Making the change to experience-driven onboarding

TalentSmith Technology’s Chief Business Officer, Roland Glass, caught up with Dudu Moloko (Senior Manager of Learning and Leadership Development, Discovery) and Marissa Wild (Head of Learning Development, Ogilvy) during the recent HR Indaba. Here are some of their insights into moving towards a human-centred onboarding approach in their organisations…and why you should do the same!

Onboarding new hires is a complex task, but it’s even tougher in a remote or hybrid working environment. And, if you’re a human-centric, culture-driven organisation – much like Discovery and Ogilvy – how do you maintain that high-touch, personalised connection when the ‘people’ factor is missing?

TalentSmith Technology has been partnering with both organisations to enhance their recruitment processes and the welcoming of new hires. Using experience-driven tech, together with a willingness to adapt to change, they’ve succeeded – and incredibly well we might add! While they’re in different phases of their journey, both Ogilvy and Discovery have some great tips for companies looking to embark on a similar path.


According to Dudu, the pandemic was an ideal opportunity to assess how Discovery would bring new employees into the organisation in an equally inspired way as traditional onboarding. “My colleagues at the time did a great job, redefining onboarding into a blended, virtually facilitated and digital programme,” she says. “This has since evolved into a reimagined onboarding experience, and while we’re still quite early on in our journey, I’m super excited about it none the less.”

“Ogilvy is a high engagement business, and when we moved to remote working it was a huge adjustment,” adds Marissa. “We had to adapt to working with new technologies as well as being able to interact with our people online. It was tough, and quite frankly, we weren’t good at it. Thankfully we adapted very quickly, and invested in platforms and tools to help us create the virtual onboarding experience we were after.”

Lessons learnt

Ogilvy are already one year in to the process, so are now looking to scale and enhance their solution. “The biggest lesson we learned is that your job is never done,” says Marissa. “As we dug into using the new technology the more complications we seemed to have. At the time it was frustrating but saying that, it’s been so nice to unpack all of our issues and get better. It’s a process of constant learning – we’ve had to diagnose, implement and reiterate as we’ve gone along, but we’re not starting from zero each time. We’re improving, and that’s awesome!”

Discovery are currently in the concept, design and implementation phase of their project, and in fact, ran a successful proof of concept first on which their current solution is based. Dudu believes that before you do anything, it’s imperative your house keeping is in order. So, make sure your IT set up is ready on day one, and that your HR processes are clearly defined, articulated and understood by everyone in the business.

“Then, remember that we’re living in the 21st century,” she states. “The future is here and an experience-driven onboarding project cannot be done without the use of tech. But – or maybe and – the human connection is absolutely still critical. The two can’t sit alone, they’re both integral to the success of the other.”

As Dudu points out, also keep in mind that moving from business-focused to experience-driven onboarding is a big change – a systemic one even. And you’re not going to get it right if you don’t collaborate across your organisation and ensure you have senior management support from the start. “Go slowly from the beginning and engage absolutely everybody so that you have alignment. This will allow you to roll out your project quicker and more successfully in the long run,” she believes.

Why human-centric onboarding matters

Call me a dreamer, but for one thing, it’s an opportunity to change the game,” asserts Dudu enthusiastically. “So many times, people solutions don’t hit the mark, but with a personalised and highly connected onboarding solution, we have the ability to impact our rookies coming in and the business as well. We know that happy, engaged employees are willing to go the extra mile, and this translates directly to business results. Thriving employees make for thriving companies.”

There’s no doubt that human-centred onboarding programmes are a key strategic imperative in today’s world, and Marissa agrees.

“The stats show that with a highly connected onboarding experience, you’ll retain your employees for longer,” she says. “We’re also in the space where good talent is hard to find, and it’s even harder for scarce critical roles. So, after taking the time to find the right person for the job, you want them to be onboarded as efficiently and effectively as possible and not have to start from the beginning again.”

A study by Employee Benefits News on employee retention found that the average cost of losing an employee is a staggering 33% of their annual salary. So, in other words, when an employee leaves your organisation, you haven’t just lost their talent. You’ve lost time and valuable income for your company.

It’s quite simple really… or maybe not. But as Marissa says, first impressions go a long way, so look after your people well from the beginning. And hopefully there won’t be an end to worry about!

If you would like to make the move to experience-driven onboarding, make sure you’re talking to the right people! Visit for more information or email