The challenges of onboarding in remote or hybrid workforces

For those organisations recruiting at the moment induction is difficult due to the high number of employees working remotely. Graham Fisher argues technology has the answer

Companies that have been able to recruit throughout the pandemic have faced significant challenges in onboarding new employees. The difficulties that have surfaced during this period raise important questions about how organisations onboard new talent and maintain internal culture when a large part of the workforce is working remotely. 

How, for instance, will recruits fit in with their new team when it could be weeks or months before they meet them?

These are worthwhile questions because when the post-pandemic recovery comes, remote working will continue in many organisations. Gartner research predicts 48% of employees will work remotely some of the time once the pandemic has ended. Karin Kimbrough, Chief Economist at LinkedIn told the BBC that the volume of job searches using the ‘Remote’ filter had increased by 60% from the end of last March.

Onboarding is more difficult when an organisation’s workforce is working remotely for all or part of the time. A sense of not-fitting-in can quickly develop when interactions are solely online and the new employee feels as if they have been left to flounder without proper induction training or personal introductions. More experienced recruits will start to question whether they have made the right move.

It is also much easier for new recruits to resign when no feelings of loyalty or personal warmth have developed and organisational culture appears poor or remote

College-leavers and first-time entrants to the job market may also feel alienated and will need special attention to make them feel valued so companies do not haemorrhage the best young talent. In the legal sector, for example, trainee lawyers have always been able to learn in the office from senior colleagues, asking them quick questions and observing how they handle cases and clients. 

The pandemic has restricted the access of young lawyers to this wealth of expertise and experience, resulting in many struggling to work from home. This will be true for many other professions as well.

It is also much easier for new recruits to resign when no feelings of loyalty or personal warmth have developed and organisational culture appears poor or remote. This is where more active policies to include and engage with newly-appointed employees reduce the likelihood of early departure and avoid the disruption and extra costs of refilling a vacancy.

To a large extent, however, the rethinking of onboarding for remote workforces is already underway inside organisations that have embraced more advanced, cloud-based HR platforms.

What HR technology has brought is vastly better and simpler communication, more effective training programmes and reinvigorated employee support. In a remote or hybrid workforce, organisations with the right technology are more systematic about onboarding, but with no loss of personality.


HR departments can create checklists and workflows that streamline the onboarding process, ensuring no aspect is overlooked. Self-service will give the new employee a greater sense of autonomy even before they formally begin, enabling them to input their own details and access videos and training materials.

Younger employees, especially, are more attracted to video content. The overall effect is to iron out admin irritations that can alienate a new recruit sitting at home or in a sparsely-occupied workplace.

A platform that offers social media-type functionality makes it very easy for a recruit to see what is happening across the organisation both professionally and socially and to feel part of the culture. It facilitates introductions to managers and colleagues so that a new person is familiar with the ethos of the organisation before they start.

To make recruits feel truly comfortable and get up to speed with what the company requires of them, it should also be simple to schedule regular informal face-to-face interactions or check-ins with managers to discuss progress, personal goals and any concerns.

This is a straightforward and intuitive form of interaction, which HR platforms enable. Similarly, new employees should be able to join discussions with fellow team members quickly and easily, enjoying a sense of inclusion even though they may be at home and have yet to meet them in person.

Regular contact with managers and teams on a platform that is simple to use and full of relevant features embeds recruits far more quickly, substantially reducing the chances of them throwing in the towel early on.

Being able to access training modules, company guides and updates within the same HR platform is also a major advantage for a new hire who might otherwise struggle to locate the right content in a company’s system. This removes the necessity to leave the platform to find what they need, including records of how they are progressing.

HR departments and line managers will undoubtedly face all kinds of onboarding challenges as the UK economy emerges from the pandemic and remote working continues. It will be organisations with access to more advanced platforms that make the greatest success of this new pattern of work, rapidly onboarding the most able recruits, increasing retention and maximising organisational efficiency.


About the author

Graham Fisher is a recruitment expert at MHR International


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