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4 Steps to Create an Inclusive Onboarding Strategy

Mar 21, 2023| Reading time: 19min

BY ChartHop

There’s a lot of buzz around creating a strong employee experience. And, for many teams, the term is now shifting to people experience to better highlight the importance of people-first decisions throughout the employee lifecycle. 

However, when it comes to planning an onboarding strategy, organizations often forget a main component: meeting people where they are … literally. Whether your new team members work in-person, remotely, or both, they deserve to have an employee experience that is positive and inclusive – and one that helps them feel connected, engaged, and productive, no matter where they’re located.

In fact, 69% of people are likely to stay with an organization for at least three years if they had a great onboarding experience. The bad news? Sixty percent of People Operations teams have no digital plan in place, and therefore risk quickly falling behind when it comes to retention, engagement, job satisfaction, and workplace culture. 

Therefore, by optimizing technology and internal processes in the four steps below, People teams can create an onboarding strategy that not only meets the needs of new hires, but also creates a positive digital employee experience for your entire workforce. 

1. Use Technology Thoughtfully in Your Hiring Process

Technology is a great asset to your hiring process and helps ensure an efficient and seamless experience for candidates. And on the backend, using the right system also helps talent acquisition teams plan for and recruit the right people for your team. 

If you’re a fully remote company, you already integrate technology into your talent acquisition strategy. But as we all know, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to strengthening inclusivity efforts. And if you’re still using spreadsheets or – gasp – physical folders during your hiring process, it’s time to add impactful tools and technology for a more streamlined, transparent experience for both employees and candidates. 

Conduct Interviews Virtually

According to Gartner, 86% of People teams conduct interviews virtually for speed, convenience, and flexibility purposes. Virtual interviews not only make it easier to find a time that’s convenient for the hiring manager and candidate, but also make the interview itself more inclusive (i.e. less focus on the person’s appearance and more focus on what they’re saying).

Consider using a tool like BrightHire, which helps teams hire faster, ensure interview quality, and reduce bias. The interview platform automatically records and transcribes interviews so you can focus on running a great meeting rather than trying to take rapid notes or rely on fuzzy memories. Recorded interviews can be replayed, shared, and analyzed – talk about a triple win.

Maximize Your Social Media

Social media is the thing we love to hate (hello, constantly updated algorithms). People teams would therefore be remiss to think that applicants aren’t checking out your company across social media platforms to see what it’s like to work at your organization. 

Thus, it’s best practice to use technology to improve your employees’ experience even before they sign on the dotted line. For example, AT&T gives candidates visibility into their work environment through the use of employee stories and creating their own hashtag. While you can find these photos and interviews on their website, you’ll also see #LifeAtATT across various social media platforms. They proudly embrace their strategy: “From office contests to volunteering events, find out how our people are making an impact (and having fun doing it!)”

Use a Virtual Portal for Consistent Communication

If you’ve ever applied for a position and thought Now what?, you’re not alone. In fact, the American Staffing Association reports that 80% of people “say that applying for a job feels like sending their résumé or job application into a ‘black box.” 

If you want to stand out among competitors – and create a strong people experience before day one – share status updates in an applicant portal. Such a portal may also allow candidates to self-schedule interviews, which gives them the flexibility to select their availability. Empowering candidates to select their availability may not seem groundbreaking, but it is: This thoughtful and inclusive decision helps candidates choose a time where they’ll perform their best (i.e. not when the babysitter is arriving at 9 a.m.).

Moreover, it’ll save your team’s time: A 2020 survey by Yello found that more than 40% of recruiters spent two weeks or more on the interview process … and two-thirds of that time was eaten up by interview scheduling. Yikes.

A caveat here is that you’ll want to balance the use of digital technology with the human touch to build better relationships with candidates. For example, an applicant will prefer to learn they won’t be progressing to the next stage of the process through a timely note that includes detailed interview feedback versus an automated notification.

House Hiring Plans and Data in One Spot

What’s better than headcount plans living in different spreadsheets and sending approvals via email? Just about anything. 

Not only does a disjointed process slow things down for candidates, but it also makes for a lackluster recruiter experience. A better way is to house all of your information – such as headcount plans, ATS data, collaborative conversations, and an automatically updated org chart – in one spot, so your recruiters can focus more on finding the right talent instead of wrangling instructions and aligning stakeholders.

Ai-Mei Zhu Levine, Talent Acquisition Manager at ChartHop, explains that having a centralized location not only eliminates errors, but also saves her team time. She says: “Before, I’d communicate back and forth with hiring managers using different spreadsheets. More often than not, we’d work on different versions, which led to disjointed decisions. With ChartHop, you see everything in a shared environment, which ensures you’re working with the same people data as Finance, Operations, and managers. It’s also a huge time-saver. Since our platform and ATS are linked, we can see all the ATS data in ChartHop – from when a job was opened, how many applicants are in each step of the process, and the time-to-fill once the position is closed.”

Ultimately, investing in this type of software will not only provide a more streamlined candidate experience, but will also help strengthen your current digital employee experience.

pay-equity dashboard

Create a strong digital employee experience for new and tenured employees alike by keeping your recruitment data safe, secure, and ready-to-go, all in one place.

2. Incorporate Technology Throughout Your New Employee Orientation

We hate to break it to you, but even if you’re using onboarding technology, your employees may still feel disconnected and lost. According to a TINYpulse study, new hires are less likely than their 2019 counterparts to praise peers and acknowledge others for great work. Researchers believe these findings might indicate new hires are less connected to their colleagues and the organization, and are therefore potential attrition risks down the road.  

So, the key here isn’t to just incorporate technology for new employee orientation, but to do it thoughtfully. Johnna Capitano, director at Westchester University’s Center for Newcomer Onboarding, says it is essential to use digital interactions to “build the solid social connections that lead to a sense of belonging.” 

To help new hires feel connected – to team members, company values, and workplace culture – look to incorporate the following into your digital employee experience:

  • Craft a welcome email series. Send out a preboarding email sequence to establish a relationship with new hires before Day One. A welcome email series helps build a positive impression and deeper understanding of your organization, as well as it helps to address any lingering questions before the start date.
  • Create a one-stop-shop. Amber Hyatt, director of product marketing at SilkRoad Technology, combated poor onboarding by creating a personalized onboarding dashboard that increases information sharing to new employees. She explains: “Here they discover content that’s designed to engage them, like a friendly note from their manager, first-day information, welcome messages and photos from new teammates, a glossary of company acronyms, a virtual copy of your employee handbook as well as other details about the new hire’s department and job responsibilities.”
  • Schedule daily check-ins. During new employee orientation, Ivy Exec, a New York-based career guidance firm, prioritized daily check-ins and virtual lunches to cultivate that sense of belonging. Sam Lippin, VP of Business Development at Ivy Exec, says: “I like to have as many video meetings as possible to encourage the new person to ask questions and so that I can be available to them. It’s tough, but you have to do everything you can to build a rapport virtually.”
  • Design an onboarding buddy program. An onboarding buddy program matches new hires with tenured employees to help bridge social connections and answer day-to-day questions. Creating this program encourages new hires to feel welcome from the first day and establishes a go-to person (besides their manager) for support and advice.

3. Establish Online Resource Groups

Want to help new employees connect? Consider giving your people a digital space to form a community, suggests Rosanna Durruthy, Vice President of Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at LinkedIn.

She says: “As many face feelings of loneliness and isolation, finding time for employees to come together is more important than ever before. Harnessing the power of employee (online) resource groups is one way, we’ve found, to maintain connective tissue across global, distributed, and remote teams.”

These online spaces help build community and deepen connections between your people, even though they are physically apart. A few suggestions are:

  • Create Slack channels for specific conversations. Allow employees to discuss what’s important to them in these voluntary community groups; from volunteering to travel to mental health, it’s all meaningful when it comes to creating an inclusive environment in which people can be their true selves. 
  • Establish Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs have been around for decades, but with the rise of remote and hybrid work, they’re now a primary form of support for employees scattered around the globe. By establishing ERGs, people can connect with each other for additional support – something that’s definitely needed, says Olivia Stapp, co-lead for ChartHop’s LGBTQ+ ERG. She believes creating safe spaces is important, noting, “When you’re in a community with that common understanding and empathy, it helps you feel heard and seen in the complicated world we live in.”
  • Form professional development cohorts. People Operations Manager Sara Wong suggests using cohorts – made up of people from varying levels and experience – as a space for employees to learn and connect. She explains, “Besides just learning new material, cohorts provide a place for people to also learn from each other.” She’s even witnessed mentorships naturally develop, which creates a stronger employee experience and information sharing across teams and departments.
  • Schedule optional monthly meetings to dive deeper into tough topics. Work plays a large part of our lives, so it makes sense that your employees may want a space to talk about and process deeper topics. Jay Bloch, DEIB Program Manager at ChartHop, created Chart Talk, a regularly-scheduled, optional, and online community to do just that. He says, “I started Chart Talk to provide our teams with a safe space to discuss tough topics, while also getting the opportunity to understand one another on a deeper level.”

4. Strengthen Your Communication Efforts

Your new team members are going to have a lot of questions, no matter how strong your onboarding strategy is. Therefore, it’s critical to provide digital spaces in which new hires can ask questions and find information on their own, without feeling embarrassed or like they’re bothering anyone.

Create a #NewHires Slack Channel

We’ve already discussed how you can incorporate Slack into your onboarding strategy to make people feel welcome. Additionally, message channels make sure all new team members receive the same information –  at the same time – so everyone feels equipped to do their best. Here at ChartHop, we create Slack channels for each new cohort. That way, our People team can send out important announcements and new hires can ask questions pertinent to them and their new colleagues. 

Consider All Types of Learners 

When it comes to communication, another onboarding best practice is considering how people learn best. Adriana Roche, former Chief People Officer at MURAL, recognizes that to get new hires ramped up and feel welcome faster, her team needed to put thoughtful programs and processes in place, including recognizing different learning styles. 

She explains: “Our onboarding accounts for all types of learners because information is accessible through murals (visual), The Record (traditional reading material), and interactive in-person sessions with the leadership team. All of these different venues of information help to create an onboarding experience that is truly supportive to our diverse team, especially entry-level teammates.”

Invest in a Self-Service Portal

Investing in a self-service portal will not only streamline communication and save time for employees and your People team, but using one may also give you a competitive advantage. A study by Paychex determined that 73% of employees expect their employer to provide self-service for basic tasks.

In short, a self-service dashboard offers access to:

  • Vital business information like company objectives, reporting hierarchies and org charts, employee profiles to help create connections, and product roadmaps. 
  • Individual data such as tailored performance plans, job descriptions, compensation packages, and learning/development accomplishment data.

Providing this information to employees allows them to better control their HR experience and access their information when they need it – no back-and-forth emails required. 

Specifically at InVision, VP of People Ops Shelby Wolpa was tasked with the operational challenge of supporting her global workforce – and knew a “frictionless, self-service information model” was part of the solution.

She explains: “When you’re supporting a global workforce, the last thing you want to be is a bottleneck for information or to feel friction when trying to get things done. We have robust, ever-evolving information on our company intranet for employees and managers to get the answers they need.”

Design a Digital Onboarding Strategy to Engage and Empower Your People 

If you’re looking to improve your recruitment and onboarding strategy with inclusivity in mind, make sure you view your efforts through a digital lens. Your digital employee experience – which takes recruiting experience, new employee orientation, community groups, and self-service platforms into consideration – will give you a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. And by doubling down on your digital efforts, you’ll help engage, inspire, and empower your people to reach their full potential. 

Companies are prioritizing creating a psychologically-safe workplace now more than ever. Read more about psychological safety in the workplace and how you can improve it, starting today. 

Read real-world examples here

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