A more hybrid workforce is increasingly becoming the new norm.
How do you ensure your onboarding experience delivers for all your new starters, when 50% may not spend a single day on site for the foreseeable? What can you do to ensure that they understand their role, objectives, and place within their team? How can you empower them to build strong working relationships throughout your organisation, and make sure they are fully embedded in your culture? We explore some of the solutions – at the heart of which is a digital platform to host personalised content and facilitate network building.
Ask the experts – those you’ve onboarded this year
New starters who have joined your organisation since March 2020 will be a wealth of invaluable information. Use it. Survey them, asking which parts of your onboarding process worked well, and which didn’t. What were the gaps, problems and challenges? (Lack of IT support? Isolation from colleagues? Difficulty of teamwork?). As well as telling you what you need to do more and less of, such surveys also provide an opportunity for the recently onboarded to share new ideas on ways they think the experience could be improved in the new normal.
Communicating your vision, culture and objectives
During this period it’s vital to come up with imaginative ways to ensure your new starters understand the major initiatives and key objectives of your company going forward, as well as your underlying purpose, vision and values. Creating engaging, creative video content that tells your organisation’s story can be a powerful way of doing this – as can live broadcast or recorded talks from leaders throughout the company. Workshops, podcasts and online ‘spot-check’ quizzes to check messaging is getting through can all be highly beneficial, too.
In this time of flux, people have had time to reflect on what’s important to them. So clearly explaining your company’s approach to sustainability, race and gender equality and other key social issues is important. As always, the detailing of achievements, or clear demonstrations of how targets will be achieved are more convincing than generic statements of intent.
Think about where you need to update the content (rather than the form) of onboarding communications in the light of home working. For example, how will your health and safety policies be changed by having a huge cohort of home workers? Will there need to be a bigger focus on mental health support? (Or, indeed, back support as we all hunch over our kitchen tables.) What guidance are you giving around security of information with such a huge spike in remote working? What new remote working technology will people have to get to grips with, and how are you providing training in it? And what is your company’s approach to creating Covid-secure workplaces for those who will be working from one of your sites?
Building culture in the virtual office
Building culture online can be a challenging process, but chances are over the last six months you’ve done just that, introducing initiatives and practices that are more effective than a weekly Zoom drink. So, start by assessing whether those same practices would work during onboarding – adapting or developing new ones accordingly. It pays to be creative though, and a great example of this comes from the global leader in sustainable technology, Johnson Matthey. Enhance is their Employee Resource Group designed to provide a space where new people can begin to build up a network of contacts and forge friendships after joining. They recently created a virtual ‘escape room’ to help people build connections more easily – an interactive online game that new starters could play in teams, to help engage and inform them – and create a sense of community. It takes the form of an art gallery, which the teams must travel through, working out passwords as they go, to progress through each new room. It’s proved so popular, that it’s now being made an official part of their induction process for graduates.
Creating virtual networking
The importance of joiners engaging with their new team, buddy, and manager can’t be underestimated with hybrid workforces. An online onboarding portal such as Eli will allow you to connect your new starters up with all these people via a messaging service from home, even before their start date. You can also create tailored social/chat walls, so that all new joiners have a space where they can go to start building networks – providing a vital space to share tips, knowledge, ideas and support, as well as interact with like-minded individuals. This can be particularly useful for D&I too – by giving new starters access to your employee resource groups early on, you create environments where they can build connections with confidence.
Supporting your line managers
It’s the line managers who will be bearing the brunt of trying to onboard your new joiners in these testing conditions. Supporting them will reap dividends. If you don’t have them already, create line manager checklists, so they know exactly what they need to do and when. Update these checklists if they already exist. Create a social wall for line managers to exchange ideas and support each other, and hold scheduled half hourly Q&A sessions with HR, to answer questions and highlight any ongoing issues. Create videos or run workshops guiding your line managers through what onboarding best practice looks like in the new normal.
A digital approach still drives onboarding success
Using a digital online portal such as Eli that can host and support all of these initiatives is key to onboarding success in this hybrid working era. It’s really easy to create team, or even person specific content, and engage with new starters through everything from branded video and imagery, to interactive checklists, event schedules and contracts. The more immersive the experience the better, which is why ideas like 360° video and AI are becoming more and more prevalent. NatWest Group added 360° video to their onboarding experience in early 2020 – a very timely decision indeed. A VR headset might be optional, but the innovative video tours have already picked up one award nomination this year, as well as helping their early careers cohorts explore their new place of work from the comfort of their own living rooms.
Perhaps most vitally of all in the new reality, such an online platform allows you to connect people through messaging and social walls, networking groups and more before they even set foot through the door – if indeed they ever will.