How to help new hires integrate into remote or hybrid work
The pandemic has changed the way we work. Many employees no longer come to the office every day. Fully remote and hybrid work environments are here to stay. How, then, should companies rethink their onboarding strategy to best onboard new hires for long-term success?
Today’s new hires face vastly different circumstances than they did before the pandemic – from creating functional home offices that invite colleagues into a personal space, to juggling a hybrid schedule in which there is an inconsistency around where you work from day to day. There are more complexities when it comes to training, developing and engaging new talent. Businesses need to replace the one-size-fits-all onboarding approach that worked before 2020 with an updated program focused on today’s challenges and opportunities.
At Overstock.com, where I’ve worked for 20 years, our state-of-the-art campus is largely empty. We have found that a remote/hybrid environment works well for the most part. Our teams remain focused and productive. And most find they can maintain a better work-life balance.
To grow new hires’ careers and effectively instill them in the culture, we’ve had to adapt how we welcome and onboard them, then continuously assess them and make changes as we go.
Here are some ideas and practices we have found success with at Overstock:
Mentoring. Mentors have played a crucial role in the development of my personal career. In fact, I know I wouldn’t have the job I have today without a host of mentors who have helped and guided me over the years.
At Overstock, we pair every new employee with an onboarding mentor to guide them through their first 90 days. The mentor can be a peer or a more experienced colleague and is usually a member of their team outside of their direct reporting structure.
After this period, we ask new employees to identify career mentors to meet for advice and guidance on goal setting, decision-making, and professional development and growth. New employees — especially those new to the job market — can benefit immensely from a formal mentorship program that creates a support system that extends beyond their team. These mentorships create a quick and meaningful sense of belonging which, in a remote/hybrid environment, is more important than ever.
Building cross-functional relationships. To foster a greater sense of personal belonging and increase productivity, I found it necessary to get to know people in the company beyond my immediate responsibilities. Sometimes this happened while sharing lunch in the cafeteria or meeting people in the hallways.
At Overstock, we work proactively to identify opportunities for new hires to interact with individuals and teams beyond their day-to-day duties. Without the natural relationship building that happened when we were all regularly in an office, purposely scheduled in-person and virtual get-togethers are a must to help employees grow their network.
learning and development. New employees in today’s workplace don’t have the same advantage of learning through daily chatter and rapid feedback loops as they did in a pre-pandemic office environment.
Companies must remain committed to helping their employees become their best selves. This includes integrating learning and professional development opportunities into required training sessions. It also means thinking about how behaviors and expectations in the office are now different for those working in a work-from-home environment.
Listen and discuss. Good leaders actively listen to understand. They also engage in open and active discussions. These are two of Overstock’s leadership principles that enable our employees to candidly share their views and ideas and to better consider the views of others.
Active listening and open discussion, which are easier in person, become more important when we work remotely. If leaders don’t listen and engage in the discussion, the fresh and innovative ideas brought by new hires are lost and the organization loses. They can also fail to find out what works and what doesn’t so companies can course-correct in real time.
Two of the tools Overstock uses are the “brown bag” lunches that executives hold remotely with small groups of employees who can share their thoughts and voice their concerns and the “office hours” that I hold weekly where any employee can join me for lunch. What I hear and learn during these meetings, as well as the improved relationships I have developed, have had a significant impact on my leadership.
The influx of remote and hybrid opportunities over the past two years has transformed the business world in many ways. To best engage employees, it is necessary to rethink strategies and tools. Companies that think carefully about how best to integrate new workers into this environment will be better able to attract and retain great employees who will ultimately have a greater impact on their business.
Jonathan Johnson is the CEO of Overstock.com.