Onboarding seen as secret weapon for hybrid-work talent retention

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“Onboarding” new employees has always been critical, even more so in the post-pandemic workplace where most hires now work remotely. 

Patti Waldmeir, contributing columnist to the Financial Times wrote a piece tackling the “perils of onboarding in a world of hybrid work.” She shared her own experience, 20 years ago when she was onboarded in the said publication remotely while she was stationed in Ghana. She candidly says the word “onboarding” did not even exist. 

Onboarding is a crucial step to taking in new employees. And in a world where most people are not working together in the physical sense, immersing them well into the company culture could actually lead to talent retention. 

“Poor onboarding is costly,” says Becky Frankiewicz, Chicago-based president of ManpowerGroup North America, a multinational staffing company.

“If it doesn’t make a new person feel welcome and clear on their role as part of the culture, then people will vote with their skills and take new offers.”

The tricky part is how do you make people who are location-wise feel that they belong? Sure, anyone can easily connect through technology but amid the great resignation and staff shortage getting new hires settled in quickly is even more critical.

Kristin Barry, director of hiring analytics at Gallup, says employees still have the same needs, whether online or off. “What’s different about the pandemic is the mode of experiencing those things.”

Company culture

According to her, staff are always trying to figure out “what do we believe in around here”, Barry says, adding that “before they could do some of that sleuthing on their own, they could view the way people interact, when they gather and what happens, and could deduce the answer to some questions”. Now companies have to be more “intentional” about how they convey such messages, she says.

Additionally, Michele Nelson, Americas Director of Onboarding and Transitions at EY, wrote on LinkedIn mid-pandemic that it’s critical to get to know new hires and “have fun,” even virtually. She says asking staff to share a photo of their workstation or even their pets gives that sense of familiarity. 

“Reboarding,” a new word coined in the pandemic era, describes how existing employees should be eased, post-pandemic, into new offices or jobs.

“There’s nothing worse than showing up for a new job and feeling like nobody knew you were coming”, says Barry.

Like everything else in life, there are pros and cons to building companies remotely. Virtual onboarding saves time, says Frankiewicz — and though it’s harder to build human connection at a distance, there are some silver linings.


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