Reboarding Is The New Onboarding

culture furlough reboarding returning to work Jul 01, 2021

As businesses up and down the country start to think about a return to work and to something that resembles ‘normal’, so begins the process of 'reboarding.'

EDITED 4 November 2020 – Just as organizations the world over were starting to think about a return to work, here in the UK we go back into either a lockdown or tier-system from today. The frustrations of this merry-go-round (with little fun of the fair) have meant that business leaders and managers who have been busily preparing for their employees return, have had to do a swift u-turn.

There are few positives, I grant you, however time may be one of them. Time for businesses to plan, prepare and ensure that eventual transition is as smooth as possible – whether it’s returning furloughed employees, or physically returning to the office.

It’s fair to say that there’s no going back to the workplaces we knew before lockdown. However, as restrictions continue to ease in the UK more people are able to return to work – whether physically returning to the office or resuming their regular remote working.

So now is the time for you to manage the transition from the ‘temporary’ working conditions we swiftly adopted in March, to your new workplace vision.

How do you effectively bring your employees back-on-board? The answer is a process called reboarding.

What is reboarding?

Reboarding is the process of integrating employees back into the culture of your business, following an extended period of time away, such as those who have been furloughed. It is designed to re-familiarize them, bring them up-to-speed on relevant changes and empower them to get back to ‘business-as-usual’ – if that term even exists! – as soon as possible.

Why is reboarding important?

Simply put, it’s like starting a job all over again, it’s your opportunity to re-engage your employees, helping them to be passionate about working for your business. When people have been absent from their role for an extended period, there is often a steep learning curve to get them up-to-speed and back on top of whatever projects they were working on before their departure.

During lockdown, drastic changes happened with little notice or planning. Organisations that had been hesitant about remote working found themselves adapting to this overnight and retrospectively realising the extra considerations, resources and support people needed to work effectively from home.

Returning to the workplace will involve similar changes, but with the benefit of time to plan and consult your employees about what your new workplace looks like. We’re all likely to be returning to a very different way of working as businesses pivot towards a digital, remote workplace.

A robust reboarding process will help to get their head back in the game and hit the ground running from the first day back, but it goes beyond that.
how do you reboard effectively?
Everyone’s experience of returning to work will differ. Most UK based companies have employees returning from two specific scenarios:

  • Remote working. Employees have continued to work from home.
  • Furloughed. Employees have been part of the Job Retention Scheme and have not been actively working in the business.

Some will be heading back to the physical workplace, others returning from reduced hours or furlough while others will be continuing to work from home with a new structure in place. Whatever the scenario, in order to successfully reboard, you have to focus on the employee experience and not just rely on the process.

Done well, reboarding is just as much about an emotional reconnection – especially in times such as this where your employees’ mental health may have been affected. It will help you to put measures in place to ensure they feel looked after.

6 Tips For Success

1. Clarify expectations

Clear lines of communication helps to foster trust. Expectations may have shifted during lockdown to flex with people’s personal commitments and circumstances. Explain how the changes will impact individuals and encourage managers to have transparent conversations about expectations for future success.

2. Start with why

Remind them of the ‘why’ – the purpose of the business, what your vision, mission and values are. Remind them why they started working with you in the first place. Communicate to your employees about the behaviours expected of them as you adapt to the new ways of working.

3. Check-in often

Many employees will have felt a sense of isolation during the lockdown period, so don’t leave your returning colleagues in the dark. Be sure to connect with them regularly (and early on).

4. Clear the path

Make it easier for them to do their job by avoiding overwhelm. A LOT will have changed since many of them were last in the office, so do keep them informed, but think about drip-feeding relevant information rather than throwing everything at them at once.

5. Create human moments

What most research has shown is that people have missed human connection most of all. So build a social environment that inspires personal (socially distanced!) connections.

6. Keep supporting

Once reboarding is ‘over’ continue to check in with 1:1 conversations to understand how they are finding the transition back to work and what else they need from you.

Successful reboarding will only happen if you clearly communicate your plan from the beginning, so start now!

Use these next few weeks to hold a ‘town-hall’ meeting so you can begin the reboarding in advance of either returning from furlough or a physical return to the office. Outline what the plan is, be clear on what you’re hoping to achieve through the process, and encourage feedback!

Have you created a reboarding process? What concerns have you your teams/colleagues raised?

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