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Onboarding in a hybrid environment: 7 best practices to overcome challenges


December 18, 2023


December 18, 2023

Onboarding in a hybrid environment cannot be done the same as in a traditional setup. Yet, enrolling people remotely becomes more common as flexible work arrangements are now part of our ways of working and essential to fostering employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.

So, how do you create a sense of belonging when new hires only occasionally meet their colleagues in person? What strategies can you implement to improve the onboarding experience of people working in different locations? How do you make sure you start this new collaboration on the right foot? 

Workplace connection, team bonding, tools and procedures’ understanding, culture embracement… All these are strong aspects that enhance an onboarding process that makes a difference in your employees’ journey

In this article, we share 7 best practices to implement to onboard talent successfully. But first, understanding the main challenges a hybrid worker might encounter when joining a new company is crucial.

The main challenges of onboarding in a hybrid work environment 

Grabbing the company’s culture is more difficult in a hybrid work environment

One of the biggest challenges in a hybrid or remote work setup is to maintain a strong corporate culture. It is hard to sustain this aspect with workers who have been by your side for a long time. So imagine building this core pillar of employee experience and workplace connection with new recruits. It is difficult for them to capture the company's cultural characteristics when not coming on-site and seeing colleagues daily. Therefore, it is fundamental that, right from the preboarding phase, every part of your onboarding strategy and the employee journey needs to mirror your organizational culture

Creating genuine connections is more challenging with virtual interactions

It is hard to “feel the room” when coworkers are behind their screens and mainly interact with their new teammates during meetings. Freshly arrived employees can struggle to get a feeling of belonging and inclusion. Social events are a great idea to help new members get to know their colleagues. However, in-person team bonding activities and informal interactions are essential to break the ice and start creating genuine connections.

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Feeling alone and lost is more likely to happen

When going to the office daily, there is a bigger chance that employees interact with new team members more naturally. For example, they can initiate a conversation during the coffee break or lunch to check how they are doing and if they need anything. This is less likely to happen when people work from home half of the time. For a recruit, this phase can be tough. They can start to feel lonely and lost. They might not dare to ask for help as it could be seen as a sign of being unfit for the position or the company.

Adopting the team’s communication practices can be challenging at the beginning

Each team has its way of communicating and interacting. They also use collaboration and communication tools adapted to their unique needs. So, when new hires join a new team, they must understand the communication practices and how to navigate this system. Where should they write to ask for information? Which communication platform should they use when willing to set up a meeting? Do they usually talk to each other with a formal or friendly tone of voice? And so on. This can be tricky at the beginning, which can lead to miscommunication and misinformation.

Have you hired Gen Z team members lately? Discover the Gen Z communication style and preferences!

Team in a meeting
In-office onboarding

7 hybrid onboarding best practices to make this key phase successful

1. Create a great employee experience before the onboarding process starts

Employee experience is a vital aspect of every company. But fostering this aspect starts before the first day of your new colleagues. It begins right from the moment you announce they’ve got the job. Succeeding in creating a thriving preboarding experience fosters satisfaction, engagement, and excitement to meet their teammates and start their new positions. For example, a great preboarding ritual is to send a welcome package to your new staff. If you can personalize it, you’ll go over the top! But, whether they get onboard virtually or in person, employee experience needs to be considered at each step. The following best practices all aim to foster this key aspect.

2. Design a detailed onboarding process policy

This step can take time but is paramount. You need to have a clear policy about how to onboard each new team member to ensure this process is successful. Every company's aspect must be covered, from explaining your flexible work policy to the workplace technology you use and your expectations and values. A good hybrid onboarding policy should also include:

  • regular check-ins;
  • one-to-one sessions with the manager;
  • team event on the first week;
  • list of the most common Q&A;
  • training materials;
  • work schedules;
  • hybrid work policy;
  • feedback forms.

3. Training manager to onboard new team members successfully 

The role of managers in the onboarding process is fundamental and must be emphasized. A study about Microsoft’s onboarding strategy in the hybrid world reveals that “new employees were 3.5 times more likely to say they were satisfied with their onboarding experience”. Yet, enrolling remote or hybrid workers is still relatively new for leaders; they don’t always know the best practices to implement to succeed in this process. Learning to onboard new people in a hybrid team is essential. You can help them by sharing this article and providing them with online or face-to-face training.

👉 Learn more about leading in a hybrid environment!

Woman working from home on laptop
Online onboarding

4. Build social capital with onboarding buddies

Those who have changed schools in the middle of the year during their childhood probably remember how stressful it is to joining a system and a new group of people who already know each other is. This is no different from entering a new company and starting a new job. Except that, when it’s done remotely, finding its fit, getting to know colleagues, and understanding how things work is more challenging. But if you have a buddy to support you, answer your questions, and introduce you to the rest of the team, the onboarding experience becomes much more enjoyable, doesn’t it? Onboarding buddies are undoubtedly a core pillar of successful onboarding in a hybrid environment.

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5. Focus on trust and transparency

Sharing information about goals, processes, and challenges with new team members creates an atmosphere of trust. Moreover, transparent communication right from the start enables people to feel a sense of belonging and responsibility straight away. From now on, they feel they are part of the team, and their input matters as much as anybody else's. It also enables you to create strong connections and establish a healthy relationship based on trust. Lastly, it helps them to foresee themselves in the future as part of the team and the company. 

6. Asynchronous learning 

When joining a company based on a traditional work setup, learning processes and getting familiar with new tools can be easier as you always have somebody nearby to ask questions. In a hybrid work environment, new team members might spend a few days or weeks working from home before meeting their colleagues for the first time. Setting up an asynchronous learning system is an essential concept to implement. Thanks to online resources and support, they can get ahead with their pain points at their own pace without being frustrated about not having someone around. 

 7. Make use of modern collaboration tools and technology

The good news is that the advancement of technology never stops. Today, you have so many tools available to help you create a great hybrid onboarding experience. When it comes to digital interactions, virtual reality devices, and online collaboration tools help minimize the effects of the physical distance between remote employees. For example, instead of introducing a working process in a written format, recording a video to explain it step by step is much more efficient and interactive. 

Regarding the in-office experience, hybrid technology like deskbird enables recruits to align their schedule with their colleagues’ timetables and book desks accordingly. Let’s say Priya just joined the team. She can click on our weekly planning feature to find out when her onboarding buddy will be in the office next week and also book a desk on this day. They can even pick workspaces next to each other to spend more time together, thanks to the office floor plan!

Team in a meeting
Team building social capital

A cheat sheet to create a thriving hybrid onboarding journey

We must admit this is a lot of information to memorize and a long but essential process to implement. To help you start, here is a cheat sheet with the main takeaways to remember when creating the onboarding program for your hybrid workforce:

  • Design a preboarding phase;
  • Train managers and emphasize their role;
  • Ask leaders to plan one-to-one meetings regularly;
  • Provide synchronous and asynchronous learning material;
  • Pair new team members with onboarding buddies;
  • Organize team events to break the ice and create connection;
  • Check on recruits often to see if they need anything;
  • Be transparent with new hires right from the beginning;
  • Include them in important meetings and decisions;
  • Use technology as an ally.

→ Download your hybrid work onboarding cheat sheet

We hope this article gives you a better understanding of what onboarding in a hybrid environment means and implies. Trying to enroll new staff on Zoom like you would in a traditional setup doesn’t work. You need to do more than this and create a unique hybrid onboarding experience. The challenges mentioned in this blog post are the most common ones referenced since flexible work arrangements started. However, remember, everyone is different. Adopting an individualized and people-first approach is essential to design a successful onboarding program. Fortunately, developing effective and human-centric technologies helps you improve this important phase of your employees’ journey. 

Are you still looking for the perfect match in terms of flexible workplace management? Request a free demo of the deskbird app to master the art of desk booking, room booking, weekly planning, office space optimization, and much more!

Onboarding in a hybrid environment: 7 best practices to overcome challenges

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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