Written By: Rich Mesch
August 25, 2022 – 6 min read
Onboarding new employees is a common practice among many organizations, whether it’s a formal orientation program or a more laissez-faire approach. But one aspect has been consistent—a company only onboards employees once. That’s changing now, as employees migrate from virtual to onsite work environments. As with any migration, there should be a plan in place to ensure a graceful transition.
When making the switch from remote work to onsite work, there are two audiences to consider: employees who started as remote workers and employees who were onsite, transitioned to remote work, and now are returning to the office. Each audience has specific needs that companies or managers should address during the reboarding process.
Consider using the following four strategies to effectively reboard employees who started remotely.
For employees who have always been remote, it’s important to build on the network they already have established with one another virtually. One way to do this is to start their transition to onsite work with a get-together to meet one another in person. It could be a casual “meet and greet” or a more structured event with ice breakers and Q&A sessions with company leadership.
Make an extra effort to help remote employees transitioning onsite feel particularly welcome. It can be as simple as a personal note or something more elaborate like company swag. Take the time to walk them around the physical space and introduce them to their colleagues and team members.
Ensure managers and HR are clear about their role in acclimating remote hires to the onsite office. There should be a process and structure that ensures formerly remote workers are adjusting well to the new environment and have everything they need, just as if they had initially started their job at the office.
Aim to pair remote hires with more tenured employees who are familiar with both the office culture and the physical office layout and design. This experience-rich guidance and support can help remote hires navigate new dynamics once they are back at the office, even if they only return onsite a few days a week.
Bringing people back to the office after an extended period of virtual work requires its own set of strategies for success. Consider the following tips when you create your plan for migrating workers back into the office.
Organizations should have a plan in place that will help employees re-acclimate to an environment that, while familiar, will probably feel awkward for at least a short time. Designate a cross-functional team from HR and other departments to determine back-to-office procedures; including hybrid virtual/onsite work schedules, updated health policies, and meet-and-greets with new employees who have only ever worked virtually. While the specifics will vary based on your organization’s needs and corporate culture, taking the time to have answers to the questions you’re likely to hear will help ease transition jitters and welcome your employees back to the office.
It may have been months or over a year since some returning employees have performed their regular tasks. Depending on their responsibilities, these employees may need role-specific training activities to bring them up to speed. If this is the case, plan for pre-assessments to determine any areas that need improvement, then build development plans to strengthen each employee’s capabilities. Make sure to have a post-training evaluation plan to make sure the knowledge and skills stick.
As employees return to work, your organization should make sure your goals and the responsibilities of each employee are clear, especially if their duties have changed. Through honest, consistent communication (e.g., periodic e-mails, digital newsletters, podcasts, and/or video messages from leadership and colleagues), your organization can provide each employee with an overview of their responsibilities and map out how their work meets these objectives.
And finally, here are a few strategies that can benefit every employee, regardless of where their work experience started with your company.
A survey that employees complete prior to returning to the office can offer valuable insights about what they need, what concerns them, what expectations they have around any precautions the company is taking, and ideas about making the return more efficient and effective. A survey can also tell you what’s important to your employees—and what’s not as important.
Health and safety concerns look a lot different today than they did in 2019. Take the time to put policies and procedures in place that work for your company and your employees, then formally communicate those policies and procedures to returning employees. This could be a virtual town hall, a document that employees must sign after reading, or one-on-one sessions between employees and leaders. If possible, bring people back slowly, debrief their experiences over time, and be prepared to modify your company’s approach based on what you are hearing. And make sure to update policies and procedures as CDC and OSHA safety guidelines change.
Health and safety extend to the equipment needed to help keep your employees safe. Depending on the environment, the equipment can include touch-free, standup temperature stations, hand sanitizer, masks, Plexiglas dividers, stocked washing stations, educational materials—along with clear instructions on when and how to use them. And make sure employees know, without question, what the company expects of them.
In 2020, companies faced difficult decisions and financial hardship when they needed to shut their doors, which is why HR should create backup plans in case health and safety concerns start to increase. HR also should create alternative plans for workers who are either unable or unwilling to return to the workplace, including flexible scheduling or the option to switch to another role that accommodates full-time remote work.
Organizations should not take the decision to bring employees back into the office lightly. The world has changed irrevocably, and thinking things will go back to the way they used to be is unrealistic. To thrive post-pandemic, businesses need to adapt, customize their approach, and be ready to pivot as needed. A great place to start is implementing a thoughtful, actionable reentry plan for employees.
Learn more about PDG’s approach to onboarding and why we believe it’s just the first step in an ongoing journey of growth, development, and adaptation.