There's a misconception that an intensive onboarding experience requires a high administrative burden
Onboarding is the ideal time to introduce new employees to company culture, but improving the outcome requires a shift, according to Jen Jackson, CEO of Everyday Massive, and co-author of How to Speak Human.
The transformation is towards treating onboarding as an experience, rather than an onslaught of technical information.
The process of starting a new job can be incredibly daunting and onboarding plays a crucial role.
It is not only important in providing people with the technical information needed to get up to speed quickly, but building the crucial connections that set them up for the length of their career.
“It’s a psychological process — as much emotional as it is rational. And just like any other aspect of work or life, onboarding is experiential,” said Jackson.
“Onboarding doesn’t begin when a new hire signs the contract and ends when they walk our of the induction room on day one.
“It’s an experience that starts the moment they hear about an opportunity and continues throughout their first year.”
Jackson added that fortnight — even a month — isn’t nearly enough time to grasp the complexities of a new company; understanding individual roles and how they fit into the bigger picture.
“And by neglecting to actively facilitate this process, people are left feeling confused and lost, discouraged and disconnected. None of which builds a better culture.”
According to Jackson, better onboarding experiences require a shift in focus in the following four areas:
Logical to emotional
Above all, onboarding should consider people’s emotions at every stage of the process. This allows organisations to manage emotions and expectations, and meet people’s needs by delivering the right content through the right channels at the right time.
For example, the weeks leading up to starting a new job are an opportunity to amplify excitement, mitigate anxiety and uncertainty, and manage expectations. What do people need to know before their first day at work to ensure it goes smoothly? It can seem obvious until it’s mapped out in detail, revealing small friction points that can have a significant emotional impact.
An experiential approach to onboarding goes beyond delivering the bare minimum to do the job, to considering how people experience their first week, month and year.
Process to people
Beyond the essential information needed to do the job, onboarding is an opportunity to build connection with peers, leaders, work and the organisation.
Weaving in cultural elements — the vision, mission, values, norms, behaviours and rituals — in the early stages, takes onboarding beyond improving how individuals work, to strengthening the way in which people work together towards a common purpose.
Highly administrative to highly automated
There’s a misconception that an intensive onboarding experience requires a high administrative burden. However, we’re well beyond the days of manually sending forms and contracts, organising police and medical checks, entering data and ordering equipment.
Many platforms allow tasks to be automated, ensuring a consistent experience without placing pressure on particular people or functions. This doesn’t mean removing the human element from onboarding. Quite the opposite, by taking care of the mundane but necessary touchpoints, there’s more time to focus on the meaningful interactions.
Automation could involve triggering reminders for busy managers to have important face to face conversations at regular intervals. It could be a welcome video from a manager sent the week before starting work.
These are small moments that make a big difference, but can easily be forgotten amidst the day-to-day.
Incongruent to congruent
As the first experience people have with the organisation, onboarding plays a crucial role in delivering on the promises of the employer brand, and should feel coherent with the overall employee experience.
To provide a consistent experience, end-to-end across various touchpoints, requires collaboration between various functions, including People and Culture, Safety, Finance, and Legal, as well as external vendors. Every touchpoint should feel like part of the same experience, rather than haphazard communication from different sources.
The real challenge for global businesses is delivering an onboarding experience that’s coherent with the organisation, but also considers region- and site-specific factors.
These include cultural context and regional demographics, down to operational nuances between different sites and facilities. This level of detail maintains consistency, while also ensuring relevance.
By approaching onboarding from an experience-led perspective, considering emotions, people, automation and congruence, leaders can build better onboarding experiences, and better cultures as a result.