The Onboarding Process: 3 Key Strategies

Tackling onboarding process challenges & engaging new hires in an uncertain world

It’s November, and we’re a few short months away from having lived through a global pandemic for an entire year. It’s pretty remarkable when you think about it. Well, Click Boarding did think about it. A lot, especially during this busy Q4 HR conference season. Our conclusion? Amid virtual challenges, social distancing and elevated new hire expectations, the onboarding process for new hires has actually changed for the good. That’s right, for the good. As our founding forefather and polymath Benjamin Franklin once said, “Out of adversity comes opportunity.”

With the veritable abundance of adversity COVID-19 has created, there’s now ample opportunity to improve your organization’s onboarding process. In this blog series, we’ll examine three critical strategies we’ve engineered to revitalize your current process in this strange land called the “new normal.”

How has the onboarding process changed?

The answer to that question came out of necessity: a global pandemic. Without any warning or preparation, employees around the world were forced to lift, shift and pivot just to keep up. So how did we adapt? How were we able to acclimate while simultaneously reimagining the employee experience? And how do we create engaging, memorable experiences that employees deserve?

Those were some of the difficult and complicated questions Click asked during our interactive session at the 2020 HR Tech Symposium. Our panel of distinguished HR evangelists included Jess Von Bank, Don MacPherson and Click’s own Danielle Balow, Senior Solutions Manager. One of the first major topics centered around defining what “new” onboarding is in this new reality, namely:

  • Remote – A fully digital, seamless onboarding experience that can create a sense of belonging and inclusion, from a distance
  • Distanced – In compliance with state and federal mandates, organizations with employees in the office have adopted revised compliance and sanitation plans
  • Wellness – The prevention and identification of employee loneliness and isolation that includes building trust through psychological safety
  • Adaptations – The adoption of new protocols to make working environments safer, more agile and flexible as well as recognizing and addressing the burdens of people leaders

To validate our assumptions, we polled the audience on which of these four topics was the most difficult for their organization. The results surprised us:

  • Remote – 16%
  • Distanced – 25%
  • Wellness – 34%
  • Adaptations – 25%

A resounding 34% of webinar attendees confirmed that wellness was their top concern right now. Because of these unexpected challenges in 2020, a realistic light has been shed on employee experiences. Consequently, traditional onboarding practices have become dated and obsolete. The reality is that organizations can no longer get by with archaic tools, outdated processes and ultimately, underwhelming employee experiences. We also need to consider the impact of remote onboarding.

HR guru Jess Von Bank agreed wholeheartedly. “The onboarding process is one of those talent processes, to be honest, that we should have been doing better and differently all along. Now, this whole year – given the pandemic – we have been forced to shift. We’ve had to redesign the process out of necessity, but we should have always been doing digital onboarding.”

The rub? It’s painfully clear: a refreshed approach to onboarding is needed. Right now. Click’s Senior Solutions Manager Danielle Balow says, “we have to throw the rule book out the window and reimagine what onboarding looks like. Because now – more than ever – the environment, the dynamic of onboarding and the employee experience have all completely changed.”

But how do we accomplish this daring feat? Our employee journey experts recommend a three-step methodology to revitalize your onboarding program, post-COVID-19.


Part 1: IMPRESS

Be on your “A” game

You know what they say about first impressions. Make that one chance count with your new hires! When you’re intentional about your onboarding, it solidifies your brand within your new hire’s mind. As Jess Von Bank stated, “We have to understand that people are in different places and need lots of support right now. We need to approach them with empathy. Many do need that outlet for their mental health. If they don’t have it and are constantly isolated, it will wear on them.”

That’s why being on your “A” game is vital for successful onboarding, whether we’re in a pandemic or not! Don MacPherson agreed. “In my opinion, the onboarding process – particularly that first week is like a first date. If you don’t show them the respect they deserve, their enthusiasm is going to vanish. It’s going to go away very, very quickly.”

Prepare & be organized

To stack the cards in your favor and ensure Day 1 and beyond run smoothly, administer pre-boarding tasks prior to Day 1 through a seamless, fully virtual platform, and let employees complete employment forms and signatures digitally. That way, you’ll be ready to make a great first impression on Day 1.

MacPherson emphasized the importance of a great first impression. “Show up on time, be ready for them. Have a smile to welcome them.” In addition, he recommends getting paperwork completed before the new hire starts as well as formalizing specific plans for your onboarding program. “This is going to be the biggest decision they make in their life. Be sure you’re ready for them and instill that confidence,” MacPherson commented.

Extend that awesome first impression with a comprehensive agenda that engages new employees and welcomes them into your organization. Set up introductory meet and greets with the immediate team, leadership and business units within your company. Schedule a team lunch so new employees can interact with colleagues at the get-go.

Reinforce the “Yes”

“Show up on your new hire’s first day as your best self, like you’re making that first date impression for the long-haul,” MacPherson suggested. Make sure you get them started on the right foot. Make them feel like they’re part of the team from the start: coordinate team interactions.

It’s crucial to show your enthusiasm and excitement right off the bat; this will help instill confidence in your new hires, underscore the handoff and reinforce the “yes!” To capitalize on the “yes,” distribute routine digital communications with strategic messages to help prepare and get them excited to embark upon their new employee journey at your organization.

No one likes starting on their first day only to realize someone in Procurement forgot to order them an optical mouse or heaven forbid, a computer (that really happened to me once; it was not a good first day). Proactively assign tasks to your Operations team as needed to get your new hire set up and situated with the right equipment (computer, keyboard, application and systems access, business cards, etc.).

Finally, don’t let all your hard work be for naught. Schedule regular check-ins with new employees to ensure they understand their role and responsibilities. Make yourself available to answer any questions they may have and offer support when needed.

Go beyond the basics

Here’s your time to make your onboarding process shine! It’s the new normal, so try new things. Get creative and think outside the box when it comes to new strategies, concepts or processes, and iterate on them for refinement. There’s no playbook for what we’re all going through right now, so the sky’s the limit!

Create special moments with your new employees. Jess Von Bank encourages this because it engenders advocacy and building brand ambassadors. “This is your moment! You don’t want new hires to be neutral or silent, and you definitely don’t want detractors. This is THE MOMENT.”

A personal touch will take those special moments even further, signifying their importance on the team and at the company, as well as your commitment to their success.

Summing it all up

Given the increased employee expectations and higher standards from the pandemic, your employees deserve more in the onboarding process. And they expect it. It’s time to treat your team members as true family members, intentionally and thoughtfully transforming them from candidates to advocates. That’s why the first “I” has to be IMPRESS; it’s ensuring that you start your new hires on the right foot

In Part 2 of our series, we’ll delve into the second “I” – INVEST. What does it mean to your organization? What does it mean for your new hires? Find out next week!

And when you’re ready to take the next step of focusing on your people and letting the onboarding process run itself, we’re here for you!

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