It’s no secret that remote hiring has increased exponentially since Covid-19 sent populations into lockdowns. Today, whether you’re in a country that’s coming out of a lockdown or experiencing intermittent lockdowns, there are likely to be some employees preparing for a return to the office.
Among them are people who were recruited virtually and started their jobs remotely. You probably onboarded them virtually when they first started, but considering they will be stepping into the office environment for the first time since being hired, they need to be re-onboarded.
Many companies don’t even think about it, expecting remote employees to find their feet with the help of colleagues they might have gotten to know virtually.
However, the physical office environment will undoubtedly change the work dynamic and processes. These remote hires will also at least need a tour of the premises. Several additional steps must be taken in order to help them connect with the company.
Research shows that this is necessary. A recent TINYpulse survey found that new hires did not connect with company values or engage with colleagues as well as those hired pre-Covid-19. In light of the fact that employee engagement is one of the keys to talent retention, this certainly needs to be addressed and good re-onboarding programmes would be a great way to start.
A gradual return to the office in the next few months presents an opportunity to refresh these, especially for remote hires.
The group should include those who started work at least a month before WFH arrangements began in earnest as they may not have had a chance to get used to the physical environment and processes before having to adjust to WFH conditions.
1. Acknowledge and Recognise Change while Remembering the Basics
You might think that the act of returning to the office is similar to reuniting the gang. However, let’s not forget that your people and processes are likely to have changed in the past year. Your re-onboarding programme needs to reflect these changes.
This could very well mean that even staff who’d been working with you long before the onset of Covid-19 would need to be re-onboarded, especially if, in addition to processes, the physical structure of the workplace has changed to accommodate safe-distancing and/or other measures.
Start by consulting with a group of managers and employees from various departments to identify key changes and from there, identify all employees who will need to be reoriented to new workplace norms.
Remember the basics such as an office tour, equipment briefings, security protocols and an illustration of how new health and safety guidelines apply to them.
2. Re-onboard Them as a Group
Those who started work remotely during the pandemic share an experience that is still considered anomalous.
Create opportunities for them to interact and bond regardless of their job roles. The sharing of challenges and/or lessons learnt can help them make connections more rapidly and effectively. At least in their first few weeks at the office, such connections can be a great source of comfort and support.
3. Make Them Feel Particularly at Home
They may have been working with you for a year, but remember that it is their first day at the office, so make them feel particularly at home. Leave something special at their desks – a personal note or a small gift. Your aim should be to make them feel recognised for having started a new job during a challenging period.
4. Position their Desks Strategically
Extra care needs to be taken to ensure that remote hires are not isolated at the office even while your company continues to take social distancing measures. Working in the office should be a markedly different experience from WFH. Make sure that their desks are located in areas where they can seamlessly interact with other colleagues. Compared to others who may be somewhat familiar with each other and can seek each other out even if they are sitting in different areas of the office, remote hires need special care in this regard.
5. Re-Introduce them to Key Personnel
You might have covered this during the initial remote onboarding exercise, but nothing compares to meeting colleagues in person and watching how they interact.
Here are a few things you can do to help this process along.
Remind them who to turn to when they need help and introduce them to these individuals in person. This could include colleagues in departments such as IT and HR.
Spelling out the rules of engagement is especially helpful. For instance, since they’re in the office, they can drop by the IT department’s office for help when needed, instead of communicating with them via chat or e-mail.
6. Implement Mentorship Programmes
If you haven’t already done it, assign remote hires a mentor they can consult for guidance and advice on navigating work in a new setting. Returning to the office will make it easier to meet spontaneously on site, so consider mentorships that cross departments, functions and/or experience in order to improve overall learning and collaboration.
7. Rebuild Teams Across the Board
Remote hires haven’t just missed out on a year of working in the office. In fact, compared to employees hired before the pandemic, they’ve missed out on years of face-to-face spontaneous interactions in the company. These interactions are extremely useful, serving to familiarise them with key individuals in the team who embody the spirit of the company.
Managers should be made to reach out to initiate such interactions. These experiences have the potential to be more powerful now since new hires will be able to see key individuals in the flesh and be introduced to them.
Front-line managers should also discuss team victories, lessons learnt over the years and upcoming goals in order to build a sense of mission and solidarity. Even if you’ve done a measure of this remotely when these individuals first started work, repeating such messages during in-person informal sharing and dialogue sessions can be extremely beneficial.
Companies must ensure that front-line managers are provided with the resources and time to make such interactions happen.
8. Check In Regularly
Ensure that front-line managers and/or HR personnel are checking in regularly with remote hires for at least their first few weeks in the office. Find out how things are going and adjust accordingly where required. Ask them for their feedback on re-onboarding initiatives and encourage them to suggest areas of improvement. Act on these suggestions as quickly as possible to improve your initiatives for current and future cohorts.