Dane Hurtubise says employee onboarding in 2022 is much alike unboxing. “Imagine getting that new iPhone. You’re opening up the box for the first time, and it kind of has that magical feeling to it. We think onboarding can provide a similar opportunity for employers to create excitement around the company and the new hire’s role.”
New hires might be as excited on their first day as they would be to open their new smartphone. Consumer and retail brands have long acknowledged the importance of the customer unboxing experience. It's now time for the world of work and HR to prioritise the same.
“If we don’t worry about onboarding before the employee starts, then we’re way behind.” - Ben Peterson, CEO of BambooHR
Why bother about the employee onboarding process now
A flashback of the Great Resignation
In a recent article published by Forbes, Liz Elting explains how the reason behind the Great Resignation was actually pretty simple. There are more job openings than job applicants, and employees became aware of this, she highlighted. Elting writes, “The only thing that happened is that workers proved able to recognize that they had genuine leverage for the first time in most of their careers.”
“For the first time, the company needed them (employees) more than they needed the company.”
She further argued that if an employee lost their job, the competition for the next one would be fierce. “And this was how employers liked it, because it kept wages down even as profits and productivity increased.”
Realisation kicked in. Employees revolted. Now all what matters are the people experiences you offer, how you treat your staff, and what value HR adds to the process. This is why the great onboarding process today needs to be more than teaching new employees "how we do things around here.”
Three intellectuals collaborate to knock out the great onboarding experiences
Some years back, Daniel M. Cable (Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School), Francesca Gino (Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School) and Bradley R. Staats (Professor at the UNC Kenan-Flager) conducted a study across companies in numerous sectors. Their field research concluded that many firms' traditional onboarding process may not be the most effective way to bring someone new onboard.
Numerous employee onboarding trends and programs are mounted on the internet, some well-built, some inefficient. But the findings from the three great minds paint the picture of what’s exactly lacking in today’s onboarding processes, and may actually prove to combat the aftermath of the Great Resignation. The research was carried out in 2013 but its takeaways are yet to be reinforced into the veins of corporate world.
The old way of onboarding: Focus on organisational identity
Cable, Gino and Staats revealed how human resources professionals emphasize on getting employees to understand and commit to the company's values from "day one." This is standard in many firms and is beneficial since it allows new hires to blend in and adapt to organisational norms. But they discovered that typical onboarding strategies have some severe flaws.
“When newcomers are “processed” to accept an organization’s identity, they are expected to downplay their own identities, at least while they are at work.” But repressing one's identity and distinct perspectives may not be best for the organisation or the employee in the long run.
“Socialization (onboarding) practices that get newcomers to behave inauthentically might not be sustainable because they do not fully engage the employee and they do not address broader issues concerning emotional exhaustion and work dissatisfaction.”
A sneak peak at the new approach: Focus on personal identity
The researchers then devised a novel technique that benefits both businesses and employees in the long run. They named this technique "personal identity socialisation," and it entails encouraging new hires to express their distinctive ideas and talents on the job from the start, and urging people to see their work as a platform for doing what they do best.
“A restaurant cook who is a natural social connector could apply this strength by visiting with restaurant guests and making them feel welcome. A salesperson who enjoys teaching others might share that enthusiasm with new hires, becoming a mentor. Naturally, newcomers can’t act unilaterally — they need to coordinate their activities with their manager.”
Wipro’s study set out as an example for the Great Onboarding in 2022
Daniel Cable, Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats later put the views from their field research to test at Wipro (a business process outsourcing firm.) This new study focused on Wipro’s new hires where the goal was to compare two onboarding methods: an organisational-identity based onboarding and personal-identity based onboarding.
The findings showed that when an organization's onboarding activities focused on new hires’ personal identities rather than the organization's identity, stronger employee relations, fewer staff turnover, and higher customer satisfaction were achieved. Personal identity-based onboarding led to increased productivity and fewer mistakes. Employees and organisations benefited significantly from the alternate approach to onboarding in both the studies.
The Great Onboarding practices of 2022
The team of three later established four principles based on their research and fieldwork which may assist businesses and managers In onboarding new employees with a strong start. The principles not only encourage firms to rethink how they approach the great onboarding but also to reconsider their new responsibilities and interactions with coworkers and superiors.
1. Escape the traditional employment trap
Managers often view a job as a collection of tasks, for which they pay employees to execute the tasks. Employees aren't required to care about the tasks in this usual, traditional boss mindset. The three researchers argue this might not be the most efficient method to engage with today's employees, especially with millennials who are looking for places to express their true selves.
“Managers can break out of this traditional mind-set by remembering that an organization is made up of people, and that people have a desire to use their signature strengths — whether those strengths are connecting to others, being organized and prepared, or helping others understand technology.”
Organizations now have a different role to play: letting employees achieve their basic human desires rather than thinking of it as just a paid employment.
2. Help new hires identify their personal strengths
“Before introducing newcomers to fellow team members or even describing a specific job, it’s helpful to provide them with dedicated time to pinpoint and describe their unique strengths and best selves.”
Provide an opportunity to inform current employees about the new hire and to share their talents and expertise. Great introductions also mould your employees' perceptions of the new employee's contribution to the team. For instance, the subject line of new hires' email announcement at TechSmith Corporation is "+1." Every employee is aware that these emails are intended to introduce a new employee. It's worth establishing a tradition as such in case of onboarding remote employees.
3. Ease the introductions with other team members
People validate their selves in a new context and develop their social identity around their true strengths when they talk about themselves at their best.
“When introducing newcomers to each other and to their new colleagues, it’s important to structure those introductions so that the person has the opportunity to introduce himself or herself in a way that’s consistent with their authentic strengths.”
4. Allow new hires to apply their personal strengths to the job
Instead of only setting expectations and giving directions to the new hires, prioritise what they are bringing to the table. Wipro’s leaders used the personal-identity onboarding strategy to convey the organization's needs and job duties to new hires, inviting them to think on their personal qualities and how they could actively put them to use in their new work.
This allowed new employees to see their new job as opportunities to put their skills into use, with a sense of purpose and motivation into the job requirements.
Companies hiring new employees should keep in mind that job seekers want more freedom, new opportunities, and relief from burnout. Among the top priorities for HR leaders in 2022, “training managers to develop empathy” was ranked second, thus emphasising on employee needs and benefits. New hires’ report increased job satisfaction, lower stress, and less emotional exhaustion when they believe their talents are being used at work, as stressed by the above three intellects.
And so, individuals are more likely to put more personal effort into their work in order to achieve personal objectives. By keeping in mind positive people experiences, the Great Onboarding of 2022 will help replace the Great Resignation with retention, and speed up the process of converting new hires into engaged and purpose-driven employees.