5 learnings from companies on reboarding their employees after COVID-19

Appical Team
August 10, 2020
min read
Table of Contents
With the relaxation of measurements, some employers are slowly allowed to reopen the workspace again. How can you make sure your employees are informed and prepared for their return post-COVID? How do you keep your workforce engaged and welcome them back with open arms when the time is right?

In our reboarding webinar series ‘Reboarding roadshow,’ we asked organizations from all over the world and different sectors to share their inspiring reboarding stories. We talked with SH Hotels & Resorts and Viceroy Hotel Group from the United States, Van Gogh Museum from the Netherlands, and others about communicating and engaging with employees during the pandemic and welcoming them back after the crisis.

Why reboard your workforce?

Like onboarding new employees, reboarding your workforce is all about taking away uncertainties and building trust. At the start of the lockdown, the level of uncertainty for employees was sky-high. Job (in)security, health, and safety were (and still are) on the top of everyone’s mind.  

Some organizations can reopen again; they need to introduce their employees from an old context into a new one. The way of work won’t be the same as before. Your employees need to get up to speed again on the changes, new rules, and culture. While onboarding, you’re introducing one new hire to a new environment, but it’s the entire workforce during reboarding. 

Guiding your employees in their reboarding process provides trust, certainty, clarification, and connection, and prevents misinformation and disengagement. Here are the tips and best practices from our speakers about reboarding.

SH Hotels & Resorts: Educate yourself and your workforce

Battling the pandemic asked organizations to add or reinvent compliance rules. Work procedures and health and safety measurements are added or become more strict. Your employees need to know the rules and understand how to follow them.

SH Hotels & Resorts started its reboarding process with becoming well-informed and educated about the virus. They did extensive research on government guidelines, best practices from others and made it a joint effort of leaders of all the hotels. After that, they needed to inform the teams on how to follow the new guidelines. They created educational tools to train team members on shared responsibilities and how to do your job in this new environment. 

One of the tools they used is the Appical platform. It allowed them to personalize the critical information around the virus and job-specific responsibilities for each role and share this with their employees before they could re-enter. The platform contains both company-wide as well as location-based specific information (New York has different state regulations than California, for example). 

They made sure to keep the information engaging by including interactive elements such as quizzes and videos, making tough information fun and approachable. With the platform, SH Hotels & Resorts can also monitor employees’ completion and understanding of the course. 

Other things to consider around compliance while reboarding your workforce: 

  • Provide actionable instructions, not just information 
  • Be concrete: Knowing precisely what to do decreases mental effort
  • Moreover, abstract rules allow for self-serving interpretations of compliance
  • Be positive: Instruct what to do, not what not to do
  • Make compliance attractive: Provide an attractive recipient position, never use blame
  • Create rules with visible results: Compliance and norms become obvious 

▶️ Watch the full webinar with SH Hotels & Resorts here

Viceroy Hotel Group: Stay connected with your employees

How to stay connected with your employees when you don’t see each other? Viceroy Hotels & Resorts organized many activities to stay connected with its employees while working from home. Virtual meetings, virtual coffee dates, and happy hours to internal webinars provide employees with the tools they need to work from home successfully. They also organized meditation sessions to reflect, step away from your desk and turn off their minds from all the overwhelming news for a few seconds. 

One of our favorite examples is the virtual exercise competition organized by their UK travel team. The goal was to virtually travel from one location of Viceroy Hotel Group to another: from West Hollywood to DC. All the employees who joined the competition ‘collected’ miles together by biking, hiking and rowing in real life, but remotely. With all the miles together, they virtually traveled across the country. This way, they kept the team spirit alive while being apart.

Other things to consider around connection while reboarding your workforce: 

  • Communicate upfront and be clear about any changes in the team and the broader organization
  • Be transparent and communicate a lot, even when you don’t have the answers yourself
  • Focus on the why: when employees can understand why choices are made they are more likely to embrace the change
  • Facilitate dialogue on what has worked well in team collaboration, what didn’t, and what to learn from that
  • Provide space for the team to share their emotional journeys
  • Find a proper way to say goodbye to colleagues that are not here anymore

Van Gogh Museum: Be creative

What impact do the new measures and situation have on your employees’ job or function? Be clear about what is expected from them and, in return, what they can expect from you during this crisis. 

When the Van Gogh Museum closed in March because of the pandemic, they unfortunately had to let go of their temporary staff members. Once the museum could reopen again, this caused gaps in the working schedules. 

To solve this problem, they asked the operational staff members to learn and perform tasks from other departments. For example, an employee working at security would be able to work at the front office and vice versa. 

They used the reboarding app from Appical to train this multi-deployable team, providing them instructions and all the necessary health- and safety guidelines. The app also included pictures of how the measurements of protection for employees and guests look like in the museum, so employees could know what to expect when they returned after 2.5 months of lockdown. 

Working with the digital platform not only resulted in a structured reboarding process but also created a better understanding among employees of their colleagues and their jobs, enhancing teamwork and connection on the work floor.

Viceroy Hotel Group: Introduce your workforce to the ‘new normal’

Viceroy Hotel Group implemented the Appical platform to prepare its employees for getting back to work. Post-COVID, the once familiar workplace may become unfamiliar for employees because of all the new measurements, like people wearing masks and standing behind plexiglass. 

To let employees ease into these changes, the app explains how the ‘new normal’ at Viceroy Hotel Group looks like, which offers certainty when sharing beforehand. Besides the app, employees receive on the job training from their managers to put everything into practice. 

Viceroy Hotel Group's reboarding app

Other things to consider around clarification while reboarding your workforce :

  • Facilitate dialogues in the team on what to learn from the new experiences, acknowledge good and bad experiences and consequences of lockdown
  • Providing clear structure for the work in the short term, resolving issues arising from e.g., loss of colleagues
  • Clarify what your employees can expect and stay informed on their wellbeing with pulse-based employee surveys
  • Realize that your employees may need to master new skills to perform their role now
  • Share projections for how to handle the (potential) crisis, laying out a process and thresholds for key decisions – be as transparent as possible. Give a timeline.

SH Hotels & Resorts: Honor your values in everything you do

SH Hotels & Resorts beautifully honored their values (love, honor, respect, delight, and trust) and culture and used them as a compass while trying to reopen their hotels post-COVID.

Just as frightening as lockdown, when reopening their hotels again, they asked people to embark on an unknown journey. They saw that establishing a strong level of trust is important, going into reboarding. Therefore, SH Hotels & Resorts kept reaching out to their employees, showed compassion, and let them know they still cared, even though they would not see each other in person. 

After closing the hotels, they developed a resource center with information and point of contact to make it easy to reach out to someone and say: “We’re here if you need us.” Employees could call for unemployment benefits or questions and even funds for financial assistance for team members. They also used a daily micro action platform to reinforce values shifting focus to remote working and working in the new normal. SH Hotels & Resorts also created welcome back gifts with items selected to represent each of our values presented to each of our team members upon return to work.

Other things to consider around culture while reboarding your workforce: 

  • If your company culture is slightly fractured – this is your chance to rebuild it
  • Share examples on how employees can contribute to strengthening your culture
  • Highlight and enhance unchanged cultural values and norms through rules and artifacts
  • Create and maintain a strong narrative for how your culture is expressed in all initiatives and decisions
  • Speak about” why we are here” – what is your purpose and contribution in the post-corona world? Build pride in how you conduct yourselves in tough times to build emotional engagement
  • Broadcast a common narrative on where you now are as an organization
  • Invite everybody to share their ideas for what to “keep not doing” post-COVID

Reboarding will look different for every company

No company is the same and we are still in uncharted waters of the pandemic. The examples above aren’t best practices to tell you exactly what to do, but we hope you got inspired to create your own reboarding plan, which is suitable for your situation, and safely welcome back your employees.

If you want to watch the full length webinars from the ‘Reboarding roadshow’ webinar series, you can find them here:

▶️ Viceroy Hotel Group
▶️ SH Hotels & Resorts
▶️ Van Gogh Museum

Do you want to know more on how technology can support in getting your employees back to work? Read how our easy-to-use digital platform can help you reboard your workforce safely and well informed in an interactive way here.

Or have a chat and drink a (virtual) cup of coffee with one of our colleagues and request a demo.

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