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5 steps to transform your onboarding strategy to fit the hybrid workplace

An office buzzing with chatter, every desk occupied, and a full lunch table where all the teams come together. This was our Appical office pre-corona. And then it all suddenly stopped.

Like most (office) workers in the Netherlands, we had to work from home and shift to a fully remote working setting. When Covid first hit us, we were surprised by the consequences and had to improvise. After numerous lockdowns and different work models – we took control of the situation by adapting our HR policies and work models for our existing employees.

As a leading employee onboarding provider, of course, we also very much care about our new employees and transformed our onboarding process correspondingly. Let us tell you how.

What is your ideal (hybrid) work model?

Chances are you have been confronted by this question by your employer, friends, or on your LinkedIn timeline. We asked a similar question in the Appical office and found out that a majority of employees prefer to work from home half of their working days. The same goes for the visitors of our webinars when we asked their opinions. Research by Nyenrode, Open University and Moneypenny confirms that other (Dutch) employees feel the same way: no less than 88 percent of the participants opt for a hybrid 50-50 model. In other words, employees increasingly demand more flexibility in where they work. 

But hybrid working is more than deciding how many days your employees are going to spend in the office. The challenge that we – and many organizations with us – face is shifting old processes and programs to fit the new hybrid workplace. One of those processes is onboarding. This can be especially challenging in today's remote and hybrid work environments. How can you adapt your onboarding program and prepare for a hybrid workspace? Together with the insights of our own employees as well as talking with experts, we came up with a 5-step cycle. We’re going to walk you through them.

The 5 steps to transform your onboarding program

Blog 5 step cycle

1. Redefine your work policy

We already mentioned it in the introduction: before transforming your onboarding program, you need to know what employees want. Conduct internal surveys, talk to employers’ associations, and learn from Great Place to Work companies or industry leaders. At Appical we have sent out surveys to the whole team. We analyzed the results and asked ourselves: what kind of company do we want to be? So spend time on redefining your work policy and communicate this clearly with your team.

2. Review your existing onboarding program

No matter if it’s a handbook with guidelines, coffee with team members on the first day or a complete 100 day program. If you hire people, you probably have an onboarding program in place. Take a look at this program, compare it with your new work policy and identify the gaps you need to fill to ensure they match. Think about every phase in your employee journey: pre-hire, pre-boarding, onboarding and offboarding. For example: where do your job interviews take place? And how do you welcome new people on their first day, virtually or at the office? Quick example: at Appical we like to bring everyone together on our monthly company meetings. Since covid, we have a hybrid meeting: a couple of employees join from the office, the rest online.

3. Refresh your tool stack

Most likely, you already have tools in place for (parts of) your onboarding process. The pandemic called for new tools to design a workplace (both physical and digital) that helps teams and customers work together and connect regardless of where they sit. Think of tools to help you like:

  • Speakap: reach all your employees with one app
  • DocuSign: sign agreements and contracts electronically
  • Validata: screen your future employees
  • Asana: manage all your projects and collaborate with your team members
  • Appical: onboard your new employees digitally 

For example, before the pandemic broke, we held our design workshop to develop the onboarding app at our customer's office. Nowadays, we deliver a similar experience with a tool called Miro, where you can have the same engagement and output, but then digitally. It’s all about leveraging digital tools to ensure new hires receive the best onboarding possible.

design workshop

4. Transform into a hybrid onboarding program

Now that you have shaped your hybrid work policy, identified the gaps in your current onboarding program and know which tools to use, it’s time to put the first 3 steps in action. We always advise our customers to use the 4 C’s (now even 6!) to build an onboarding program. This will help you create the best pre- onboarding experience possible. We won’t be going into that right now. In our eyes, this topic is so important that it deserves its own blog. You can read all about the 6 C’s in hybrid onboarding here.

Also, decide which parts of your onboarding process can be done virtually and which need to be in person. At Appical we use an online people finder to let new hires get acquainted with their new colleagues, and combine this with in-person coffee dates at the office or outside in the park.

5. Launch and improve

Did you successfully complete the previous 4 steps? Launch your new hybrid onboarding program! Exciting, but this isn’t the end of your journey. It’s essential to have a system in place for check backs to ensure that your onboarding is always delivering and that everyone gets a good onboarding experience. Actively ask for feedback during and after the onboarding period. And use this input to improve your program. We advise our customers to build in short engagement polls and ask for the feedback that can be used during the in-depth check-ins. Let technology help you to see trends and to be able to deep-dive on topics that matter the most.

Be aware that things change, and you have to adjust accordingly. As mentioned, we asked our employees and audiences at events and webinars about their ideal hybrid work model. And although a "50% remote, 50% office" model was preferred by most participants the first time around, a different winner emerged when we asked the same question about 5 weeks later, namely, "I choose when I go to the office. Conclusion: things change, so keep asking, learning and improving. If there’s one thing we learned from the last few years: the future of work is flexible and unpredictable. 

You like to see more examples? Our CCO Peter shares his insights on hybrid onboarding.

Key takeaways from the 5 step cycle

  1. Start at the beginning of the 5 step cycle. Don’t underestimate how much time you have to put into step 1. Research, internal discussions, clear communication. It takes time but is the foundation for a successful roll-out of the cycle in total.
  2. Don’t take the easy road. It’s called a 5 step, not a 4 step cycle :). Full disclosure: at the beginning, we didn’t fully commit to the first 3 steps. But we quickly found out that we have to go through every step to do this right.
  3. Approach this in an agile way. Meaning: these are changing times. Governmental regulations come and go. Stay aligned with your employees, include them in your decisions and considerations, and don't be afraid to run the cycle again; launch & improve! 
  4. Let tech do the work for you. Do not underestimate the importance of good tech. It makes (part) of the process scalable, improves the user experience and ultimately makes your life a lot easier. 

Whatever the future might look like: people will always be the center of any organization. At Appical we believe that making connections is key, no matter if that is virtual or in-person. Because, at the end of the day, our mission is crystal clear: we empower talent!

Need some help with transforming your onboarding process? Take a look at our platform or request a demo.

Provide new employees with a memorable onboarding experience

Get yourself informed why onboarding benefits your organisation and how you can provide new hires with a lasting onboarding experience! Discover in this eBook how other companies provide a memorable onboarding experience to their new employees. Download the eBook and get started!

Onboarding new employees EN

Take the leap.

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