Blog Article

Employee onboarding in a time of constant change

Change, high levels of uncertainty, and new work models pose significant challenges for successful employee onboarding.  

October 20, 2022
November 14, 2022

Employee onboarding in a time of constant change

The 2020s are proving challenging so far: the COVID pandemic, the war in Europe, high energy prices, The Great Resignation, and ever-increasing information flows. No wonder why managing workplace uncertainty is becoming an increasingly important focus for many organizations. On top of this, more and more employers are offering remote work opportunities or experimenting with hybrid models and flexible schedules.

Through it all, companies are still hiring new staff who need to be integrated with the existing workforce and motivated so that they give their best. And here lies the paradox: change, high levels of uncertainty and new work models pose significant challenges for successful employee onboarding. At the same time, these are precisely the situations that could be managed with much greater success in the presence of a well-thought-out and well-executed employee onboarding process. 

Can constant change and uncertainty at the workplace cause anxiety?

Yes, it absolutely does! Research by the American Psychological Association shows that employees tend to be skeptical about reorganization within companies. Of the 1,500 people surveyed, only four in ten said they trusted that the changes would achieve the intended effects, while almost a third believed company executives had a hidden agenda. What is even more striking is the effect that organizational change has on employee well-being and morale. Of all the people surveyed, those affected by change at work were more than twice as likely to report chronic stress. Uncertainty at the workplace is also the reason why employees are less likely to trust their employer and more likely to be making plans to leave.

Moreover, as we have seen too many times already in the last few years, sometimes change is necessitated by global political and social factors. For example, at the beginning of 2020, besides a handful of health researchers, economists, and futurists, how many people could have imagined they would have to live in lockdown? 

Onboarding employees during uncertain times

We have already addressed the question of why a good onboarding experience is essential to a company’s ability to retain the best talent and keep them motivated and loyal. The key steps in a successful onboarding process have also been discussed in detail. 

In a nutshell, a well-executed employee onboarding process will show the new hire they are appreciated and valued right from the start. It will quickly provide them with the tools and knowledge necessary to perform their job and will take proactive steps in helping them build connections with peers, managers, and other stakeholders. 

These pillars are particularly important during times of uncertainty when people may experience higher levels of anxiety than normal. In such times, employees seek predictability and reassurance and need to believe that, despite bumps on the road, their jobs are safe and their career prospects – are still attractive. In terms of onboarding new hires, this means more communication: more time spent getting people’s feedback and offering help, a larger emphasis on peer learning and mentoring and greater inclusion in goal setting. 

It is during times of uncertainty that great leadership truly makes a difference. Challenging times are also an opportunity to act in a way that wins employees’ respect and trust for the long haul.

The rise of remote work 

For many companies, remote work was the only option during the COVID-19 pandemic and now that the worst seems to be behind us, the option of working from home (WFH – it even has its own acronym now) is here to stay. So much so that companies like Yelp are closing down their offices and going into full remote more. Is this the beginning of a WFH world? Only time will tell.

Working from home surely has its advantages for employees—reduced expenses. No time wasted in crammed public transport or stuck in traffic trying to get to the office. No more boring, endless meetings (oh, well, at least in-person meetings, video conferencing is here to stay). More time for family, friends, and hobbies. Some people also find that they are more productive when the distractions of an office environment are removed.

There are drawbacks, too. Experts are already cautioning about zoom fatigue and loneliness. In addition, with the social element of office life gone, many companies are experiencing strains on relationship building and collaboration. Last but certainly not least is the negative impact on onboarding remote employees. Onboarding becomes a lot more challenging when the new hires work remotely.

Best practices for onboarding remote staff

Aligning new employees with corporate values and integrating them quickly into the core team is difficult even without the additional challenges posed by remote work. Yet, there are steps that HR and line managers can take to help new hires settle. 

Hassle-free technology set-up: Providing new hires with the equipment they will need in an efficient and hassle-free manner is one big opportunity to impress. In addition, in a WFH environment, it is even more important for new employees to receive adequate training about the equipment and specific software they may be required to use, as well as very clear instructions about how to reach the IT helpdesk.  

First-day welcome is key: Experts from the Forbes Human Resources Panel advise starting the employee onboarding process by sending a welcome package. This typically includes paperwork like HR forms and useful paraphernalia like pens and mugs but why not consider throwing in cool branded gadgets like anti-blue light eyeglasses? Another nice touch could be to ask core team members to record video messages welcoming the new person. Some companies host virtual lunches and give away coupons for food delivery services in a bid to make the occasion a bit more special. 

Always be available: Regardless of how well-organized orientation and introductions have been, new hires always have many questions. This is even more so when remote workers are concerned. Managers should make an effort to be available to answer questions at short notice. Regular check-ins and timely follow-ups are also particularly important.

Peer learning and mentoring: Providing onboarding buddies for new staff is always a good idea and this is even more crucial when onboarding remote workers. Peers and mentors can help fill in knowledge and skills gaps and align new staff with corporate values. Even more crucially, the interactions help foster connections and build community.

Virtual small talk: Video conferencing is not a replacement for face-to-face interactions, yet it does provide opportunities to break the ice and bond socially. Some experts recommend adding ten to 15 minutes for small talk when planning conference calls. At the same time, it is important to be mindful of Zoom fatigue – avoid scheduling back-to-back video calls and always make sure that virtual social events are opt-in.

In conclusion, a well-executed employee onboarding that considers the particular challenges of remote work and working in uncertain times can be an invaluable tool for organizations. Getting it right will help transition new employees quickly and keep morale high even in uncertain times. 

Mentessa is a software platform that helps organizations encourage communication and sharing and build communities based on collaboration rather than competition. To find out more about how we can help you streamline onboarding and create a mentoring culture within your organization, schedule a free expert consultation now

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