Unlocking the future of onboarding with experiences that matter

Even before the pandemic, conversations with HR leads regarding onboarding challenges typically centred around inconsistent processes, lack of organisational readiness, and a general failure to deliver that essential, first good impression. New hires were often welcomed with lengthy paperwork, and spent the first few weeks of their job just trying to figure things out – alone.

Fast forward a couple of years, the advent of new tech and hybrid ways of working, and onboarding has become an evolving problem that continues to keep us on our toes. Now more than ever, it is imperative to deliver an exceptional onboarding experience in order to attract and retain top talent, stand out as an organisation, and ensure a maximum return on investment on new hires.

Experiences that wow

The good news is, we are all in the same boat. According to Marissa Wild, Head of Learning and Development at Ogilvy South Africa, we typically spend months looking for the right person for the job, lure them across to our organisation, and then go quiet as soon as they sign their offer of employment. And this is the time when we should be engaging with them the most.

“Technology has been instrumental in helping us implement an experience-driven onboarding programme at Ogilvy,” states Marissa. “It has automated our processes, enabled us to create ‘personal touch points’ for our new hires, allowed us to drip feed information to them when needed, and helped us learn a little bit about them along the way. Now we are able to prompt our hiring managers to make sure they interact with our new employees throughout the onboarding process. Everything is built in, and there is no need to rely on people to remember what to do at certain points in the recruitment process.”

At Discovery, a priority is to align their candidate experience to their customer experience. This is achieved through the use of technology, but keeping the human connection top of mind.

“We are an ‘experience’ company – making people healthier and enhancing and protecting those we love, so it is important for this to come through our candidate experience as well,” says Selo Govender, People Executive from Discovery Limited. “Our onboarding programme is simple, memorable, and purpose led; that connection of our new hires to our culture, our values and the way we do business, both before and after they join, is critical for us. The latest research shows that employees decide in their first week if they want to stay with their new company or not, so it is imperative for us to give them an experience they will never forget.”

Building the investment case

As recruiters, we put a huge amount of effort, time and money into sourcing and hiring individuals who will take our organisation to the next level. So how do we go about building our business case for c-suite buy-in?

Start small, advises Trevor Kunda, HR Executive at the FirstRand Group. “When it comes to investing in technology platforms, we often make the mistake of going ‘big bang’. Rather than asking for millions at your next budget approval meeting, start small, experiment, learn and then scale up. This gives you a far better chance of getting the funding you want for your onboarding programme.”

Trevor also believes in prioritising a return on expectation first, and then measuring your investment case over time. “We often do not spend enough time asking ourselves what problem we are trying to solve. While it is important that we look at it from a business lens, I initially shy away from ROI as a metric for success. Fundamentally we are trying to change behaviours and improve processes over time. Once these are embedded and things are working as they should, then we can start to look at correlations with productivity, revenue and the like. But you do not measure these from day one.”

Selo recommends running a proof of concept (POC) first if there is appetite in the organisation for it and full stakeholder buy-in, both of which proved to be the case at Discovery. “We were able to run a successful POC that helped us demonstrate that the solution we were putting forward had merit. In fact, it has been a key success factor in rolling out the solution now to more of our business units. People want to know that there is value in whatever it is they are investing in, and a proof of concept helps you achieve this.”

Delivering our best so they can deliver theirs

As Marissa points out, ultimately all companies promote a culture of high performance because it means your people and your business, are thriving. And your onboarding experience is where you set the tone for this.

“When people come into an organisation and it is a haphazard and disorganised experience, you are already failing at that critical first impression,” she says. “From pre-boarding through to the three-month probation period, it is imperative to set scheduled check-ins, make sure goals and expectations are discussed upfront, performance is managed, and managers are connecting with their new hires. When we put our best foot forward and ensure onboarding is a seamless experience for our new hires as well as our HR and hiring managers, it makes all of our jobs so much easier.”

Selo adds that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, and so it is important to understand what best serves the needs of your business from an onboarding perspective.

“At Discovery, we have been very intentional about creating memorable moments for our new hires in order to meet our business needs. Not only are we leveraging technology to enhance the onboarding experience, but we have been very deliberate around building our candidate experience and new hire experience journeys. Through our content, we have made sure that at different touchpoints we are able to create inspirational moments and connect with our employees.”

Onboarding is a team sport

Experience-driven onboarding encompasses a variety of processes and a number of people, so it is important to remember that everyone has a role to play.

“It is not just up to HR to make sure people are onboarded correctly,” says Trevor. “There are a number of distinct roles and support functions that need to filled, so it must be seen as a collective responsibility.”

Role clarity and alignment is therefore critical. “At the end of the day we need to look at the experience we want to deliver, and the various role players involved, and then figure out how we come together to deliver an integrated approach,” he adds.

The role of technology

For Ogilvy, tech has played a major role in cleaning up their onboarding act, automating manual processes and supporting them to create value. “Now that the basics are in place, our next step is to focus on our induction programme, that face-to-face human element that is currently missing,” says Marissa. “But the good news is we are not starting from scratch. Creating a memorable onboarding programme is a journey, so it is best just to start, reiterate as you go, and move onto the next phase when you are ready.”

Trevor adds that while tech is essential, it is important not to lose sight of the human experience and connection. “Technology enables us to build consistency, bring efficiencies into work processes, deliver at scale, and bridge the challenge of time and space. However, disseminating culture and creating submersive experiences are more likely to be delivered in a physical setting. So, use your tech to support this human connection.”

If you would like to make the move to experience-driven onboarding, make sure you’re talking to the right people! Visit www.talentsmith.com for more information or email roxanne.creamer@talentsmith.com.