author

Mary Ann is responsible for leveraging 40-plus years of expertise and ongoing research to help clients cultivate motivated employees who focus their unique talents on what matters most to the business. She works with senior executives and managers to turn survey insights into tangible actions and develops tools for employees, leaders at all levels, and HR professionals to address employee engagement, career development, and performance management.

She is co-author of The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce (Wiley, 2012). Her research reports include Employee Engagement: A Practical Approach for Individuals, Managers and Executives, Coaching Conundrum, Innovate on the Run: The Competing Demands of Modern Leadership, and State of the Career. She has consulted with clients large and small across a wide range of industries and countries.

Mary Ann is an engaging speaker, blending humor, research findings, and pragmatic insights. She has presented on values-driven cultures, employee engagement, career development, coaching, and performance management at annual conferences held by SHRM and ISPI, regional HR association events, and webinars offered by HCI,, and HR Executive. Her articles have appeared in Leadership Excellence, WorkSpan, Journal of Organizational Excellence, and Voice of HR. Her expertise has been featured in media like TalentTalk Radio, HR Executive, HR News, The Cranky Middle Manager, and NEHRA’s Ask the Expert.

Mary Ann joined BlessingWhite in 2000 to establish senior executive consulting and leadership development processes, went on to lead a successful revision of the firm’s flagship solution Managing Professional Growth (MPG), and most recently created learning and support tools for employee engagement. She has worked in a variety of roles in the HR training and consulting industry, including stints at DBM and Learning International/AchieveGlobal. She received a B.A. from Wesleyan University.

Her commitment to meaningful lives and meaningful work extends beyond her day job. She is a founding member of the nOURish Bridgeport, volunteering for a hunger outreach program that serves nearly 10,000 meals a year. She was a long-term board member for WISE Services, a nonprofit that helps high schools establish experiential senior-year learning projects. She lives in Fairfield, CT.

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