Employee experience is an umbrella term that encapsulates the totality of the employee environment, including the work itself and the working environment, as well as the emotional connections to the work, the organization, and the people that constitute it. A growing body of research reveals the importance of the employee experience - not just for employee retention but for recruitment as well. A recent survey has shown that most candidates read 7+ company reviews before choosing to apply. This area is steadily gaining increased attention from organizations and HR professionals, with more than half of recruiters recently stating that employer branding will be their preferred area of increased investment.
The fine art of onboarding
The employee experience begins from the moment a hire is made. As the first step in the employee experience, the importance of onboarding can’t be overstated. Your onboarding practices represent your new hire’s first exposure to the company, and it’s highly important to show them what they can expect, to make a good impression and set the tone for their future work and experience within the organization.
A good onboarding procedure will let the new employee know that the company is well organized and that it cares about and pays attention to all of its members. Providing all the necessary information, resources and assistance to hit the ground running and kick off the process of integration will make the new hires feel welcomed and cared for. Still, even as we become increasingly aware of the importance of strong onboarding practices, it comes as a surprise that the majority of organizations don’t do a very good job in this department. Gallup’s 2017 research has revealed that only 12% of employees believe that their companies do a good job of onboarding new employees.
How to nail your onboarding strategy
Onboarding shouldn’t be a difficult issue to solve. Recent years have yielded countless positive examples of onboarding practices from which to draw information and inspiration. The most important thing to understand is the immediate needs of the new employee, and then all you need is a bit of common sense and perhaps a touch of your organization’s specific cultural flavor.
Consider the following guidelines not as a word-for-word recipe for successful onboarding but as a sort of a checklist that will ensure that you cover all the relevant areas of the process. Without further ado, here are 10 essential steps for a successful onboarding strategy.
1. Start early
The first steps of onboarding are made in the recruitment process. While there are limitations to what companies are willing to disclose to potential hires, it’s important to be upfront and consistent about the role and the expectations. The version of the company you present through the recruitment process shouldn’t be different from what the new employees find on the ground. Additionally, the recruitment process also provides a window into a company’s culture and the specific environment it’s attempting to create.
2. Spread the word
Once a new member enters an organization, let everyone know about it! The immediate collaborators of the new employee should be informed about their arrival as soon as the hire is made, with additional information on their specific qualities and competencies for the role. The company as a whole should be informed on the day of the new colleague’s arrival so that they could be made visible and shown some welcome. This should be done both formally (through a group email, team chat or other means of company-level communication) and informally (by directly introducing the new arrival to various team members).
Different organizations go to different lengths to introduce new members, from simply informing the team to sharing it publicly on social media and other channels. Your specific organizational culture should dictate these choices, but in any shape and form, this step shouldn’t be skipped.
3. Sort your procedures
If you want your new hires to hit the ground running, they’ll need all the necessary resources and information available from day one: workflow information, standards of conduct, work resources, learning resources, useful resources - the works. The initial welcome mail should contain all the information necessary for new employees to get started - what they need, where they can find it and who they can turn to for any additional information. Have everything readily available and organized in a way that allows simple and intuitive access.
4. Show them love
The first day on the job is always a disorienting and nerve-inducing experience, so it’s highly advisable to lift spirits and show a little bit of love with a nifty welcome kit. A welcome package is a strong reflection of the company’s culture, which should dictate its contents. Any present is nice, but a present that sends a strong message about what the company is about can kick off the working relationship on a positive note and make a lasting impact.
All organizations thrive on communication, and you should enable your new colleagues to join the conversation from the get-go. In the contemporary workplace with the rise of remote work and distributed teams, communication has shifted more and more into the digital realm. Team members of today are communicating and collaborating digitally, which requires organizations to provide convenient and effective communication tools. A powerful and comprehensive team communication platform like Pumble will expose the new arrivals to the totality of company-level communication and allow them to get involved.
6. Be a friend
A new employee in an organization has a whole sea of information to digest - from formal standards and procedures to the informal “lay of the land”. Having a dedicated companion to help navigate all the different aspects of the employee experience can be of great help with quick and smooth integration. Whether it’s a dedicated mentor, a shadow mentor or an onboarding “buddy”, it’s important to have someone who can provide answers and advice on all the ins and outs of company life.
7. Provide the necessary training
Even the most skilled and experienced hires will need some time to learn the ropes of their new working environment. It’s the role of organizations to provide support for the professional accommodation and development of their members. In the era of continuous learning, a job is never the final destination, but a stage in one’s continued development. From the very start, companies should clearly outline how they can help their new employees continue to develop and provide the necessary training and support - not just to enable them to do their job, but to help them continue to grow and evolve.
8. Demonstrate your culture
Every organization creates a unique professional environment as a reflection of its culture and values, whether expressly stated or not. In order to enable quick and efficient information, new arrivals should be exposed to the culture in a variety of different ways. From introducing the new employees to the company’s professed values to exposing them to its various practical manifestations (team building sessions, company gatherings, etc.), they need to understand and experience the unique qualities and the overall spirit of the collective.
9. Be transparent
The new arrivals won’t be new for long; they’ll soon experience the reality of their working conditions, and it’s important that their experience doesn’t clash with what was promised. It’s highly important to be transparent and open about what awaits the new colleagues on their professional journey within the company. They not only need to know what’s expected from them, but also what they can expect. Be realistic and honest about what lies further down the road and provide timely and relevant feedback that the employees would know where they stand. Sugar-coating things can only have negative consequences, as the employees will experience the reality sooner or later.
10. Be available
As we’ve already established, navigating the unknown territory of the new work environment is a disorienting process. Even with all the procedures in place and all the relevant information readily available, the new colleagues will still most likely encounter many question marks in their early days. From the first day, let them know who they can turn to for assistance and be ready to assist them through their integration. Entering a new job can be a lonely experience, and it’s crucial that the new arrivals don’t feel left alone or forgotten. Even if they don’t make the first step, make sure that you check on them to see how they are doing and if there’s anything you can do to help them.
Onboarding isn’t rocket science. Procedures for the integration of new employees may differ from one organization to another, but at the core of every successful onboarding program lies an honest intention to make the new colleagues feel welcome and enable them to thrive in their new roles.