7 best practices to recruit and onboard a hybrid workforce

 Ever imagine the day you’d recruit and onboard people you’ve never met face-to-face? Probably not – and now, you do it all the time.

Most HR pros were hurled into managing a remote workforce when the pandemic hit. Then you likely had to wing it when it came to hiring from a distance.

While it’s still learning and adapting process, some best practices for virtual recruiting and onboarding have risen to the top.

And they’re more important than ever as many companies turn into hybrid employers. About half of all companies will implement a hybrid work model, and nearly 25% already have it in place, according to a West Monroe study.

That makes recruiting and hiring even more interesting. But it doesn’t have to be more difficult.

“Intentionality is so important,” says Annie Lin, VP of People at Lever. “Remote hiring is going to be different from traditional hiring. It’s important to recreate it.”

HR pros want to take key elements of traditional recruitment and onboarding and weave in new, poignant elements for virtual and hybrid situations.

Here are seven best practices to try.

Change for the better

Many organizations faced drastic changes this past year, such as moving from in-person experiences to 100% virtual or hybrid. And that might cause them to make quick, dramatic changes, too.

But Lin warns, “Make sure your company culture doesn’t get lost when you adapt recruiting and onboarding. Don’t create a watered-down version of it.”

Instead, look at how you did recruit and onboard and find ways to replicate every – or nearly every – step. The closer you can come to the original experience, the more likely you are to continue hiring successfully.

“Don’t only focus on what has to be watered down, though,” Lin says. “Focus on the new opportunities.”

Use several platforms

As CDC guidelines change, you’ll likely have more or different opportunities to meet job candidates. Regardless of the practices your company follows, use more than one platform to recruit and onboard new employees.

This is especially important if employees will work remotely. You want to gauge how effectively they can communicate across channels – and if their communication styles align with the team.

For instance, start with a phone call. Send a few texts to confirm another meeting. Then do a virtual interview via Zoom or Teams. When a hiring manager gets involved, you might invite him or her to do an online chat. Even better, don’t reveal the gender or background of the candidate so the chat serves as a blind interview and eliminates the potential for bias, say Harvard Business School experts.

Widen the net

If your organization will continue with remote work or a hybrid model, you’ll want to start to widen the hiring net. Employees can come from – and work – anywhere, allowing you to hire from a larger pool of applicants.

So start recruiting in different ways. Advertise in social media, rather than local publishing outlets. Get involved in community and neighborhood associations so you can attract a more diverse group. Encourage employees to recommend candidates from their contacts throughout the country or world.

Bring in the team

From recruiting to onboarding, invite employees in the group you’re hiring to participate. The Harvard researchers found team dynamics and effective collaboration significantly impact individual performance.

So if the team is involved in recruiting, they’re more likely to identify candidates who will help them all perform better.

Consider letting the team – or some members – sit in on virtual interviews. Or ask them to review chat or email responses. If you hire, make team members a daily part of the onboarding process. Perhaps they can help train, mentor, or introduce new employees around (whether that’s through Zoom calls, office visits, or social media introductions).

Talk expectations early and often

It’s critical for HR pros, front-line managers, trainers, and anyone who is part of the virtual onboarding process to communicate plans and expectations often.

It goes both ways: You want to tell employees (verbally and in writing) what to expect every day throughout onboarding. You also want to thoroughly explain what you expect of them – for instance, when, where and how they’ll participate in online training, or the ways and frequency they need to touch base with a mentor.

You want to take expectations up to a higher level, too. Regularly explain to new hires how their expectations fit into the company’s mission, the team’s goals, and their individual responsibilities.

Make connections early

New employees in a remote or hybrid work situation will feel a disconnect. No matter how hard you try, it’ll still be difficult to naturally bond with others, absorb company culture and learn when they aren’t in an office.

Many companies now help them feel connected before they even start with video messages from new colleagues and bosses. Some HR pros send care packages to new employees with company swag, details on who to contact for what, and fun facts about the organization and employees.

Another expert tip: Appoint an onboarding liaison who can answer questions and give advice outside the regular scope of work. You know the kinds of questions – Where’s the best sandwich shop? Where do I find more copy paper? Or in a remote setting, How do I join the side chat on Zoom? Who can help with sorting out these forms?

Help build networks

Remote and hybrid work compromises relationship-building. So proactively and intentionally set up a mix of informal and formal interactions.

Beyond meeting with the liaison, set up one-on-one meetings – the kind that would normally happen organically in the break room – with teammates. Also, get new hires in on a mix of group discussions so they can get familiar with team dynamics.

Finally, invite them to observe larger, more formal meetings where they can see how the company operates on a higher level.

Michele McGovern
Michele McGovern is a journalist with decades of experience working for local and national newspapers, business publications, and websites. She has covered the HR, customer service, and sales fields for more than 20 years, writing everything from white papers for upper-level executives to daily online posts for practitioners.

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