We’re living through times of huge social upheaval. From #MeToo and Black Lives Matter to the environmental protests whose escalation matches the increasing incidence of extreme weather events right across the globe, it seems as if the world is on the march.
Whether it’s transgender rights, or the need for companies to operate in a more sustainable fashion, organisations are starting to be held to account on key social issues. Those that aren’t part of the solution are increasingly being seen as part of the problem, and they risk falling behind in the war for talent, particularly with millennials and generation Z.
HR needs to play a key role in this, not only in helping drive inclusion and diversity, but also in communicating and embedding the huge cultural and behavioural changes that will be needed to drive sustainable operating practices. There’s no better time to inform, engage and enthuse your people about these new, important ways of thinking than when they first join. So how can you shape your onboarding experience to optimise this opportunity?
1. Listen to your new starters
A vital part of the pre-boarding process is making sure you listen to your new joiners. Recognise what they’re excited about, and what drives them. Hear the ideas they have for their new role. But also listen to what’s concerning them. Give your new starters plenty of opportunities to share their thoughts with you, whether that’s directly through surveys or prompting emails, or a one-to-one conversation with a line manager or HR. This can all be done on an onboarding platform such as Eli, which makes it easy for a new joiner to connect with their new team.
Everyone is an individual and should be treated as such. If new starters feel they are being heard, then they will feel included and welcome from day one.
2. Share stories. Build culture.
Share lots of information about all the ways you’re working to build diversity, inclusion and sustainability, from the moment your candidates accept your offer.
An onboarding portal like Eli is a great place to share these tales in video or blog format – as well as being ideal to house more formal, but also personalised, information such as official statements and policies. From successfully achieving parity of women and men in senior management, to big reductions in carbon emissions throughout your operations, let people know your success stories.
Creating bespoke content for each of your sites or business areas can also be very powerful. For D&I, this could include giving network contacts at each location, building accessibility details and local city guides for those relocating, giving details on everything from the location of halal food stores, to the best schools – or the best nightlife. In terms of sustainability, you can focus in on achievements by division or team. (Or even set up a league table. A little competition can achieve big results – especially if KPIs are involved.)
3. Link people together
Letting people know about the networks they can get involved in to support the journey toward a more inclusive – and more sustainable – future for your company is also key. This is even more powerful if you have an online portal that can allow new employees to connect to those networks before they even join the business. A ‘green’ network of likeminded individuals, sharing best practice, and driving progress can be inspiring – and help build real momentum.
In the D&I arena, such networks, be they for gender equality, or the LQBTQ+ community for example, provide a safe space, where individuals can make connections, ask questions and discover mentors.
Of course, such interactive technology can also make sure you’re welcoming and including everyone on a human level – not just those who belong to an instantly recognisable diversity group. With buddies to welcome and support people, and access to your line manager for more official questions, new starters can feel personally welcomed and involved before they even start. Regular wellbeing check-ins can also be very important – and can help highlight any problems or issues early on before they become embedded.
4. Set standards
Of course – there needs to be an element of enforcement, too. Sharing your D&I and environmental statements, policies and rules – and making sure everyone understands them – is just as important as sharing positive stories. Explaining the standards expected of individuals in the course of their work – and those expected of suppliers and customers – is vital.
When it comes to D&I, it’s particularly important to put the information about discrimination reporting processes front and centre. Discrimination within functions or teams can easily remain hidden unless there are robust processes in place that are both visible and trusted. Make it clear that inclusion includes everyone – and it’s an active process.
Making sure people understand exactly what’s acceptable and what isn’t can be an important part of inductions. Scenario videos that show complex situations, or highlight best practice responses can help prepare your people. This helps in particular your managers, who in the current rapidly-evolving climate may be fearful of doing or saying the wrong thing. Imagine a video that helps you explore best practice in supporting a transgender member of your team during transition. Or one that helps you address the tricky situation of dealing with a partner organisation with poor environmental practices.
5. Get people involved
Share calendars of relevant events, whether they be external (Black History month, International Women’s Day, or Earth Day for example) or organisation-specific events arranged by your networks. Recruit for mentors who can inspire others or share best practice. Get your new starters involved in developing user-generated content – from a city guide for graduates, to a best practice toolkit for creating an environment that welcomes neurodiversity. Encourage and celebrate sustainability initiatives from the big to the small – whether it’s a project to get everyone working from home to grow bee friendly plants, or championing participation in an initiative to drastically slash water consumption in your operations.
As the late (and notorious) Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, once said, "Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time." Culture transformation won’t happen overnight, but we can put the steps in place to create lasting change. By informing, inspiring and empowering your new starters, your onboarding strategy can be a real force for that change.