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Start your reboarding plan today

Reboarding used to be reserved for those returning from parental leave or long-term sickness. Not anymore. In England we now have a ‘Roadmap’ of timings and likely process as we start to see light at the end of the tunnel in relation to COVID. We know that getting every aspect of the employee experience right – those moments of truth, transparency and building trust – are critical at this time. With that in mind, the planning has to start now. Some employees will be delighted, for others it could be overwhelming but for all of them, and for both HR and the wider business, it’s a huge opportunity.

Reboarding is very different to onboarding, and we thought it would be useful to share some of our insight and experience:

  • Start with the end in mind. This is all about setting your people, teams and managers up for success. So, what does that look like in say 3, 6 and 12 months’ time?
  • Think of this opportunity as ‘rehiring your staff’ – a chance to create another strong bond between you and the employee, and how they feel. A recent survey of over 2,000 UK based ‘office workers’, showed 49% would actively look elsewhere for employment, if their return to work was handled poorly, or flexible working refused. A cost that you don’t need right now. 
  • Think beyond the ‘welcome back’ and seek the opportunity to re-energise and refocus, make some memories and generate some real business momentum
  • Remind them of your purpose. The why you exist, the great work you do, who you do it for and why it matters
  • Within this, everyone matters; it’s a time for optimism. Your business has a great future, and your employees are part of it!

Here’s the DNA Way to make that essential reboarding work for you.

Set objectives

As always, what you don’t set you don’t achieve. Beyond a warm welcome, what do you hope and expect to accomplish? To be effective, reboarding needs to be both properly structured and, above all, empathetic to the individual and their needs. It’s not a process box to be ticked but an essential element in the employment experience that showcases you as the type of company we’d all like to work for.

Communication Plan

When it comes to your communication plan, you can’t assume anything:

  • Firstly, and critically, be clear about ‘The Plan’ you’re communicating. What are the new ‘rules’? What does agile or hybrid working look like? What are your expectations of the staff? Where do they need to be, when and why?
  • Then the comms plan itself starts weeks out. With one version of the truth, always up to date and in one go-to place. Ideally this is a dedicated reboarding site – in the same way you’d approach a careers site or onboarding
  • Share the plan – the ‘what’s’ and ‘whys’ and the ‘unknowns’. Even if it’s only a skeleton. No-one has been through this before, so you don’t need all the answers from day 1
  • Yes, you’ve been doing more zoom calls and sending more CEO emails than ever before, but comms will have been missed, people might not be sure where they stand, and the rumour mill will crucify you if you don’t get it right
  • Be aware of what’s changed since people started working remotely. It’ll be a long list – maybe new systems, some leavers, some joiners – what else?
  • Remember that communication needs to be two-way throughout the whole process. That means 50% listening, not just to understand peoples’ needs and expectations, but to get feedback every step of the way and to make sure the programme is doing what it needs to

Listening and being there

While we faced the same threat overall, everyone’s personal circumstances and experience will have been very different – anxieties around health, finance, families and security will be significant. You will have some people grieving, others in turmoil – for a variety of reasons. You may have had some staff on furlough, others on short term and others working 7 days a week, so you need to be listening and be present in these moments of truth. 

The recent ‘check in’ surveys we’ve delivered for clients addressed how people are, how they’re coping and how they can be better supported, have been both illuminating and priceless. The best employers will be checking in more than once: now, again before reboarding commences, and again after a day, week, month, 3 and 6 months. And just because people might be going back to work doesn’t mean that everyone is OK (and it needs to be OK not to be OK). A survey from Forbes showed that employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. 

A number to call 24/7 or a dedicated email address into HR or the CEO are hugely valuable and will be both used and appreciated.

Equipping the Managers

They are the time poor ‘squeezed middle‘ in your organisation but remember they haven’t been through this before either. Giving them some direction, support and the basic skills to deliver the right reboarding experience is key. A Managers guide is the minimum. A strong peer group bond and senior level affirmation and recognition also go a long way.


You know the old saying: by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Successful reboarding needs building sooner rather than later:

  • You can’t assume anything here either. What were the niggles and workplace issues pre COVID – 19? They will rear their ugly head again, but with a bit more bite you can be sure of that
  • In terms of enablement, are both the workspace areas and staff areas clean and tidy? Are the workstations usable? Is the office environment Zoom/Teams compliant? Is all the required kit and connectivity in place? What are all the things that could stop you being ‘open for business’ at the allotted time? What are you telling customers…? Tell the staff too.
  • Has the structure changed? If staff are coming off of furlough or part furlough are they going back into the identical role or has it changed?
  • Are all holidays, absences, employment status’ fully up to date? Before you act, check each scenario with an Employment Law expert
  • Do any recent joiners need a buddy to manage the transition from remote working to hybrid or office based?  
  • How else can you show you’ve thought and that you care? For other DNA clients we are ensuring a warm welcome on the day from the CEO or other senior leader in reception and a ‘welcome back’ pack either sent to peoples’ homes and/or on peoples’ desks
  • The overall Comms Plan will have started months out, but plan now how are you going to shape the formal and informal comms on day 1, day 3, day 5 and beyond
  • Recognition is key. Not just the effort people made whilst working remotely but upon their return. HubSpot reported that 69% of employees said they’d work harder if they were better appreciated. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Low cost and no cost is perfectly fine, but it needs to be sincere, and it needs to be done. Plan now
  • What new skills or habits do people need to learn to make the new ways of working work? What are the old habits they need to ‘unlearn’? There will be both to consider.

FAQ… What’s coming your way?

People are going to be worried and hungry for information. Your people might ask:

  • Is it safe back in the office/on my commute?
  • Can I work from home for the majority of time?
  • Can I work from anywhere?
  • I want to be in the office 100%/none of the time
  • I’d like to come back but maybe not yet

And when they ask, how will you respond?

We’re guiding a number of clients on building their employer reputation to come out of lockdown in a stronger position. They recognise that how they manage their people agenda though this period will shape their employer brand for years to come. A positive reboarding experience is an essential element of this and cannot be overlooked.

Whatever your current situation, we can help. Give us a call on 0117 300 3000.

In categories: Business thoughts
Author: John Tarrant
Date published: 24.02.2021

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