Hybrid trainings: Onboarding in the pandemic


Many companies are now trying to make working arrangements more flexible, enabling staff to spend some of their time in the office and some at home. But that’s left many employers wondering how they can apply that hybrid model to processes such as training new staff. Photo: dpa/Jens Kalaene

Nothing is the same at work, it seems, since the pandemic began. And that applies to training newcomers and welcoming them into your organisation, too, of course.

Many companies are now trying to make working arrangements more flexible, enabling staff to spend some of their time in the office and some at home. But that’s left many employers wondering how they can apply that hybrid model to processes such as training new staff.

The answer is first, make sure you have the basic framework in place.

That means providing clarity and orientation are basic requirements for hybrid working in changing settings, says Katrin Glanzel, an author and consultant on collaborative leadership.

Staff need that guidance so they can navigate the virtual working environment and also the physical workplace.

So ensure new team members know when they will be in the office or at work and when they will be working from home.

Also, introduce them to both ways of working and make sure they know where their workplace is, whether teams check in online somehow when working remotely, and how to access these areas.

Make sure people know the answers to these questions and are not left wondering.

Also, beyond ensuring that technical equipment is present, Glatzel says new team members also need to be shown the software and tools.

Last but not least, she says, ensure you set up a meeting so people can get to know the team, but don’t worry, it does not matter whether that takes place online or in person.

‘Buddy’ programmes

Alexander Hein, who runs a consultancy, recommends you set up specific sponsorships for welcoming and onboarding new staff, so that the newcomer always knows the particular person they can get in touch with to ask any questions.

Fabian Treiber also studied onboarding processes and has found that “buddy programmes” are always very welcome and generate a positive response.

He says often, feedback in company surveys show employees have problems networking – but buddy programmes where new a team member is assigned a fixed contact person can help.

It is also important to ensure your company is clear when it comes to flexible working models, which can otherwise quickly become confusing, if people don’t know who is where and when.

Planning ahead

Glatzel suggests ensuring you plan four weeks ahead, acknowledging that anything further in the future can be tough to keep track of.

She recommends using a calendar to set up a four-week plan that shows who is where and when.

Often teams also have fixed days when everyone meets at the office.

Train newcomers the same way, says Glatzel. If generally, work is a combination of coming to the office in person and remote work, then set up the training that way too, so people don’t get too comfortable with either one or the other.

Exactly how you balance both elements – face-to-face work and remote work – within the training depends on your company, your industry, your staff set-up and your employees themselves, says Hein.

He says often, roughly balancing these with two days of one and three days of the other works well, meaning two or three days at home, and the others at work.

That allows for a good balance between working at the office and at home.

He notes that it is important to coordinate with the whole team right at the beginning, and to ensure the planning is fair for everyone involved.

Building a trusting atmosphere

A manager’s main job in the onboarding process is to provide clarity and orientation, says Glatzel. That means spelling out how you and your company understand what hybrid working means, and when you expect people to show up in person – as well as clarifying your expectations of the job.

Managers are also responsible for creating opportunities for contact and communication within the team. Beyond ensuring everyone gets to know each other, that can also mean bringing together individual team members in particular projects.

Also, managers should talk with new team members about their personal circumstances, Hein says, as these are important and critical for enabling remote work to succeed.

Meanwhile the task of the team is to be open and approachable, says Glatzel. It should focus on the “feel good” factor, adds Hein. All that should add up to a positive, trusting atmosphere right from the outset.

It is also important to ensure you keep team building in mind, even as hybrid work models are in place, says Glatzel. She says formats for this kind of activity have changed, and combining the virtual and real world versions is particularly demanding.

She says for now, if you’re planning a team event, to pick one option or the other – in person or online. – dpa/Amelie Breitenhuber

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