What is Re-Onboarding and is It Necessary in the Return to Work?

a woman shaking a person's hand


Sara London for Hive
Sara London for Hive
May 19, 2024 at 5:22AM UTC
The Harvard Business Review says it’s time to re-onboard everyone, and studies show that re-onboarding might increase employee retention. But what exactly does re-onboarding entail? And does it really work, or will I just be sitting in a conference room all day listening to information I already know? Suspend your disbelief, and read on to learn if re-onboarding is best for you and your team.

What is re-onboarding?

You’ve probably already heard of onboarding, in which a new employee eases into their work environment. Re-onboarding is essentially the same thing but with employees who have gotten used to working from home for an extended period of time.
Re-onboarding isn’t just about showing employees a stale PowerPoint with the company’s mission, goals, and values. Re-onboarding includes three key features:
  • The discussion of expectations for the future (including scheduling in-person days, clarity about the protocol for Zoom meetings, and COVID safety)
  • A reorientation to the workplace (virtual or in-person)
  • Team-building exercises (formal activities, team dinners, cross-departmental introductions, etc.)
In the re-onboarding process, employees will be familiarized with their new work model, new workplace, new colleagues, or new workflow.

Is it really necessary?

Some people aren’t convinced that re-onboarding is all that helpful, especially those who have worked at a company for a significant duration. However, under some circumstances, you’re going to need a little formal structure when you’re bringing teams back into the office. Here are some goals you might want to meet when investigating the re-onboarding process.

A new location

If you have a brand new office space, you might need to re-onboard your employees to show them around. This is also the case if you hired a large amount of new talent over COVID, and everyone has been primarily working from home. It doesn’t have to be an extended onboarding process – maybe a team lead just takes their peers on an office tour – but it’s important to make everyone feel at home if they’re working in person.

Reframing cultural norms

Next, the re-onboarding process can help re-establish cultural norms. Which meetings will be in-person, and which will be remote? How do we connect and collaborate? Are we wearing masks at our desks? Can we still run quick personal errands throughout the workday if we’re in the office? All of these questions and more will be answered in the re-onboarding process.

Re-establishing connections between colleagues

The re-onboarding process could also be an opportunity for you to catch up with your team after years apart. Your company also might be in the process of assembling a new team including colleagues that have never worked together before. Re-onboarding can include 1:1s, icebreakers, mentorship meetings, and all the fun interpersonal moments that foster healthy work relationships. In these situations, rather than treating re-onboarding like a formal, stiff meeting full of serious discussions, it becomes a lighter, more relaxed opportunity to bond.

When do we re-onboard?

Re-onboarding can be necessary to accomplish some goals, but it’s also valuable for a few particular circumstances. Here are some other instances where re-onboarding will be helpful.

Hybrid introductions

Re-onboarding isn’t just about returning to the office, as many companies are embracing a remote work model. It’s essential to help people transition into a new hybrid format if you’re looking to make it a permanent staple of your workplace.
Often, onboarding programs involve 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day programs complete with short-term goals to check in with new hires and ensure they’re adjusting decently. With a hybrid team, these check-ins can also be helpful, as they establish milestones for feedback. With a re-onboarding model in place, you don’t just launch employees into the hybrid world without having a bit of a safety net beneath them.

Appreciating your team

Even if you’ve already started to go back to work, re-onboarding programs can be pleasant ways to remind employees that they’re appreciated. Many have been loyal to companies throughout the pandemic and might be reticent about returning to the office. Even the most minor re-onboarding perks can ease their minds and make them feel welcome back to their home away from home.
Make it an enjoyable experience by including fun treats like a swag bag, group activities, or a stipend for after-dinner drinks. You can also throw in some practical perks, like a meeting with an HR representative to make sure that their needs are met if they require childcare, pet care, or other services while they’re in the office.

Update on digital tools

Finally, re-onboarding (whether it’s virtual or in person) is absolutely necessary if you’re employing new digital tools. When it comes to updating your tech toolkit, think of re-onboarding less like an introduction to the workplace and more like a Bootcamp. Having devoted time for employees to get to know new tech isn’t just doing them a favor – it’s also eliminating potential errors down the road.
Your digital re-onboarding could look a few different ways. If it’s a complicated program, you might want to hire an expert to conduct a tutorial showing the ins and outs of this software. And if it’s a simple program, you might need time to sit down with your teammates and hash out the creation of various templates or the automation of some tasks. Either way, having some time to problem-solve together can improve your digital literacy and your team’s connection.

Re-onboarding: consider your options

A formal re-onboarding complete with a tour of the office and introductions to management isn’t for everyone, especially if you and your teammates are already familiar with your company’s culture and flow. However, re-onboarding can be a helpful tool to clarify and condense the transition to a hybrid workplace. With a day or two dedicated to communicating needs, expectations, and norms, you’ll feel more confident about adjusting to the return to work.
This article originally appeared in Hive — the world's first democratically built productivity platform. Learn more at Hive.com.

Do you think re-onboarding is necessary for the return to work? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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