As the world of work evolves, employee onboarding is rapidly changing. From interactive training modules to virtual simulations, the role of technology is on the rise. This critical touchpoint in the employee lifecycle will define the performance and success of new hires. Hence, when designing an onboarding strategy, employee engagement and retention continue to be core priorities. But it’s equally important to ensure that recruits are empowered to navigate the company value chain, its culture and HR processes while upskilling themselves. Here’s how.
Why employee onboarding?
In today’s hybrid work environment, people keep exploring options even after joining, hence, the initial experience is important. Vinay Agrawal, Global Head, Business HR, Tech Mahindra quotes from research – ‘if an employee has a good experience in the first 23 days, chances of sticking are high’. Simplifying the logistics such as information collection, document collection, and information absorption are the basics. But overall, engagement is the mantra for successful onboarding. Sandeep Rambhatla, Senior Vice President, Head- Enterprise Learning, Imarticus Learning highlights that engagement means different things to different people. “The candidate should be taken to a state of engrossment similar to a binge-watch, such that they understand the values and culture”, he shares. Thus, onboarding is all about ‘what engagement really means to the target audience.’
Current onboarding priorities
Onboarding typically aims at helping new hires assimilate into the culture, understand roles and responsibilities, and build critical skills. However, information overload can get overwhelming. Ashissh Kapoor, Director and HR Business Partner, at Ernst & Young, suggests, “Strike the right balance by prioritising the key information and breaking it down into digestible chunks”. Abhishek Mehrotra, Chief Human Resource Officer, Yubi adds, “Onboarding involves getting a feel and vibe of the workplace. Organisations must give employees a booster shot on culture and values through culture-immersion workshops”. This will help people develop a sense of belonging even before they step in – crucial in an age when the psychological contract between employer and employee is dwindling. Sandeep agrees, “New hire onboarding aims to help a candidate embark a new journey within an organisation. This journey often starts with a sense of anxiety, so how do we reduce that anxiety and enable them to navigate the system as early as possible?”
How to design an effective onboarding process?
Pre-boarding churn is a real challenge since candidates are constantly evaluating their employers. Organisations must engage early on to ensure the selected candidate understands the values and culture even before joining. Sandeep recommends giving game-based learning experiences and creating virtual environments in today’s age of the metaverse. “Everyone loves an interesting story; organisations should create a story around their value system and give people multiple learning paths”, says Sandeep. Imarticus enables pre-boarding through its multiple assessments, learning paths, and experience zones. It gives new joiners a sneak peek into what happens by enabling virtual conversations with employees, managers, colleagues etc. Making it more experiential, immersive, memorable, and purpose-led can help new hires decide to join.
Focus on values, culture and purpose:
Abhishek shares, “Culture, values, and purpose are important for anyone to perform and see an organisation as a place where they want to build a career.” Ashissh urges employers to clearly share their purpose with prospective employees. This starts with the first touchpoints i.e. the first recruiter call and career site till the last day the person is in the organization.
Use technology platforms to curate experiences:
A gamified learning environment centred on Evidence Centred Design can quickly help unlock the potential of a new hire. In this method, the skills and proficiencies to be measured are broken down into smaller tasks and are embedded into games. This method helps match overall proficiency levels to the skill. It provides a risk-free set-up for employees to try out things, enables real-world learning, and assesses and gets employees productive as early as possible. Sandeep shares, “Adult learning is about experience, exploration, and an element of discovery at one’s own pace, with elements of trial-error, failure, and understanding things with feedback”. Such tech inputs must be complemented with the human touch.
Personalise the onboarding experience:
A grave mistake is to build a universal onboarding plan and expect everyone to absorb it. “One solution will not fit all, individualized experiences matter more than information-bombarding”, says Abhishek. A blended model with self-paced learning, workshops, buddy programs, gamification, feedback and reflective sessions works well for Yubi. Intuitive questions such as “Is the role you landed is the same as you expected during your hiring process?” and “Are you confident of going out in field and doing a sales pitch?” foster manager feedback and course corrections during the journey.
Involve multiple stakeholders, collaborate, and communicate:
Communication and coordination with clearly defined roles-responsibilities-expectations are critical to success. HR must educate stakeholders such as managers, team members, leaders etc. on their respective onboarding roles with the right resources. Designing onboarding collaboratively with managers will help get their active participation. HR must proactively schedule iterative check-ins, and on-the-spot feedback, and encourage cross-functional integration to get new joiners to understand the company and build connections. This will enable a collaborative mindset. Vinay highlights how managers as well as Business HRs must ensure touchpoints are maintained continuously. Usually, onboarding is considered an HR responsibility. But at Yubi, the hiring manager takes the ownership to select the right person, clarify the job expectations and ensure a new hire joins. “We put in place system check-ins for every joiner with the HRBP, hiring manager, team colleague, cross-team stakeholder, etc. to offer enough touchpoints, information and opportunities to engage. But manager does the genuine conversations and creates team bonding. Onboarding has to be manager-led, facilitated through HR”, shares Abhishek.
How to measure and assess onboarding effectiveness?
Tech can help track effectiveness through productivity metrics such as engagement levels, retention rates etc. EY assesses the performance of new hires against such defined KRAs. The Imarticus platform looks for pre-boarding engagement parameters and creates a pre-boarding churn index which predicts the joining probability of a candidate by assessing multiple engagement factors. “You may not be able to be present all the time, but virtual tools can help strengthen the existing connects that organisations have,” says Sandeep. Parallelly, process owners must closely monitor the onboarding strategy. Ashissh says, “Start by setting specific measurable goals, get new-hire feedback through 1-0-1 conversations and surveys, and seek process feedback from managers and team members”. In the context of remote and hybrid working, Vinay recommends having in-person connects especially at a high level. They conduct a focussed group discussion with 10-12 new joiners who have completed a month in the company, to get people to open up, share experiences and cultivate a sense of belongingness. This helps generate rich qualitative inputs for evaluation and improvement.
Above all, HR leaders must think beyond basics. Abhishek urges HR professionals to ask, “If compensation and everything else offered is the same, why should anyone join you?”. This is a question organisations must reflect on while harvesting the power of digital learning experiences and using data-backed insights. It is easy to gather data, but difficult to put it into practice. “Change, enhance, reassess, keep updating and focus on the action plan”, finishes Ashissh.
Imarticus Learning offers holistic Onboarding Solutions that encompass pre-onboarding engagement activities & assessments, customized corporate training, gamification, and digital learning. With a focus on upskilling, our comprehensive program equips professionals to thrive in today's competitive business landscape. We leverage industry experts and cutting-edge curriculum to deliver a transformative learning experience, blending practical training, real-world case studies, and personalized mentoring. Our Game-Based Onboarding Solutions revolutionize employee onboarding by immersing them in an interactive environment to develop critical skills. Professionals are equipped with the tools they need to make a significant impact within their organizations from day one!