As employers gear up for this year’s graduates, we asked whether a hybrid or virtual approach to onboarding would dominate this year.
Onboarding, the process of integrating a new employee into an organisation, is an integral part of development programmes.
The benefits of delivering onboarding activities online have been realised over the last two years. So while employers have reopened the doors to their offices this hasn’t automatically meant a swift move back to more traditional fact-to-face activities.
This year’s ISE Student Development survey showed that compared to the onboarding practices in 2021, there has been a substantial decrease in face-to-face inductions (46% in 2021 compared to 21% in 2022). There has also been a reduction in fully online induction programmes (62% in 2021 compared to 37% in 2022).
Is 2022 the year of hybrid onboarding?
In 2022, the hybrid programme – blending face-to-face and online forms of induction – is the most common approach, with 66% of employers utilising this as part of the onboarding process.
Some employers found that online onboarding over the last two years has provided an opportunity to be more creative and a hybrid approach enables this to continue, as suggested by one law firm, “We’ve been able to offer more creative activities, which we can progress in a hybrid environment”.
Farrah Beveridge, national early careers manager, at RSM UK explains their hybrid approach this year:
“RSM UK will have hybrid inductions in August. This is to reflect our working practices from the moment our new intake joins.
“Their first day will be in the office to meet their line managers/buddies and do an IT induction. Day two and three of our induction can be done at home, however if the individual would like to be in the office they are more than welcome to book a desk. On days four and five they start some of their training so again these can be done either at home or in the office. I think it is key to set the expectation from day one to the new joiner and that we are truly hybrid at RSM UK.”
One of our finance employers explains why they see the future as hybrid for onboarding:
“We have taken our learnings from the last two years to really consider when it makes sense to maximise virtual learning and when face-to-face events are more beneficial. We have asked our current graduates, placement students and apprentices what they think and they have told us if we are doing virtual then there has to be breakout rooms and opportunities to interact with each other. They have also told us that they are happy to learn technical and workplace skills virtually but would prefer to develop professional transferable skills in person.
“For 2022 we’re taking a hybrid approach to our induction activity. With a global cohort we have decided to host our global induction activities virtually to allow all of our graduates to connect with each other, our business leaders and strategy. This ensures everyone has the same experience regardless of local restrictions.
“In each local market/country we are encouraging local induction activities to be held in person where our new joiners can interact and build connections in a different way. With the future of work being hybrid we feel it’s important that our new cohorts learn skills to learn and work in different ways from the very beginning.”
Pros and cons of online onboarding
Understanding the pros and cons of online onboarding can help us understand why a hybrid approach is king this year.
The advantages of transitioning to online onboarding can lead to commercial benefits, like decreased travel time, increased creativity in content, and the opportunity to update the onboarding process and content. A finance employer explained, “Delivering virtual content has given us the opportunity to refresh and update our content and virtual delivery enhances and demonstrated our flexible working offering.”
Benefits of online onboarding were also realised by an energy organisation, “People can still join without travelling, which means we can do more over time.”
Yet, the disadvantages of online onboarding revolve around the learning experience and acquisition of soft skills such as networking and the loss of spontaneous relationship building.
“To be able to have the first day in the office makes a big difference in new hires meeting their cohort face-to-face, being able to see the office and experience the culture makes a big difference to how quickly they pick up on the role and adjust to the environment,” said a finance employer.
An employer in retail shared the benefits of making connections face-to-face, “With cohorts they thrive off each other’s energy. It is really hard for them to build relationships when you don’t have that constant interaction and can make virtual activities feel dry. For us, there is so much to see, do and touch for new starters (eg. Getting close up to aircraft) that isn’t as valuable when replicated virtually.”
Considering this, it is unsurprising that on average employers think that just under half (49%) of their onboarding will be virtual moving forward as Covid-19 becomes less of a concern.
Read more data and insight on onboarding in 2022 in ISE Student Development survey