Big companies may be forcing staff back to the office fulltime, but SMEs still have to cope with managing inductions for hybrid staff.
From fairly early on in the pandemic, with the rise of remote conferencing technology, it was clear that some form of hybrid working was likely to stay.
Many of us loved it at the start and the legacy is clear – some companies continue to benefit from reduced overheads, while their staff enjoy an improved work-life balance. For other businesses however, as time has gone on the sheen has begun to wear off.
In the world of giant corporates, companies such as Meta, JP Morgan and Microsoft are changing their tune, rearranging their relevant policies and citing productivity, team building and innovation as essential drivers to get managers and teams back into the office.
But while the tech gurus and bank bosses might grab the headlines for their moves to order staff back into the office, SME owners know, too, that working face-to-face is important for their own productivity.
At The HR Dept, we advocate to our UK-wide clients that the benefits of collaboration in one workplace cannot be overstated. We understand that humans are social beings, who need to be physically present in order to bond over meaningful relationships. Great as they are, Zoom and Teams meetings just do not cut it.
Best practice managing inductions for hybrid staff
For many businesses, that leads to a hybrid approach – some days in the office, some working from home – which tries to capture the best of both worlds. So, as business practices evolve, how can you best manage inductions for hybrid staff?
Here’s a look at some of the approaches you could adopt to ensure your new hires have a flying start and, hopefully, stick with you.
Before they join
Sort out their tech
You want your new hybrid staff member’s induction to be smooth, so make sure this is done before they arrive. Ensure any work devices or kit have been pre-loaded with important software or templates. Bookmark any websites they may need to access on a regular basis.
Draft a company-wide “new joiner” introduction email and be sure to include any fun facts or conversation starters. For example, “We hear Alice has a terrific knowledge of 80s trivia – one for the pub quiz team?”
Set out the plan
Regardless of their long-term work pattern, it is good to have them in the office in the first week to build rapport and make connections. Let them know what the induction will look like in advance.
Week 1: In the office
It’s easy to assume that everyone knows how to screenshare, raise a virtual hand, or even schedule a Zoom meeting. New joiners will feel reassured if you offer a physical walk-through of all collaboration apps and software.
Think about shadowing
New employees can quietly join a meeting and this is a nice, relaxed exercise for a first day. Be sure however to introduce them to the team and advise they’re there to simply observe. Get them to take notes and perhaps give you private feedback.
Keep it balanced
It’s easy to top-load the first week with loads of introductory calls and meetings. This can be overwhelming, not to mention tiring. So, schedule a few easy, immediate tasks. This will help build their confidence and enable you to quickly identify any gaps in their skills.
Modify your health and safety induction
This piece is an important part of any induction, but now you’ll need to include working from home. You still have a duty of care here. Key points to cover include the set-up of the workstation to comply with display screen equipment regs and protect posture; and also mental health to ensure staff know how to report (and get help for) work-related stress.
Set them up for remote working
Building on the initial tasks set in the office, lead on to others that they will be able to do from home. Use the facetime in the office to set expectations about work ethic, productivity and culture, to guide them when they are away.
Week 2: When working from home (WFH)
Set the tone
Think about sending a welcome package by post. This could be something as simple as nice pens and notepads.
Match new joiners with experienced, friendly staff who are willing to offer a bit of mentoring and advice. If both parties appear to have shared hobbies and interests, all the better.
Don’t assume that if you haven’t heard anything, they’re doing okay. If possible, schedule daily one-on-ones in the beginning. This will help track their progress and ensure they’re happy, engaged, and staying usefully productive.
Week 4: How did you do?
Ask for feedback
Hybrid working is still pretty new and the only way you can improve your digital onboarding is by asking for feedback – either via an informal tea break chat or perhaps a quick online survey such as SurveyMonkey which has a free basic package.
Successful hybrid staff inductions
We’d recommend that these various steps will help maintain a positive and constructive relationship with your new employees, helping you strike the balance between modernising your working practices to meet current expectations, while maximising chances of retention and maintaining authority over standards of performance.
Of course, all businesses are different and will have a different optimal balance for getting the best out of your workforce. So, if you are new to hybrid working as a concept, or if you need a bespoke programme, we would recommend seeking professional advice.
Sue Tumelty is founder and executive director of The HR Dept
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