4 Strategies for Exceptional Onboarding Journeys
New employee onboarding has always been understood as an important function of an organisation. The pandemic, the rise of virtual and hybrid work, and our increasingly connected world have shifted employee expectations. Bringing learner-centric design components into the employee onboarding experience is now essential for the employee experience.
You likely spend countless hours recruiting, interviewing, deliberating and ultimately deciding to hire your candidates. But the work does not stop here. Now you must help integrate this exceptional, technically competent person into your high-performing team. For a multitude of reasons, like lower employee turnover, higher employee satisfaction, and increased engagement, it is more important than ever to bring a new design strategy to onboarding and keep employees engaged from the start.
Why a Great Onboarding Experience Ensures Success
Onboarding is a pivotal component of an employee’s journey with your company. First impressions make a significant impact, and every single experience your new employee has during this time sets the tone for their trajectory within your organisation. You have a unique opportunity in these first days and weeks to align your brand with your employee experience in a way that does not exist further down the line.
Successful Onboarding: 4 Key Strategies
When we discuss onboarding, we specifically refer to integrating a newly hired, exceptionally competent candidate into your culture and workflow.
Great onboarding means providing a bridge for that new employee to take their excellence from their prior workplaces into your workplace, and this ‘bridge to excellence’ should be deeply personalised.
Following are four strategies to create an exceptional onboarding journey for your new employees to help ensure their future success as an individual and as part of your organisation.
1. Align Your People with Your Future-State
Almost everything we do is about strategic change and transformation. This means that your onboarding experience needs to help shape your current new hires for the future you’re working toward. The people you have coming in now will be highly influential in two years, so gear onboarding toward the future you want to see, not what your organisation is doing today and was doing yesterday.
It is vital to not only build your future ambitions into your onboarding programme but also to include how to drive it so that it is engaging and implemented into your organisation’s work culture. Show your new hires what the best looks like, and then continue to deliver high-quality learning experiences. Ensure you do not disappoint them when they encounter the next piece of learning—your values and commitment to learning must be consistent throughout the entire employee experience.
2. Think About the Journey: Information Overload and Underload
Beginning a new job is somewhat stressful—new hires are learning about the organisation, remembering everyone’s names, and figuring out how they fit into the culture. What we can avoid is overloading or underloading them with information.
This speaks to the two biggest risks you might experience when it comes to onboarding: A) there is no real onboarding, and the employee doesn’t have enough information; or B) your onboarding programme includes so much information, reading, and user interfaces that people cannot process the information. Each of these can be very damaging to the employee experience.
Try to take an onion skin design approach to onboarding. Sift through and decide what the learners need to know and when that information will be necessary. Providing a two-hour face-to-face meeting to go through company history is not essential on the first day, and that time is better spent getting to know their team and the tools they will be required to use in the near term.
3. Blend and Engage
It is uncommon to design a single learning event or component that doesn’t connect with other learner touchpoints, and an onboarding programme is a perfect point from which to set up other learning events for employees.
Providing a blended learning experience involves using multiple modalities to engage the learner further and to create effective, evolving journeys. If you think back to your most engaging learning experiences, they almost always involve more than one learning modality. Such memorable experiences may have involved a slide deck, a group discussion, an engaging instructor, a video, a game, and perhaps a quiz, poll, or collaborative activity to gauge or test learner knowledge.
The content you create for the onboarding experience should span from deeply practical information delivery to creating an inviting, engaging environment.
4. Align, Deliver, and Sustain: The First 100 Days
Many of our learning journeys are designed and underpinned with the Align, Deliver, and Sustain Model, and it works perfectly for situations like onboarding that can span long periods. For the first 100 days, consider following this design model.
The primary goal of onboarding is to align learners with your organisation and its goals. This can include pre-boarding work, but often it truly begins on the employee’s start date. At this stage, learning moments are prolific, and learners will take in a lot of new information. Focus on the most important aspects of the learning experience—the information that is critical to do their job.
At the core of the onboarding experience, ‘delivering’ refers to deploying the processes, systems, expectations, ways of working, tools, and technologies involved in the new employee experience. This also includes acquainting new employees with crucial cultural and networking layers that will enable the learner to get things done.
Once some time has passed, the new hire will move into ‘business as usual.’ At this point, it is important to continue to apply the same learning standards and meet their expectations as learners. Sustain the output of information and reinforce behaviours your organisation values. You can start to build out information regarding career expansion and opportunities.
Onboarding for the New World of Work
The evolving landscape of work and the changing expectations of employees have necessitated a shift in how organisations approach employee onboarding. Merely providing pathways to technical competence is no longer adequate.
To reap the benefits of reduced turnover, increased satisfaction, and improved engagement, organisations must adopt a new design strategy for onboarding that keeps employees engaged right from the start. This new approach must be learner-centric and account for the entire employee learning experience.
You can empower new employees and create lasting relationships by implementing these strategies and designing an onboarding programme aligned with the organisation's brand and values. Adopting a comprehensive approach to onboarding benefits individuals and contributes to long-term success by nurturing high-performing individuals who are invested in its growth.
LX Director-Strategic Design, GP Strategies
Senior Vice President, Chief Learning & Innovation Officer, GP Strategies