Filed under: Digital employee experience
It’s widely recognised that lasting impressions are created by the first days and weeks that a new starter experiences at an organisation.
Unfortunately, starting in a new firm can seem like a litany of problems:
- key equipment such as a laptop or phone aren’t available on day one
- it takes days or weeks to set up access to key systems and tools
- multiple paper forms must be filled in for HR, finance, IT and others
- formal induction isn’t provided until some months into the job
- in the meantime, it’s hard to know where everything is or how things work
- it’s confusing trying to work out who does what, and how processes work
- there’s a steep learning curve, and apparently no-one to help
For many people, the overall onboard experience is one of frustration, confusion and self-doubt.
These issues are supported by concrete figures (from these sources), including:
- 90% of employees decide whether they’ll stay with an organisation, or leave, in the first six months.
- Half of all hourly employees leave new jobs in the first 120 days.
- 49% of millennials want better onboarding.
- Companies with an engaging onboarding program retained 91% of their first-year workers.
- Onboarding programs can improve employee performance by 11.5%.
There has been a huge amount of work already done to identify best-practice approaches to onboarding in organisations of all sizes. Often driven by HR or recruitment teams, this work emphasises the importance of helping staff to make connections, in addition to the basics of compliance and process completion.
Beyond this, it’s valuable to look specifically at the digital employee experience (DEX) of onboarding (see What is DEX?). This provides a useful lens through which to identify areas where pain points are impacting on staff engagement or productivity.
When starting out with DEX, onboarding is also a great initial target, as it’s both universal across all organisations, and it impacts almost all staff.
Take a four-step approach to improving the DEX of onboarding:
- conduct staff research
- assemble an onboarding taskforce
- target moments that matter
- establish ongoing governance
Each of these is outlined in the coming sections.
1. Conduct staff research
Start by conducting robust field research to understand current activities and points of pain. This should take an end-to-end view of onboarding process, from the initial job interview, through to the 3-6 month mark where staff are generally considered to be fully up and running.
Approach this research holistically, using open-ended questions to dig into how each step in the process works, and whether it matches the real needs of staff. Expect to gather a lot of information that will apply to everything from HR processes and IT tools, through to office layout and personal interactions with other staff. You will also uncover insights into the emotional state of staff as they go through the onboarding process.
Ensure that a cross-section of new starters is included, from staff in their first days or week, through to those who started some months ago. There should also be coverage across multiple departments, types of staff, and office locations. All of these factors will shape the experience that new starters encounter.
Personas, storyboards (such as the ones in this article) and journey maps can all be effective ways of communicating insights into the needs of staff, and their step-by-step experience of the onboarding process. You should also have a (long) list of potential problems and issues to solve, and opportunities to enhance the overall digital employee experience.
2. Assemble an onboarding taskforce
As outlined earlier, one of the biggest challenges with the onboarding experience is that it touches many different areas of the business, with no one clear ‘owner’. The starting point should therefore be to assemble an onboarding taskforce with the brief of improving onboarding DEX.
At a minimum, membership of the taskforce should include representatives from:
- intranet, digital workplace and/or digital teams
- key business areas
The group should consist of ‘doers’ who are sufficiently senior and experienced to be able to make concrete changes. They will need the direct support and endorsement of their respective senior leaders to enable roadblocks to be avoided or resolved.
The taskforce should have a planned lifetime of 6-12 months, long enough for initial improvements to be made, but with the clear expectation that an ongoing process will be established to monitor and improve onboarding DEX (see later for more on this).
3. Target moments that matter
There are key points in the experience of new starters that will live with them for months, years, or forever. These are the moments that matter, where strong emotions will be generated, hopefully positive but sadly, also negative. The personas and journey maps should provide a list of these key touchpoints where improvements can be made.
Potential improvements should be assessed by the taskforce, to identify where the biggest ‘bang for the buck’ can be obtained during the initial project. This ensures that tangible outcomes are delivered early, improving the experience of the next round of new starters, as well as building support for bigger changes.
The taskforce should also conduct some industry research, to find out what other organisations are already doing, and what products are available in the marketplace. This will enable actions to be taken confidently, while avoiding common pitfalls.
The good news is that there are often simple steps or solutions that can be quickly acted on. For example:
- a small amount of back-end automation can eliminate some manual steps and hold-ups
- a web-based onboarding app can deliver standard information in a personalised way
- the purchase of a third-party solution can improve one or multiple steps
4. Establish ongoing governance
One one project can do more than start improving the digital employee experience for new starters. Now that the initial taskforce has demonstrated the benefits that can be delivered, ongoing processes must be established.
This will include overall governance, that outlines the key players for onboarding, and how decisions are made by them. It also allocates ongoing ownership or responsibility to a single team to continue identifying areas that need improvement. This can often be the digital workplace or digital team in the business, or it could sit with HR (or even IT).
The ongoing process must have the complete support of senior leaders, as befits the importance of the onboarding experience to the continued success of the business. Sufficient resources will need to be allocated to enable meaningful improvements to be made.
It should be recognised that improving onboarding DEX is a lifelong journey. Expectations will continue to rise, driven by other leading organisations, as well as by constantly improving consumer experiences. Changes to business systems and processes will also potentially introduce new problems (alongside the benefits they deliver).
Make your mark!
In the war for talent, businesses must provide a great digital employee experience for new starters, to ensure they are fully engaged and productive. Take this opportunity to shine a light on the many small (and some big) hurdles that new starters experience, and find ways to have an early impact. Then establish ongoing governance and management to tackle the bigger issues.
Done right, improvements in this area will have a measurable impact on key HR measures, such as staff engagement, or even staff retention. It will also demonstrate the power of digital employee experience, priming the organisation to tackle other facets of DEX.