There are massive, gaping flaws in the ways most companies go about onboarding – and the proof is in the latest research.
🚩 Nearly two-thirds of employees found their onboarding experience to be stressful
🚩 Only half of all new hires said they felt productive and capable of doing their jobs
🚩 20% of new employees felt they’d been left isolated or alone during their onboarding
“But so many people said they loved our onboarding in the survey we sent out.” We hear you saying.
The cause? Vanity metrics. And worse still, vanity metrics collected at the wrong time.
How are you going to work out if onboarding sets people up to perform in a role if that feedback stops before they’ve done the role?
You can’t! And this is actually one of the seven ways you can make positive changes today. If that doesn’t inspire (or scare) you to read on, what will…
1. Build better feedback cycles
Now that you’re three months into the job, do you feel your onboarding set you up for success?
If so, which parts and how?
If not, what was missing and why?
It’s not like asking people how happy they were on a scale of one to 10 is useless, it’s just that this is much more useful. You can action this, today.
Beyond continuing the feedback collection into the role, consider the milestones when it might be worth asking for it.
For example, if sales reps start leading their own calls in week four, maybe week eight is a good time to ask questions about how well their onboarding and early weeks set them up for those conversations.
Better yet, see if you can loop in some of their performance data alongside anecdotal evidence to build a well-rounded picture.
2. Harness the power of internal influencers and experts
In a nutshell, onboarding is there to do two things: empower people to do the role well and connect them to the company mission and culture.
And there will be people internally who give you the best chance of pulling these off for each new employee.
They are your internal influencers, and your job is to facilitate connections with them.
How do I find influencers?
Remember, leaders and influencers are anyone people want to follow! Unless people with senior management titles are really the best people to give a new employee the information they need, there is no reason they should just be doing a tour of the top level.
A product marketing manager can potentially offer more positioning wisdom to new sales reps than the head of marketing.
A customer support rep might have more insights into user pain points than the person leading the team – purely because of the nature of their role.
Performance data (again) and stories from colleagues are great sign posts. Who racks up the best numbers? Who do people turn to internally when they face a problem? Who’s the social secretary and therefore a beacon of culture?
A great way to connect new hires to these people is through buddying and mentoring programs that tie into the onboarding process. Your internal influencers and experts are likely also the people acting as mentors!
3. Create situations where people are encouraged to fail
Yes, we want people to feel comfortable and confident at the end of onboarding, but not at the expense of them being competent in their roles.
That’s why we need to push people, create situations where they might ‘fail’ and then understand where they truly need our help.
Our onboarding process should create situations that feel like the real thing so we can say, if this is where you struggled in the practice environment, we need to give you more help with that before you do the real thing.
Let’s say we’ve got customer-facing employees, and we know the goalposts are likely to shift during the job. In our practice environments, we could change the timing of the call or push back on certain ideas to ensure it feels like the real thing.
4. Hold a purpose session during onboarding
More than half of employees said the pandemic caused them to question the purpose of what they do. Meaning that employees want to do meaningful work more than at any other point in history.
How many companies are taking the time to truly explain their mission, values and purpose during onboarding, really?
It’s a quick win and a no-brainer. If people want to do meaningful things, help them understand what that means at your company.
Fiona Morgan, Director of Purpose at SailGP, explained how she uses Purpose Inductions with new employees every single month on a recent episode of HowNow’s L&D Disrupt Live podcast.
“I think it shows your commitment. You have this discussion and talk about intent: why you’ve done it, what you’re doing well and then you kind of say, ‘Go forth, you are all now purpose ambassadors…”
“Most sustainability teams should be able to do that! A monthly or quarterly workshop for new starters where you present your strategy and have an open chat. That would be a good start, even if you did that before training.”
5. Set milestones that allow you to deliver relevant content at the right times
Most of us have been there, feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information coming our way during onboarding. Which is typically a symptom of two things:
- A failure to consider what will be relevant to that employee
- Not thinking about when something will be relevant to a new employee
In other words, we’re not asking two simple questions: Is this relevant to that person? If yes, do they need to know it now?
But how can we work out what is and isn’t relevant?
The magic lies in understanding the key tasks that person needs to complete, what skills and knowledge are needed to complete them and how we can structure onboarding to deliver them.
How can I establish relevant milestones and goals during onboarding?
Let’s take a new sales rep as an example. For them, the key milestones might be outreach and cold prospecting, followed by holding a kick-off call and then handing over to a more senior colleague.
These happen in order, making it easy to understand what’s relevant and when.
Anything to do with the kick-off call or handover is pretty irrelevant until they’ve nailed that outreach and prospecting.
Why? Because there is nobody to kick-off with (in the good way) or hand over until they’re driving people into the pipeline.
If you’re in the onboarding team, congratulations – you can now work smarter, not harder. The only question you have to answer is: How do we prepare this person to become proficient at outreach in the desired timeframe?
6. Provide consistent experiences for the hybrid world
Whether people are onboarding remotely or in person, they’re just crying out for consistency.
Adding a remote employee to an in-person meeting via a video call is not the same as building a meeting to work for everyone from scratch.
For example, the in-person meeting might involve a real-time presentation that it’s tricky for remote employees to engage in. But a hybrid onboarding session might mean sending the deck to everyone ahead of time and using that meeting time to discuss the content together.
The more you can create self-service, on-demand learning that’s accessible in one place when people need it, the more you’re empowering remote employees. You’re removing the variables and barriers that create varying experiences.
And remember, adding virtual mentoring and buddying to your onboarding program ticks multiple boxes at once. Cater to hybrid teams, connect people to influencers and ensure consistent, timely learning.
7. Learn from the best, even if they’re in a different industry
Would you consider Intercom a similar company to yours? Possibly not, but there’s lots you can learn from them on the onboarding front.
Such as building every onboarding experience around four key pillars to drive that consistency we spoke about. These are: core business learnings, skills and culture, support elements, and social and belonging.
This gives every employee an understanding of the company, its culture, and mission, leaving you to sprinkle in the job-specific stuff we discussed.
Whether it’s sending a party in a box to their door like they do at Happy Money or converting in-person full-day sessions into 90-minute modules people can find online and on-demand at Publicis Sapient, you should always be looking for onboarding inspiration outside your circle.
Then you can test it on a small scale and see if it fits! Get a detailed breakdown for all of these examples and more in HowNow’s employee onboarding guide for fast-growing companies.