Perhaps you’re wondering why your company’s employee onboarding process doesn’t have the stickiness and resonance it used to with new hires. It’s because the world has changed. Since COVID-19 hit, and after over a year and a half of remote work, in most companies, the digital onboarding process has been literally duct taped together. In other words, what worked back in the 2019 pre-pandemic is no longer relevant today.

Now, with almost half of all U.S. companies committing to a hybrid work model in the second half of 2021, remote work is here to stay for the short and potentially long term. People are demanding additional flexibility to manage the demands of work and life and, as a result, the majority of new hires will start with your company while working remotely.

Perhaps the biggest concern for employers today is The Great Resignation, a result of the newfound empowerment rippling through the labor force, which has led 4.4 million Americans to quit their jobs in September 2021 alone.

How can employers retain their people in the face of this tsunami of change affecting the workplace?

When you upgrade the digital onboarding process, the results are powerful. Companies that are intentional about how they integrate employees from the very start end up having a happier and more productive workforce, reducing turnover and retaining clients at a higher rate.

What does a well-designed onboarding program look like? Beyond processes and paperwork, onboarding should be an experience that is structured, interactive, thought provoking and meets the specific needs of the employees you have hired.

So how do you do this successfully while maintaining a positive working culture? First, it’s important to realize that each program is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all or one way to approach digital onboarding. It’s most sensible to build a program that suits your specific organization and culture.

Here are four tips to begin creating a refreshed digital onboarding program.

  1. Shift Your Mindset

Forget what traditional onboarding used to look like, and shift your mindset to what will work today for more discerning employees. This is not available in a prescribed format or in a management or human resources (HR) book but as a customized initiative that reflects your strategic objectives and company culture at every step.

  1. Begin With Self-discovery

As one of your first steps, take time to identify and evaluate where the company is today and where you want it to go. This should include candid, and even anonymous, conversations with employees to understand what is really happening in their day-to-day roles. This information can be used when making decisions about how to structure your onboarding program and, ultimately, to help shape your company culture. Consider conducting regular surveys to get a pulse on how new hires are faring: Do they feel connected? Are they familiar with the organization’s mission and vision? Are they receiving the right internal resources to do their jobs well? This is also an opportunity to gauge employee satisfaction, including what is working and what the company can do better.

  1. Aligned Leadership

For a digital onboarding program to be well-received and effective, company decision-makers need to recognize the need for and value of onboarding, and be directly involved in shaping the digital onboarding experience. This process will involve senior leaders to get into the trenches with employees by experiencing what they experience, as well as listening and responding to any shared feedback.

Further, the senior team will need to “walk the talk” by being fluent in the company’s core values and talking them up often. Like a mantra, hearing these repeated again and again across the organization helps to establish continuity.

  1. Add Fun

Many education theorists have proposed that people retain what they learn when the learning is associated with strong positive emotions. Yet, how many times have you heard that onboarding is boring or unengaging? By making the process interactive, social and fun, you heighten the level of learning and set the stage for people wanting to be a part of the organization. Know what potential employees are interested in and what they respond to, then incorporate those fun elements into the onboarding initiative.

The way in which you welcome new hires to your organization matters. You’ve spent considerable time and money to recruit these individuals. Now, the same effort should be dedicated to bringing them on board and setting them up for success.

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