Before we delve into the concept of employee concierge onboarding…
…let’s level set for a moment. If you’re familiar with what a concierge does, you know this specialized job typically includes an extensive range of duties. From providing information to making arrangements, coordinating schedules, fostering relationships and a great deal more, a concierge’s role is paramount to an organization’s customer experience, customer retention and brand reputation. Replace “customer” with “employee” in the last sentence, and the same can be said about concierge onboarding for employees.
At Click, we were thrilled to hear that Sunwing Travel Group offers onboarding that closely aligns with our own onboarding core values. We were entirely impressed with the company’s orchestration and roll out of this new concept, especially because they launched the program during the chaos, confusion and commotion that was the novel coronavirus.
You know what they say…
With a great onboarding experience, experts contend 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company. But because approximately 20% of new hires quit within their first 45 days, Sunwing aggressively created engaging, memorable employee experiences for their workers, especially during this Great Resignation. We were so impressed with what Sunwing was able to accomplish during the onslaught of daily Covid-based organizational challenges, and we had to tell their story.
How concierge onboarding was born at Sunwing
As the largest travel company in North America, the more than 17,000 Sunwing Travel Group corporate and retail employees serve over two million customers annually. According to their Director of Global Talent Development, Deon Blyan, the company’s HR department, as well as their onboarding process, were executed in a more traditional way prior to the pandemic. “We did what all HR departments do, including a variety of ad hoc projects as needed.”
When it came to employee onboarding at the company’s head office in Toronto, Blyan said the process was decentralized. “Each department had its own onboarding process, and it felt like we were re-inventing the process every time we onboarded a new employee. There was no knowledge or efficiency for us to pass along to the rest of the group,” he recalled.
It all starts with purpose
Blyan’s boss and Sunwing’s Chief People Officer, Kelly Davis, wanted to get all divisions within the organization moving in the same direction from a culture perspective. The first step in her plan began in early 2019 when they changed the name of their Human Resources department “People & Culture” and went through the process of redefining the corporate Values and Purpose. It created a fresh perspective on the organization’s recalibrated core value statements.
With insights from the purpose-driven concepts of Dr. John Izzo’s book, The Purpose Revolution, Davis along with the Executive Committee and her team designed a forward-thinking strategy that gave employees something to connect to, regardless of their position within the organization. The Purpose was defined as “passionate people making vacation dreams come true” and was combined with Sunwing’s reimagined “Be EPIC” values, serving as the foundational genesis of concierge onboarding.
The HR (r)evolution begins
It became clear very quickly that the old models of onboarding weren’t measuring up during Covid. As a result, Sunwing took the opportunity to stop, rethink their processes and redefine themselves during this undeniable season of change. More than ever, they wanted to come out of the pandemic better and more connected as a company.
They were reinventing the wheel, with a strengthened focus on company culture and new employee experiences designed to retain employees. “Our P&C team realized how vital onboarding is and designed a new process to ensure it strengthened the company’s culture,” Blyan recalled. Click’s Head of Marketing, Michelle Graham, agrees it’s a smart strategy. “HR has to focus on people, and onboarding must prioritize the process. Otherwise, your people will fail in the long run. It’s a balancing act of efficient task completion, coupled with meaningful engagement; they go hand-in-hand.”
A new player in onboarding
Together, Blyan’s team with the P&C business partner group began redefining processes to improve efficiency and knowledge transfer opportunities within the company. But when it came to onboarding, the table stakes were high. Very high. Sunwing’s Senior Manager of Talent Experience Miran Marcus noticed the need to rise to the challenge. She realized they needed someone who knew the ins and outs of the talent acquisition candidate experience as well as help bridge the gap between offer letter and Day 60 on the job. Additionally, they wanted to find out whether an onboarding concierge had a positive and meaningful impact on new hires. Ultimately, they chose to dedicate a person from their internal talent pool to ensure the program’s success.
Blyan with support from the P&C Leadership team put the perfect person in place: Vivian Issavi, one of his indirect reports and a passionate Sunwing employee. As onboarding concierge, Issavi would serve as a single point of contact for new employees, as well as liaise between all parties involved in the initiative. Because she was responsible for creating superior, “white glove” employee experiences during onboarding, the term “concierge onboarding” was born at the organization.
Recalibrating the onboarding strategy
Blyan mentioned that in the past, a new hire’s first day could be underwhelming, particularly if they hadn’t been equipped with the right tools, had system access problems, network connection issues or just didn’t know who to go to with questions.
Leveraging the lull of the pandemic, the HR powerhouse was given the rare chance to pause, reflect and conceive a revitalized onboarding strategy. The small but mighty team of three aligned on their shared vision to deliver an amazing new onboarding experience at Sunwing, and Issavi was eager to get the ball rolling. “Once all the necessary pieces were in place, concierge onboarding was launched with four new hires,” Blyan recalls. “Vivian was eager to get started and immediately got plans underway.”
As the sole point of contact to support new hires throughout the entire onboarding journey, Issavi’s approach was by design: it built consistency, camaraderie and closed-loop communication. She iterated and refined the original plan. Finally, after tweaking even the smallest details, Issavi came back with a more structured process and presented it to the P&C team.
“Sunwing launched their concierge onboarding program the right way,” Click’s Head of Marketing Michelle Graham commended. “They created a test environment to hone the proper amount of communication, follow-up and check points,” the leader praised. “Trial and error are part of the process: iterate, evolve, adapt and repeat.”
Impressed by Sunwing’s ingenuity and innovation, Graham appreciates how concierge onboarding provides the accountability and oversight many companies lack today. “While some companies have the good intentions for a better onboarding program, they lack the necessary and critical follow-through,” she observed. “Vivian’s role blossomed as she iterated and refined the process.”
As the primary accountable party, Issavi’s liaison role encompassed a myriad of new responsibilities intended to further enhance optimal employee experiences:
- Ensure new hire tasks are scheduled and completed in a timely, consistent manner
- Support hiring managers for creating a custom itinerary for new hires
- Address any new hire concerns and measure engagement at regular check-ins
- Answer questions from relevant stakeholders
The future looks bright: learnings & tactical takeaways
By manually leveraging human assets during the pandemic, the company engineered a new onboarding process amidst an uncertain, frightening time. Although still in its infancy, Blyan is optimistic with the initial results and feedback they’ve received. He reports employees are genuinely excited about the new onboarding program. “With our regular virtual meet-and-greets, new employees feel engaged, even remotely!”
Blyan said they’ve learned a great deal so far:
- Communications should be tailored differently for new hires and existing employees.
- For company-wide success, everyone must be a champion for change.
- People can be forgetful when it comes to new processes; remind them regularly and intentionally.
- The candidate experience must pave the path to the employee experience.
- Iteration is the key to perfecting the onboarding process.
A testament to commitment
There’s no question Blyan and his team went above and beyond to deliver an orchestrated, memorable and engaging onboarding experience. In a year wrought with ambiguity, challenges and fear, this three-person team rose mightily to the occasion and fortunately, their efforts did not go unnoticed! In June of this year, Sunwing won the prestigious Innovative HR Teams 2021 Award for “demonstrating ingenuity and innovation through a variety of programs and policies.”
As if the recognition wasn’t enough, the real proof was in Sunwing’s Net Promoter Score (ePNS) score. Following the launch of concierge onboarding, the company’s score skyrocketed from 39% to 70%!
Not only did Sunwing leverage human assets to deliver the needs of their workforce; they also engineered a model that supports employees now and long into the foreseeable future. Consequently, the recalibrated onboarding strategy not only redefined success at the company; it now addresses how to set employees up for their entire careers.
At Click, we show enterprise companies how to create that concierge experience and automate the onboarding process at scale. From the initial “yes” through Day 1 and beyond, our end-to-end employee journey platform transitions employees efficiently, providing elevated experiences, guided by design. Find out how to automate your onboarding process today!