We recently held a webinar in which Rocket Companies’ Senior Director of Onboarding Operations, Danielle Golas, and Sift’s Audra Borger discussed how the employee onboarding process has changed in the past couple of years with the shift to hybrid work.
There are certainly challenges unique to onboarding hybrid employees, but with some creative thinking, you can still ensure new hires have a positive onboarding experience. As Danielle shared on the webinar, “[hybrid onboarding is] an amazing opportunity to learn and really think outside the box.”
Read on to learn about some challenges with hybrid onboarding and how you can solve them!
Problem #1: New hires feel like they’re on a deserted island
Starting a new position can be overwhelming. There’s a whole new company to get acquainted with about, coworkers to meet, and a job to learn.
But if you don’t have clearly defined onboarding tasks, it can be even more overwhelming. How many of us have started at a job and had nothing to do the first couple of days? It can feel pretty confusing and lonely, right? When employees start remotely or hybrid, those feelings can be even more exacerbated because there’s so much less human interaction.
What you can do
First, it’s important to recognize that “onboarding” is about more than just one day of orientation. As Danielle explained during the webinar, it’s a set of milestones that runs from the application and interview process to the pre-hire stage (background check, offer letter, hiring paperwork), and all the way through to orientation and that first team meeting. Having multiple touchpoints and an open line of communication throughout the process can help ensure new hires don’t feel completely lost or forgotten about.
Danielle also stated, “I think the biggest piece of how we were able to bring on these team members and continue moving forward is we set a really good baseline for consistent communication and feedback.” She shared that Rocket Central consistently solicits feedback, “so that we can ensure that we are continuing to move forward and being innovative.”
Without feedback, how else do you know what’s working and what’s not? Reviewing feedback from newly onboarded team members can help you ensure they’re getting what they need out of the onboarding process, as well as make changes to parts of the process that maybe aren’t hitting the mark. There’s no real formula for how often you should solicit feedback, but if you want a rough idea of what other organizations are doing, we asked the attendees on the webinar. 55% said their organization asks them for feedback quarterly, while 28% provide it yearly, and the other 18% do it weekly.
Problem #2: New hires don’t know who to go to when they have questions
You probably have a lot of questions when starting a new job, from benefits to office logistics to how to perform a particular task (and everything in between). But if you don’t know the right person to go to, even simple questions like “what holidays do we have off?” or “where do I park?” can be intimidating to ask. Sure, you can ask your manager, but sometimes you don’t want to bother them over and over.
When employees start on-site, it’s often easiest to just turn around and ask the person that sits next to them a question. Remote team members, however, are on their own – leaving them to try and figure out who they should go to. And the same goes for employees whose companies are operating in a hybrid model. They may not be in the office on the same days as their close desk neighbors, or the person they need to talk to might be working remotely that day.
What you can do
One way to help new employees know where to go when they have questions is to provide resources for potential employee questions, whether in the form of a new hire handbook, intranet site, employee directory, or an email inbox for general questions.
You can also leverage a tool like Sift that takes employee directories a step further by giving everyone in your organization access to information about everyone else who works there. So finding someone with a particular skill, understanding who works in what department, or knowing who speaks what languages just takes a simple search.
Problem #3: New hires don’t feel connected to their teammates or the organization
Starting a new job remotely or in a hybrid capacity is definitely different from doing so fully on-site. When you’re in the office every day, forming relationships with the other people you interact with just comes more naturally, whether they’re on your team or not. You may have created a bond with the person whose desk you walk past on the way to your own after you noticed the picture of their golden retriever that made you think of the one you had growing up. Or maybe you just can’t wait to see the receptionist every morning, because they always greet you warmly and make you feel excited to start your day.
When you’re remote, most conversations happen online and with your direct team, and depending on the nature of your job, may mostly be about work. Even if you’re in the office sometimes, you may not even see other coworkers on the days you’re there.
What you can do
Ensuring that employees feel connected is so important when it comes to job satisfaction. But there are a few things you can do to help foster that in a hybrid environment. First, as mentioned above, communication is vital. Opening up a line of communication prior to an employee’s first day and continuing to touch base periodically after they start can help make them feel included and excited about their new role. As Danielle mentioned in the webinar, “it's really important to connect with our team members as they're onboarding and really set the stage for what it means… to become a team member.”
Also, encourage connection through events – and if in-person isn’t possible, then there are lots of things you can do with remote team members! Some examples we heard on the webinar included virtual team lunches where the company provides food delivery service gift cards, meet-and-greets with senior leadership, and even online icebreaker games. These are also all things that can improve employees' understanding of one another and help prevent any toxic workplace communication habits from forming.
Want to learn more about onboarding in a hybrid work environment? Watch the on-demand webinar to learn how Rocket Companies successfully onboarded 46% of their employees remotely since 2020.