Re-onboarding: Where to start to drive empowerment, agility and engagement when preparing your staff to get back into the workplace

The world of work has changed in a considerably short amount of time. Whilst some may call it evolution, this new rhythm was imposed on the world and brought on with very little time for the global workforce to adapt.

Working remotely is now an immovable reality for some, and for others it has been an interim position while considering more drastic measures of job cuts and operating model changes. But now that new relaxed guidelines are on the horizon, many companies are starting to prepare for their people to get back into the workplace.

Guidance on how to facilitate their return using the right tools and technology are aplenty. But really, getting employees to re-engage isn’t just about making sure their home office is set up for a post-pandemic return.

We want to challenge you to go much further by considering how to re-onboard both furloughed & non-furloughed staff in a way that generates motivation and rejuvenates everybody. Easier said than done in a world where human contact and connections with the organisation are few and far between.

But despite these obvious limitations, at Let’s Talk Talent, we believe it is possible to re-engage your people and get them to feel like they are contributing to their company’s success.

Here are some top tips to get there.

Tip 1: Keep the focus on mental health

During the pandemic, there has been a much-needed focus on helping people cope with anxiety and increased levels of stress, both exacerbated by forced confinement. It may seem to many that getting back to the workplace finally means going back to normal, but the notion of normal has been thrown out the window. The brain is resilient, and people have now adapted to their new realities, whatever they look like. Therefore, getting back into the business, whether virtually or physically, should be treated like a brand-new life change. Some may also struggle with added stress factors such as home schooling, childcare or loved ones being on the front line, so now is not the time to push aside the mental health conversation. Finding the best way to guide staff whilst they navigate the new virtually world is essential, which is why we have launched our Virtual Experience Webinar Series to help you support your people in the best way possible whilst they are adapting to their new normal.

Tip 2: Reboot training and development

During hard times, it may be tempting to cut L&D budgets, but in the long run, this strategy could be highly damaging. Low levels of staff engagement will lead to high attrition rates and low retention, which could cost much more than was initially saved.

With the end of confinement in sight, organisations have a fantastic opportunity to prepare for staff getting back into the workplace by reshaping and rebooting training and development initiatives. And whilst your immediate focus is on re-engaging and motivating employees, investing in L&D is also a crucial business survival strategy. The world of work has changed overnight, bringing many questions about the skills that will be required within your organisation in the future and whether gaps need to be addressed.

Take time to have key conversations and define the parameters of your talent management programme. Do you have budget to give coaching to all? Do you want to focus only on your high potential candidates, or your highly regarded specialists? What resources are available in-house and where do you need external support? Will your organisational strategy be affected by the crisis and if so, do you need to consider staff upskilling? If those questions don’t yet have clear answers, make sure you use this time to structure your career planning and development support. Have in depth conversations with the board and get ready for staff to be shown their employers are there to help them unlock their full potential.

And for those thinking training is expensive and reserved for big companies with dedicated budgets, there are many resources available out there if you know where to look. The Let’s Talk Talent team has been running free webinars, What’s App courses and mentoring programmes on everything from career development to succession planning. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Tip 3: Trust your people

In the last few months, many organisations have functioned in crisis mode. This new state of flux has meant there was little time for micro-management and employees have often been empowered to make quick decisions and have a higher level of autonomy in order to keep things moving. And many people have stepped up to the plate, showing that staff can be trusted to get the job done, even in a virtual environment. Businesses who recognise this and do not revert to a parent-child relationship will reap the benefits.

Autonomy is an important contributor to an employee’s sense of engagement towards the organisation and our experience shows it is becoming an increasingly sought-after criteria when considering whether to remain with a company.

What does this mean for the new post-pandemic day-to-day life? Well for a start, being autonomous requires guidance, but also involves making a few mistakes along the way.

Talk to staff to find out how they would like to be supported and find the right balance between autonomy and control. Trust them to make the right decisions and embrace the virtual nature of the new normal, without forcing them to come back into an office.

Think about how you can adapt, review and repurpose your processes and physical space. At Let’s Talk Talent, we have just done that and it’s a win-win for both employees and the organisation.

In addition to giving our people more leeway on how they will contribute to achieving corporate goals, going 100% virtual has allowed us to help businesses start the re-onboarding and coaching process early, accommodating both staff working remotely and those who are in a physical workplace.

Tip 4: Take the pulse

You’ve probably sent out a wellness survey to take the pulse and figure out how your workforce is feeling whilst working remotely or waiting to come back into the workplace. Whilst that’s a good step, do bear in mind that email surveys do not replace great conversations. Regular check ins are more important than ever and now is the time to increase their frequency. These are difficult times and feeling ok on a specific day is no guarantee of a positive outlook the next day. Ensure your managers are having regular chats, as often as possible, in order to be able to spot issues as soon as they arise and take action if required.

Spot checks also allow for meaningful two-way conversations. This situation is unprecedented, and businesses shouldn’t pretend to have all the answers. Talking regularly with team members, colleagues and HR leaders can be a great source of feedback and generate suggestions, improvement ideas and ways to overcome organisational issues. Adaptation involves a great deal of creativity and this can come from many sources. Use this feedback to discuss what the new normal should look like with staff from across the business.

Tips 5: Review employee experience (EX)

For those of you who know us, you’ll be aware that we strongly believe a positive employee experience leads to increased empowerment as well as engagement levels. EX is about making sure that every single touchpoint in the employee’s lifecycle is a positive one, from hiring and onboarding to leaving the company. But in the current context, many of these milestones have changed drastically. Interviews are done remotely, offices are set up at home, equipment and technology have become hugely important and human contact is limited. Whilst these changes are widely regarded as positive, they can also be sources of daily frustration for some.

Preparing for your workforce to re-engage with the organisation after a crisis should involve a pause to review the new customer journey your people will be experiencing and determining if improvements can be made. Take time to go through the many new processes that have been adopted and make sure you take action to eliminate newly created pain points. This can be done through employee experience workshops, working strategy sessions and various audits and reporting methods. Now is the perfect time for businesses globally to take a step back and purposely determine which elements of their employee experience journey they wish to carry forward.

Conclusion

This forced evolution may have imposed a lot of changes on organisations worldwide, but it has also clearly shown that the time was right for a digital switchover. Companies and their workforces have managed to not only keep going, but maintain connections and relationships through the use technology and a great deal of adaptability and creativity, which has been fantastic to witness. We do hope that most of you will maintain this new flexible way of working and mould your processes around your people’s needs for autonomy and empowerment.

And whilst forced, some of these changes do constitute great opportunities to give your organisation an edge over your competitors. And no, talking about virtual desk set ups and which videoconferencing tool to use won’t cut the mustard.

We mean focussing on bringing your employees back into the business in a way that motivates and empowers them, and drives greater agility and trust; all of which are contributing factors in helping your organisation reach its strategic goals.

We mean using this time to work on unlocking the full potential of your people.

We mean thinking long-term, and focussing on high retention rates and employee engagement, instead of short-term budget savings. We mean not being beige and showing your colours. Many businesses recognise the need to change and adapt to the new normal, but few have yet to both define and action those changes.

Get ahead of the race.

And if you need support with bringing back your people in way that drives motivation and a sense of rejuvenation, let us know. We can help you create the right approach for your specific business.

Because life is too short for beige, especially right now

For those of you looking for additional support right now, perhaps you need a confidence boost to help you look after your people as they are coming back into the business.

We have put together a re-onboarding checklist to help you put in place the best possible experience for your people as they gear up to come back into their place of work.