This case shows the impact when you forget to onboard properly the new joiners who arrived at your company during the first COVID-19 wave. This universal challenge has a universal solution: understand the dynamics of the invisible organizational networks

Surprising Impact of COVID-19 on Employee Integration

In 2021, Innovisor revealed early consequences of COVID-19 related to employee integration. The time to embed new employees into the collaborative networks had doubled from 2 years to 4 years. This had huge financial consequences for growth companies that were constantly adding new employees throughout the pandemic. The time-to-value add was simply too slow, especially considering employee retention was under pressure. And there is another surprising impact of COVID-19 on Employee Integration.

The business case of rethinking onboarding was tremendous. 

Do you want to learn more about this business case?
Read the article published in FFWi Ignoring the Social Structures of Your Organization Comes at a Price


This exact challenge was also faced by an international professional services company. They asked Innovisor how to circumvent the problem.
Here is what we learned:

  • Time-to-Value on Par with Benchmark

Their time-to-value add was as slow as other companies in the Innovisor benchmark database. It took them 4 years on average to integrate new joiners into the collaborative networks. Meaning it took 4 years before they knew who to go for help & advice related to different expertise needed to get their daily work done.

  • 1st COVID Wave New Joiners Less Integrated

The people that joined the company during the first COVID-19 wave were all significantly less integrated into the collaborative networks than the pre-pandemic benchmarks. They were also significantly less integrated than the people that joined the company 6-12 months after. On top of that, a shocking 35% of them did not feel valued.


The final finding was particularly important, and we continue to witness the same conclusion with every company we have worked with since. We believe the dip can best be explained by the fact none of the organizations had practices in place for onboarding employees in a 100% digital world, when the first wave hit. New joiners were welcomed with the old onboarding practices: time was spent on introducing people to the employee handbooks and the internal IT systems and processes.

Onboarding time wasn’t allocated on what the office provided in terms of opportunities for chit-chat, lunches, or any other activity that integrated new joiners into the informal networks. Six months into the pandemic most organizations had found their new ways to integrate employees. Practices had been developed. Even for socializing with new colleagues.

Surprising Impact of COVID-19 on Employee Integration - a Innovisor Case Insight

The need for immediate action was evident. The alarm bells were ringing. The professional services company needed to reboard and integrate this large group of people to avoid the risk of these people leaving.

Step 1 – Stay-on Conversations

Firstly, they executed stay-on conversations. As the group who started during COVID-19 felt they were less valued, all people managers were requested to have 1:1 ‘stay-on interviews’ with their people. Not least to make sure that they felt seen and valued. The interviews focused on three key questions inspired by the work done by Georgetown management professor Brooks Holtom.

  1. What motivates you to stick around?
  2. What could be better about your work experience? (Hybrid work was a hot topic here.)
  3. How do you envision the next stage of your career within the organization?

The insight into the informal networks gave them insights into how they could speed up the access of the group into the company.

Step 2 – Reboarding through ‘Buddy’ program

The second step was a bit more complicated, as it required connecting the – by now fairly tenured – employees with the formal and informal networks that they never had a chance to integrate into. The understanding of the employee networks provided by Innovisor was a clear advantage here.

Everyone was paired with 1-2 buddies that could give access to information, knowledge and expertise outside their immediate team and function. The buddies were requested to prioritize this important organizational role and told they needed to focus on relationship brokering. In essence, their role was to help their new ‘buddies’ gain access and knowledge of the networks that otherwise would be impossible to understand without context.


The challenge posed in this case is universal. The actions are the same. You must make the first COVID-19 wave of new joiners your primary focus. To properly integrate them into your organization you need to understand the dynamics of the invisible organizational networks.

Author: Richard Santos Lalleman

Case written by

richard Santos Lalleman

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