HR Strategy

Do new hires need etiquette training? Some companies think so

Increasingly, employers are investing in training to help workers navigate new behavioral standards in a hybrid world.
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4 min read

It seems that every decade or so, office etiquette rules are rewritten.

In May 1991, the New York Times wrote about how “the atmosphere in the workplace has changed from one of formality to one of laissez-faire,” due in part to computer culture and a move by corporations to institute more egalitarian structures. Over 10 years later, Judith Martin, the columnist known as Miss Manners, lamented the melding of personal and professional boundaries in an interview with Harvard Business Review.

Now, HR departments are again having to help employees navigate new standards for office etiquette in a hybrid world, where expectations surrounding digital communication, conversation, and dress are not always clear. Increasingly, employers are investing in training to help.

The rise of etiquette training. Nearly one-half (45%) of companies currently offer office etiquette training, while another 18% plan to implement it by 2024, according to a recent ResumeBuilder report based on a July survey of more than 1,500 business leaders.

Of particular concern to employers are Gen Z workers, many of whom started their careers during the Covid-19 pandemic, when workers were likely to be working from their bedrooms rather than an office.

A high share of respondents ranked Gen Z as “competent” in technical skills, such as using office equipment and basic computer software. But fewer ranked this age group as competent when it comes to skills such as “making polite eye contact” or “respecting differing viewpoints.”

“Some of our Gen Z friends have never had to go into an office before,” Fran Maxwell, managing director and global lead of consulting firm Protiviti’s people advisory and organizational change division, told HR Brew. He recommended HR leaders be intentional in setting office norms, and make sure entry-level employees are assigned a mentor or peer advisor with in-office experience who can answer questions.

Gen Z workers are just starting to experience what it’s like to be in an office environment, and are seeking guidance on “social and company norms,” Christine Cruzvergara, chief education strategy officer at career platform Handshake, told HR Brew via email. “I think this rise in etiquette offerings is an incredibly positive shift; we need to make the implicit explicit so that early talent in particular can know what to expect and how to be successful as they begin their career.”

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“Reboarding” pandemic workers. It’s not just Gen Z that’s adjusting to new standards of office etiquette, though. Behavior in a virtual environment is something workers of all ages are still figuring out.

“Virtual etiquette—like being mindful of time zones, managing video call fatigue, and effective online communication—became crucial,” Mike Chappell, co-founder and CEO of FormsPal, which requires etiquette training, said in a blog post detailing the ResumeBuilder’s findings.

The skills in demand for the post-Covid workplace aren’t limited to etiquette—they extend to interpersonal skills, as well. “Building resilience” stands out as an area learners are keen to build skills around, according to findings from LinkedIn Learning, which offers a course on business etiquette for the modern workplace. “Learners are also showing an increased interest in wanting to build rapport across teams and learn how to deal with difficult people at work,” said the LinkedIn Learning staff who compiled the insights, via Senior Communications Manager Mary Kate Fields.

Maxwell said “reboarding”—the term he uses to refer to training that helps employees readjust to the office—should include workers of all ages: “Think of somebody who’s been in the office for 30 years and had to go away for three years. It’s not that they don’t know how to be in the office,” but they may need training on how to foster a “close and inclusive” team with workers who are both in-person and remote.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.