How to onboard or re-onboard within the technology sector.  

When speaking to employers and employees, there is one topic that is on everyone's lips: how do we best help home-working and returning employees back into the office post pandemic? And how can we ensure that new starters get the best welcome possible, even in unusual circumstances?

When you join a new gym, you’re usually not allowed to use any equipment until you’ve had a thorough onboarding session. This is so you can work out to the best of your ability, and ensures you know how to use everything properly. Well, the same principle applies to jobs: a thorough onboarding process is needed to make sure your new employees succeed.

What is onboarding?

Onboarding is a prime opportunity for employers to win the hearts and minds of new employees. Don’t waste it! It essentially refers to a structured programme of activities to help employees learn the ropes of their new roles. Good onboarding plans don’t just focus on the employees’ first days, but stretch to first weeks, months, and even years.

You may be thinking: but I don’t have any new starters to onboard. However, good onboarding isn’t just for brand new employees. It can also be really helpful to set up onboarding plans to ease anxiety for employees who may be returning into a physical workplace after a year of working from home, and also anyone who is returning to work from furlough.

Good onboarding helps to lower stress levels. 

As part of our latest research into the health and wellbeing of UK workers, we asked how technologies employees felt about returning to work. We found that 40% of furloughed tech workers were anxious about their return to work: those in Northern Ireland reported the highest levels of anxiety (50%) compared to those in the East of England (38%), while workers aged 18-25 were the most nervous (56%), in contrast to their older counterparts (11% of over 68s). 

Only 28% of tech employees who classed their post-furlough onboarding process as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ felt anxious about their return to work; this is in sharp contrast to the anxiety felt by 55% of people who either had no onboarding, or who classified their onboarding experience as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ 

These statistics clearly highlight that how you reintroduce people to the workplace could be the difference between employees who thrive, and those who just about survive. Plus, good onboarding will play a significant part in helping to manage anxiety, and lower those employee stress levels. 

Onboarding: the success stories.

Did you know that according to The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience great onboarding? Research by Glassdoor has also found that organisations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 7%. 

While ensuring cultural fit and a clear understanding of job roles are an essential part of the returning to work process, effective onboarding has a huge role to play. Employers need to give thought and attention to how they support their tech workers as they ease back into work, in order to reduce anxiety and stress. A failure to do this could not only lead to a decline in workers’ wellbeing, but could also cause talented employees to seek employment elsewhere.

Top tips for onboarding or re-onboarding technology professionals.

The best employee onboarding programmes are structured and strategic, rather than administrative, with a focus on people, not just paperwork.This applies to welcoming any new starters you have, any returners to a physical workplace, and any returners after furlough.

Our 4 top tips for an anxiety-easing onboarding programme are:

  1. Reach out early
  2. Provide an overview of any business changes
  3. Give key documentation early on
  4. Assign a mentor

Reach out early.

It can really help ease anxiety levels if you reach out to workers before their start/return date. You can share important information that will help them feel prepared for the big first day back. This information could include:

  • What their working hours are
  • An outline of any Covid19 restrictions in place and an overview of health and safety guidance
  • A recap of systems that the company uses
  • Any key dates for their dairy
  • Any passwords/ID passes needed
  • A shared calendar (or piece of technology) to highlight who will be in the office on set days and times, so that all important office culture can blossom again

Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression - you need to make sure that your worker gets a good impression of you and your organisation. Onboarding doesn’t start on day one!

Provide an overview of any business changes.

It’s a well known fact that most of us don’t deal well with change. In fact, it takes the average person at least 28 days to form a new habit. Therefore, a key part of an onboarding plan is an overview of any business changes that have taken place since the start of the pandemic. This is useful for both returners and new starters, as it helps to manage expectations of what to expect from the company and the role.

It may seem silly, but a really key part of this overview could be providing an update on office dress code and lunch time protocol. It may be that rules on dress code have changed, and something small like this could cause your workers great worry. Similarly, where employees may have been used to sitting together in a canteen for lunch, this may no longer be allowed due to health and safety regulations. A heads up on this is key to help workers prepare.

Give key documentation early on.

Although employees shouldn’t be bombarded with lots of reading materials, in an office based role there will be some important reading necessary. This could be anything from an updated employee handbook to a number of company policies. Providing these early on can be a useful way to ease into the role.

It can help to follow any large reading tasks by a mini quiz to aid comprehension. Where possible, see if there is any useful online content such as a video the new starter could watch. Everyone learns differently and visual and interactive elements can be more engaging, particularly to the younger workforce starting out in the workplace.

It could also be useful to set up an office tour - for new starters, this may seem obvious. However, it is very useful for returners to the office too, as it will enable them to see where changes have been made. As part of this, giving your new starter/returner a chance to chat to existing employees to find out their experiences can be invaluable.

Assign a mentor (or buddy).

New employees need an insider’s view and help navigating the ins and outs of a company. The bigger the company, the more complex the processes. A mentor can speed new hires through the adjustment and help them fit in socially as well. A mentor can also work well for Gen Z employees if they are new to the workplace.

Added to this, it can be helpful to assign a mentor to any returning staff, as long as it is done in a sensitive manner. This person can help the employee ease back into their role, and be a key point of contact for any questions or concerns they may have. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved!

We hope this onboarding overview is useful. If you are putting together an onboarding plan and want more detailed advice on the content you could include, click here for our comprehensive guide.

If you want to find out more information about the health and wellbeing of workers in the technologies sector, you can click here.