5 Secrets to an Engaging Employee Onboarding Program

Viren Kapadia January 3, 2022
5 Secrets to an Engaging Employee Onboarding Program

Dispelling Onboarding Myths

“You are hired!” The process of onboarding a new hire starts formally with this communication. There are often three myths associated with onboarding.

First, many organizations believe that onboarding begins when the recruit actually joins the company, physically or online, or is at the gate.

Two, onboarding is an exclusive HR function to be solely managed by that vertical.

Three, it is a short, 1-2 days duration exercise.

All three are misplaced and can lead to grave consequences if persisted.

The process does not begin when the new hire is at the gate, but it begins from the first interaction with a potential candidate. After that, the appointment mail is the formal continuation.

The second notion of onboarding being the exclusive domain of the HR department also needs to be dispelled as the new entrant is joining the organization, and by implication, the entire organization is integral to onboarding. HR is principally associated with the functions of onboarding. Still, it is a shared responsibility—all personnel at the organization, individually and severally, have to ensure that the recruit has a smooth and joyful induction in the company.

Lastly, onboarding is not a limited period drill. Though a schedule and calendar are required, the activity can stretch beyond the formal sessions and becomes ongoing till the hire is comfortably entrenched within the organization or knows the ropes.

Five Hidden Tactics

Here are 5 secrets to an engaging employee onboarding program:

  • Step into the shoes of the recruit

    New entrants, especially first-timers, come with baggage—a lot of questions, anxiety, tentativeness, and uncertainty. Understanding this mixed bag of emotions and looking at onboarding from the hires’ perspective will ensure that the onboarding activity satisfies such needs. It will be good to remember you were a new employee once, and human nature is similar and quite common. Satisfactorily addressing their concerns, apprehensions, and expectations will ease them into their new roles smoothly and without pain. First impressions matter, and since this is the stage to familiarize them with their new environment, and empathetic approach leading to an engaging experience will endear them to the company.

  • De-Structure the Program

    Structured information is important for a new employee, for example, basic facts and data about the company, its policies, products, and services, internal hierarchy, mission and values, service conditions, etc. All onboarding exercises invariably prepare this dossier along with FAQs and cover them in sessions. The secret tip is to allow the new employee freedom to explore and discover on his own or with an assigned buddy. The onboarding program must contain a large self-learning component through first-hand experience of free interactions with existing employees and the facilities. It can be easily accomplished in on-site and hybrid working situations and remote onboarding via appropriate simulation and gamification technology.

  • Focus on Quality

    Smart entrants have already researched the company they plan to join, and quantifiable data, market perception about the company, and other data in the public domain are already known to them. An often-ignored aspect while providing company information to the recruits is the absence of qualitative inputs. It is suggested that the company synthesize hidden gems and insider perspectives and incorporate the same in the new employees' knowledge pack. Care must be taken to put out positive, authentic information only, for example, existing employees joining experiences, fun incidents, anecdotes, trivia, etc. Such input humanizes the company, removes an impersonal perception, giving it an identifiable personality. They will truly value such insights and interesting nuggets about the company and, at the same time, get an introduction to the organization’s cultural nuances.

  • Opportunity to Express

    Most onboarding programs do not feature opportunities where the new employee can showcase his talent and skills. Providing such occasions during the onboarding phase itself helps the employees to present themselves and share their ideas. Participation and involvement with real-life work situations are deeply engaging and build confidence. The statement “encouraging newcomers to express their unique perspectives and strengths on the job from the very beginning and inviting them to frame their work as a platform for doing what they do best” (Daniel M. Cable, 2013) succinctly captures the essence of this facet of workplace engagement.

  • Treat it as a honeymoon

    For an engaging and lasting relationship built on mutual trust and respect, the onboarding phase should have all the ingredients of a honeymoon between an employee and the employer. While the new hire is getting to know the company during onboarding, the company is familiarizing itself with the person they are inducting. Making it a memorable event, roses and champagne included, will build strong bonds. Paying attention is the rule. Celebrating with social events, team lunches, informal get-togethers, sit-downs with colleagues and superiors, team bonding activities, etc., will create an engaging experience and help build lasting connections.

The 6 Cs Model

The above secrets are over and above the well-known 4 Cs of onboarding, often designated as the building blocks, comprising Compliance, Culture, Clarification, and Connection (Talya N. Bauer, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Advisor, Preppie). Subsequently, 2 more Cs have been added by the originator vis. Confidence and Check back. Research shows that done right, these 6 components of onboarding lead to positive results in terms of employee engagement and retention and consequently business outcomes.

Applying the 6 C onboarding model and the above-mentioned secret tips will certainly add a higher degree of success to any onboarding program.

Leveraging Expertise

Expert advice on building and implementing the best-suited onboarding strategy and other personnel development issues, especially leveraging technology and an advanced learning management system (LMS) for onboarding, learning, and development, is available with Gyrus. Their award-winning LMS, GyrusAim, is the ideal tool to provide an engaging onboarding experience and support the employee journey beyond.