Spring Cleaning, HR Style: Time to Renew the Onboarding Experience

The early days of the COVID-19 crisis presented companies with the opportunity to make exponential changes to support the dynamic nature of the employee experience. In a short time, organizations accelerated digital transformation. They co-created new career paths with employees. And many employers implemented flexible work schedules. Some teams even enacted four-day workweeks. In what seemed like an overnight development, the world of work changed. In many ways, for the better: 90 percent of employers say that their employees banded together as a result.

Now vaccines are becoming more available, and some sense of prior normalcy is starting to return. So leaders must continue to push existing boundaries. Not only for current employees but also the new wave of people joining the workforce. Over 25 percent of companies plan to hire at higher volumes than before the pandemic. Another 20 percent anticipate hiring at the same pre-pandemic rates. So there is a lot of onboarding on the horizon. With that comes another opportunity: To create a great experience from the start.

For HR teams and hiring managers, it’s time to embrace spring cleaning ideology. Specifically, it’s time to dust off the onboarding experience—and revamp it for the new world of work.

The Onboarding Experience Needs a New Shine

The onboarding experience is an integral part of the overall employee experience. Done well, it can set the trajectory for company success. In fact, organizations with effective onboarding have 33 percent more engaged employees than organizations with ineffective onboarding. And 70 percent of executives believe that employee engagement is critical to company success. Creating a positive experience out of the gate provides the road map for employees to be more productive. Ultimately, it increases the value and profitability of the organization.

However, many organizations haven’t done a good job of creating this positive onboarding experience. Eighty-eight percent of employees don’t think their organization onboards well. As a result, ineffective onboarding increases employee turnover within the first year of employment. Poor onboarding also decreases engagement for employees who stick around. Even worse, disengaged employees who do stay risk spreading unhappiness to others.

With the high-projected hiring rate for 2021 and a highly competitive job market, leaders don’t have time to deal with the outcomes of poor onboarding.

What’s the Cleaning Solution for This Mess?

To clean up the mess, employers must reimagine the most basic principles of the onboarding process: enablement materials. It is no longer possible to hand employees a stack of materials on their first day and send them on their way. Besides, the information in those documents might become out of date in a matter of days! Plus, the modern employee will expect more than a stack of papers.

How much more?

Digital capabilities have significantly increased the frequency and number of communications buzzing around. So much so that many of us (especially new employees) feel overwhelmed with the amount of input received. So it will be necessary for employers to simplify the experience wherever possible, starting with creating a concise set of onboarding materials. After all, any attempt to get up to speed quickly creates a chaotic environment for new hires. And it happens during a vulnerable—and stressful—time. Leaders should be looking for modern content tools that create consistency for users. Specifically, they should focus on trimming down the various content formats (one-pagers, presentations, emails, PDFs, etc.) to a single multimedia experience.

The Key to Onboarding Today: Providing Interactive Rich Content

Additionally, employers must pack enablement materials with rich content. Yes, traditional tools have been limiting. But today, leaders can leverage interactive content technology. These tools allow creators to access built-in design tools, making it easier to combine assets from multiple sources. No-code builders enable individuals without mastery in copywriting, design, or development to deliver an engaging onboarding experience. Everyone in the company can have the power to create materials rather than relying on a specialized team.

Onboarding materials should invite employees to engage the same way they interact with other digital content. Additionally, employers should leverage embedded assessments, quizzes, and access to related resources to give employees a better opportunity to digest and apply new information to the job in a format already known to them. After all, the more engaged new employees are, the more likely they are to contribute to the company’s success.

Renewing the Onboarding Experience

Companies have invested heavily in improving the employee experience in the past—and the innovation shouldn’t stop now. To compete well for top talent, employers must dig deep to keep innovative ideas coming. Sure, it would be easier to simply continue with traditional processes. But with the new wave of modern employees coming, dusty onboarding content won’t cut it.

To quickly contribute, employees must feel engaged from day one. They need a positive employee experience, starting with access to interactive and immersive content to help guide their onboarding journey. When companies get this right, they reap the rewards of a more engaged and committed workforce now—and in the future.

Performance Enablement and Empowerment

When it comes to performance enablement and empowerment, we need to stop trying to manage performance, which seems to be the prevalent mindset in many organizations today. The word management is about “controlling and making decisions,” neither of which help us maximize performance. When we manage performance, we stifle employees’ ability to be their best and grow. So instead of talking about managing, let’s refer to it as performance enablement and empowerment—two words that really get to what our role in performance should be. But before we dive too deep into enablement and empowerment, we must define exactly what performance is.

Performance is defined by two considerations:

1) the desired or needed results and 2) the way in which the results are achieved.

We can’t just think of performance in terms of how much is delivered because then we have a situation where staff only focus on results and neglect how they achieved those results even if it was to the detriment of others on the team or in violation of professional ethics. Performance metrics need to be aligned with the team or department as well as the objectives and the values of the company.

Let’s talk performance enablement. Performance enablement is the organization giving their people the ability to do something, the ability to perform. To do so, you must provide the following:

  • Training: Continually develop good work habits and skills through a combination of classroom, online, and on-the-job training. Training must be ongoing and account for differing learning styles. Training is the ongoing mastery of the skills needed to do a job and remain up to date with changes occurring in the business or marketplace.
  • Tools to Do the Job: Ensure your people have the things they need to do their job well. As a manager, this is one of your main responsibilities. Ensure there is a process in place that gets the necessary tools to your team on time and at the right time.
  • Technology: Technology has become an important part of our lives, especially at work. Technology should be implemented to make things easier for both the customer and employee.
  • The Right Information: Managers need to be forthcoming and transparent with information an employee needs to do their job and make decisions.

Once employees have what they need, managers need to get out of the way and let their people make decisions. In an article for IndustryWeek, Shawn Casemore stated that it is critical to “let go in order to help employees grow.” This is performance empowerment. Managers must stop being so insecure and concerned that they will not have a job if the staff are making all the decisions. I would agree a manager becomes more valuable when they empower their people and stop controlling so many aspects of the business. They shift from being managers to leaders. But this shift is necessary for everyone to succeed.

Empowerment is a critical part of achieving an engaged workforce. You cannot have engaged employees without first empowering them. Considering that only 51% of US employees are engaged at work, there is a dire need to empower your people.

To empower your people:

  • Stimulate Thinking: Instead of giving answers, ask employees what they would do. Simply asking questions can get your staff thinking as owners and leaders themselves. By asking them for their thoughts, you are telling your employees that you trust their judgment. Empowerment is all about giving staff confidence in their own abilities. Continually remind staff that they can make decisions.
  • Provide Decision-Making Training: Scenario-based training can help staff collectively think what the best solutions or decisions might be. Ideally, this training should take place in an informal environment such as a daily team meeting. Providing staff with a scenario on a daily or weekly basis can get their creative juices flowing and turn them into expert problem solvers.
  • Share Financial Information: Teach your people about financial responsibility and the impact of different decisions on the company’s bottom line. Encourage them to solve problems in a way that benefits both the organization and the customer.
  • Provide a Solid Start: Provide guidelines as new staff come on board. During their onboarding period—that first 30-60 days on the job—there should be plenty of opportunities to teach new hires the guidelines for decision making while they are in a safe learning environment where the customer, product, or service is not inconvenienced.
  • Respond, Don’t React: Be prepared to respond positively when someone gives too much away. In most cases, it’s not the end of the world. Make it a teaching moment, not a punishment. Staff must make mistakes to learn what not to do. Think back to your early days as a leader. I can guarantee you made your fair share of mistakes as well, and it only helped you grow in your role and in the organization.

Remember, the only way a manager becomes truly indispensable is to be dispensable to their teams by enabling and empowering them. If you are selecting the right people, orienting and onboarding them correctly by enabling and empowering them, you set up your people to feel great about themselves and their role, which leads to them being their best for your customers and the business.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out my new book, Culture Hacker, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also check out Season 2 of the Culture Hacker Podcast, available on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Recommended Readings:
Top Principles of Employee Empowerment

Photo Credit: Universidad Politécnica de Madrid Flickr via Compfight cc

2014: Year of the Social Employer Brand Ambassador

We already know that social media is extremely powerful for business communication. Essentially, anyone with an internet connection has the potential to cultivate and grow a brand. Corporate brand, product brand, personal brand, employer brand — the possibilities are limitless.

It’s as easy as flipping on a light switch! Well maybe not that easy, but social channels have blown traditional media out of the water, and there’s no going back.

Of course, with its potential to drive brand development, social proliferation can also have a huge impact on talent acquisition and retention. How does that work? The idea in leveraging social media to grow a brand is through a fan base that we call “brand ambassadors.” Collectively, your ambassador group functions like a marketing and promotional team that amplifies the message for whatever it is that you’re trying to sell — products, services, yourself or your organization.

Employer Brand Ambassadors: What’s the Challenge?

If you’re an employer, which audience should be your biggest, most important source of brand ambassadors? Customers? Industry thought leaders? Local media outlets? Nope — it’s your employees. But do organizations currently view employees this way? Based on my experience in working with HR executives, I struggle to say yes.

We know that social media instantly connects you with the online world, and the most effective way to grow an employer brand is through social media channels — Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, blogs, Instagram, Pinterest — the list goes on. So ideally, if employees are your prime brand ambassadors, and social media is the best way to grow your brand, you should be able to say that, when your employees interact with others on social channels, they’re effectively promoting your organization as a great place to work.

Are you confident making that claim? Unfortunately for most employers, the answer seems to be NO!

Enter My Bold Prediction for 2014

With the holiday season upon us, we’re seeing our share of blog posts about HR Technology predictions for 2014. One of many good reads is from Craig Bryant at the TLNT blog, “5 Predictions for Where HR Technology is Going in 2014.

My key prediction is a tad bold, but here goes: I think that organizations are ready to give their employees the right tools, so they can easily represent the company as brand ambassadors on social media. In other words, employers will actively explore and implement cloud-based solutions that make it simple for employees to curate and share high-quality, on-brand content with their connections.

Why Does This Shift Matter?

The biggest barrier organizations face when integrating social media across business functions is the inability to ensure a consistent, coherent brand message and voice. It’s about mitigating risk and ensuring that employee social media activity creates a net positive impact, and doesn’t result in PR fiascos. (Case in point: HMV employees react to firing on Twitter.)

Organizations that figure out how to remove these barriers so employees can comfortably operate as employer brand ambassadors will see huge gains in all facets of their business. Think about it — if your company has 500 employees, and each employee has an average social media network of 300 people, that’s a direct network of 150,000. All of these 150,000 connections have a network of their own, so before you know it, you’re reaching millions — all because you enabled your inner circle.

Mark my words: 2014 will be a watershed year of “employee enablement.” Organizations will gain momentum by creating and supporting brand ambassadors who come from within their ranks.

There are very few players in this space, but watch for momentum in the year ahead. You’ll want to look at platforms like PostBeyond, Jostle and EveryoneSocial to see how they help organizations support employees as brand ambassadors. Fasten your seat belts ladies and gentlemen, 2014 is going to be a milestone year for social HR business tools!

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

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