Keeping a workforce feeling connected is hard enough when everybody knows one another but hasn’t seen each other in person for a year or more. So, it’s not hard to imagine how disconnected new hires must feel when they’ve not had a chance to get together with their colleagues save for over video.
Video meetings and emoji-filled chats with team members can only accomplish so much in helping to draw a new hire in and make them feel part of a connected, collaborative workforce. What’s really needed at many organizations is an onboarding overhaul, as research firm Gartner noted in recent HR guidance
. Onboarding programs, Gartner wrote, have long been lagging in providing that feeling of organizational connectivity for new hires, and virtual hiring and work has only exacerbated the problem.
Lauren Smith, a VP in the Gartner HR practice, calls on HR leaders to act now to help build that sense of connectedness for new hires. “Functional leaders must build this bond through an onboarding program that shows empathy for those experiencing it, demonstrates values in action and plants the seeds for peer relationships,” she said in the piece.
Gartner suggests three to-dos for HR leaders:
- Focus onboarding on connection, not just productivity — In the work-from-home (WFH) shift, HR decisions like replacing live training and Q&A sessions with pre-recording video, FAQs, and how-to guides have placed an emphasis on productivity and “led to new employees without connections to colleagues or the organization’s mission and values.” Now leading HR thinkers are revisiting their onboarding programs with an eye on making them more empathetic, Smith said. “Rather than merely acknowledging the difficulties of remote onboarding, organizations should create opportunities to integrate the new hire into the existing community and make the process simple and seamless. Some organizations are also mapping the new hire journey and offering personalized support at emotional junctures.”
- Connect the dots between organizational value and on-the-job decisions — HR and senior leadership might do a good job of messaging how corporate values play out in day-to-day work, yet most employees don’t understand how to translate those into their own jobs. For new hires who have only worked remotely, this problem is even more difficult since they’ve no way to gauge how colleagues embody these values in the way they behave and interact, Gartner said.
- Support development of a cross-functional network — In a September 2020 survey, Gartner found that 53% of its 3,000 employee respondents consider their virtual, WFH interactions with colleagues to be more transactional than meaningful. In other words, relationship building is suffering. As a remedy, Smith suggested that “creating visibility into employee profiles and offering communication tips and conversation starters” can help facilitate connections for new hires.
Anecdotally, we all know the downside of having disenfranchised employees. Gartner puts a number to it. According to its research with HR leaders, employee performance improves up to 22% when workers understand and feel connected to the organizational culture.