Blog Post

    Onboarding after COVID: Effective employee integration

    Effective employee integration is the final hurdle (and ultimate goal) of a good onboarding process.

    But with the pandemic reshaping the way organizations recruit and onboard, the process is shifting from an in-person experience to a partially (and in some cases fully) remote practice.

    So what can HR do in the current climate to ensure new hires successfully integrate into an organization? And how exactly will COVID impact the process?

    Well, we’re glad you asked...

    Defining employee integration_

    Before we jump into how COVID is affecting employee integration, we need to nail down the definition - so we’re all on the same page.

    In onboarding, an employee is considered integrated when they have a strong understanding of their job and responsibilities, a growing social connection to their team and the wider organization, a good grasp of company policies, and can navigate the spoken and unspoken rules of their new workplace.

    It generally takes a new hire at least 90 days to become integrated with their new organization - depending on how comprehensive their onboarding has been up to that point.

    When an employee has been fully integrated, they’re on their way to becoming a company insider, and their onboarding period is complete. 

    But there’s a problem. Even before COVID, employee integration hasn’t been given the attention it deserves, with 52% of organizations wrapping their onboarding process after only 30 days, long before employees were fully integrated.

    How COVID is changing the integration game_

    The changing nature of the pandemic presents several challenges to the integration process.

    We’ve identified three key impacts we’ve seen across the onboarding landscape in the last few months:

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 #1 Reduction in meaningful working relationships

    One of the most rewarding things about joining a new organization is the opportunity to open yourself up to an entirely new circle of people. As you become comfortable in your new role, budding connections grow, sometimes developing into friendship, or simply great working relationships.

    With so many of us working remotely, these connections are much harder to foster, especially long term once all the fun orientation/induction activities have run their course. With 57% of existing employees citing ‘interacting with colleagues’ as the thing they miss most, just think how much more difficult it must be for new hires.

    And for those of you with employees on-location, consider the implications of long-term social distancing on working relationships. According to David J. Linden, professor of neuroscience at John Hopkins University, friendly, appropriate workplace touch “engenders feelings of trust and cooperation. It makes coworkers have more team spirit and more empathy for each other.”

    David Linden Blog Quote

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 #2 Increase in new hire ‘always on’ mentality

    When you join a new organization, there is a real thirst to prove yourself. New hires want to show that they were worth the investment and can live up to whatever version of themselves they delivered during the recruitment process. They're always on. Which is great - you just scored yourself a super-productive employee right?

    Well yes, under normal circumstances. But in the new normal, not so much.

    The problem is that new hires are likely to find it even more difficult than existing employees to balance their work and home lives. Their office is their kitchen table, their computer can probably go everywhere with them, AND there are no physical examples to be able to model their working habits after.

    Even more problematic is that this impact is hard to see coming. Your new hire might seem like they’re doing well, but beneath the surface, they’re working themselves into an early-burnout. 

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 #3 Declining role understanding in the face of increasing organizational complexity


    Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen some impressive pivots from organizations all over the world. From hotels transforming themselves into co-working spaces to gyms moving their entire practice online, there’s been so much ingenuity and creativity.

    But there is an onboarding price to pay.

    Integration becomes increasingly more difficult the more moving parts there are. Joining an organization that is going through a big change takes a special type of hire and a very well prepared support network of team members and leaders. If this isn’t done just right, you’re likely to end up with a new hire that doesn’t really understand their current role AND who has little insight into where that role is headed in the not-so-distant future.


    Impacts won’t necessarily be the same for all people. For example, highly social individuals are likely to feel the absence of strong working relationships more than their more introverted counterparts.

    Effective post-COVID employee integration_

    So what can HR do to pick up what COVID is putting down?

    Whilst there is a myriad of problem-solving actions organizations can take to combat these challenges, it’s important to remember that whichever solutions you choose to implement need to support at least one of the core integration touchstones for new hires:

    → Building a strong understanding of their job and responsibilities

    → Facilitating social connection to their team and the wider organization

    → Delivering effective company policy training

    → Helping them navigate the spoken and unspoken rules of their new workplace

    If you aren’t doing so already, consider the following measures:

    Heart Grey-01 Expand the way you use digital communication tools

    Digital communication is now at the center of our working lives - but many organizations are still stuck in the stone age when it comes to using these tools the right way.


    Did you know that Slack has a tonne of features and compatible plug-ins that transform the messaging platform into a fun and engaging social device?

    Heart Grey-01 Experiment with virtual coworking spaces

    In the wake of COVID, organizations like RemoteHow have expanded to provide digital office environments for organizations that don’t have the right tools in place to do so on their own.

    Heart Grey-01 Explore mental health support services

    Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen many organizations expand the role they play in their employee’s mental health.

    This is only going to do good things for your integration process - so take a cue from these employers and explore what type of services could work for your teams.

    Full_Size_Heart Evolve your new hire experience with a bespoke digital onboarding solution

    The right onboarding solution will help you reinvent your new hire journey, saving massive amounts of time for HR and ensuring that integration isn’t arbitrary, but a visible, measurable commodity. 


    The Takeaway?

    Integration is the final piece of the onboarding puzzle, ensuring your newest team member is ready to contribute meaningfully to your organization’s future.

    Although the Coronavirus is putting up barriers to successful employee integration, we have the tools to be able to mount an effective defense, and in the process create even more comprehensive strategies than pre the pandemic.

    So don’t wait, start exploring now and put yourself and your teams in the best position to take advantage of a post-COVID future of work.

    Want to take your post-COVID employee integration strategy to the next level? Join our October webinar for tips and tricks you can use TODAY!

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    Topics: Onboarding , Featured
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