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Let's Get Personal: A New Kind of Employee Onboarding

in Onboarding New Hires

by Christina Chaplin
June 6, 2016

Do what you love, and love what you do. It's something most of us aspire to at work. Are you one of the lucky ones to have a job you look forward to every day? Why is that? We'd like to bet it's because you have made meaningful relationships with your team and others at work. As the lines between personal and work life continue to blur for many of us, how we feel at work is more than ever directly tied to how successful we are at work. So what does this mean for employee onboarding?

We've shared lots of data in the past that shows how employee engagement - because that's what companies call how we feel about our jobs - is critical for business success. Onboarding new employees is one of the most critical moments in that engagement story. We've even done up a cool infographic if you'd like to use it in your next presentation on how onboarding affects your business. But we think one of the most compelling arguments is that an awesome onboarding experience can improve employee performance by 11.5%. Tweet: A great #onboarding experience can improve employee performance by 11.5% http://ctt.ec/8c8IG+

Another important fact, a longer and more consistent employee onboarding program allows new hires to gain full proficiency 34% faster New hires gain proficiency 34% faster w/ longer #onboarding programs http://ctt.ec/cb8et #HR than those in shorter programs.

Sounds great, right? I mean, who wouldn't want employees who perform better, faster? So how do we achieve this if how our new employees feel is the key.

This is our objective - make our employees feel (and be!) engaged before they even start and well after their first day by making onboarding an awesome experience, consistently, over a longer period of time.

One-Size Does Not Fit All

If we want our employee onboarding to be truly awesome, we need to make every employee feel like an important part of the team. It doesn't matter if they're an individual contributor, manager, or senior leader. Our first goal is to keep them excited and share our excitement that they'll be joining soon! But generic onboarding content doesn't make anyone feel special. Yes, there are forms and info that everyone has to get through, but each person has different needs when they join. Think about how to group your new hires based on seniority, location, department, or anything else that makes sense at your organization, and the kind of knowledge each of those groups need. Make sure there are things directly related to a new hire's role at your company. Most employee onboarding processes suffer from information overload already, so keep it relevant to each person and the important stuff won't get lost in the mountains of new info.

Not Just the What, Also the How

So you've diversified your content, great! But it shouldn't just be about personalizing the content - although that is important of course - also think about learning styles and communication preferences. Some people prefer to attend a training session at a specific time, others prefer a self-paced learning platform. If the content is really important to your organization, then think about different ways to provide the same information, and let them choose how to consume it. That way no one misses it.

Get Uncomfortable

Don't just talk about policies, procedures, company values... yes those are important, but what about shaking things up with some fun facts about your company and its people. It's easier to build meaningful relationships if you're genuine and open from the beginning. So help your new hires break the ice! Try incorporating non-conventional questions into those forms or surveys they fill out. Put together a team activity and ask everyone, new and old alike to guess surprising facts about their colleagues. Share everyone's answers on a team poster in your department or an internal online board so everyone gets to know the real people behind the desk!

Get Digital

Trying to get personal is hard to do if you're still using the traditional employee handbook. Plus, do you really think people want to spend their whole first day reading? You already know that we learn and retain information better when done in context (aka, on the job), so apply that to those early days as well. Don't try to teach them how to use your systems right when they walk in the door in the morning if you expect them to remember 3 days later when they actually start to use them. What better way to make sure they can access information, when and where your new hires need it, than to be on all their devices! Embrace technology to help you develop and execute effective employee onboarding. By using technology to deliver your onboarding program you'll ensure structure, consistency of information, and a standard of quality in the process across your organization, while still leaving plenty of room for that awesome personalized experience.

Now that sounds more like the kind of welcome your new hires deserve!