Onboarding is an employer’s first chance to confirm for new hires that they made the right choice.
A compelling, personalized onboarding process is a critical first step to ensure employees find themselves welcomed, supported and believing they are in a position to succeed. A poor onboarding process can severely impact employee retention and result in significant downstream costs to recruit and train replacements.
Technology is critical to onboarding — especially in an era of remote and hybrid work and widely dispersed workforces. Unfortunately, Brandon Hall Group™ research shows that most companies are in the early stages of developing high-impact onboarding. Only 9% said they offer a fully integrated set of onboarding resources and technologies.
While focusing on training and culture is important and a primary focus for HR teams, the quality and sophistication of technology can be the difference between onboarding success and failure in a hyper-connected world.
“A lot of pieces must come together for onboarding to be strong,” said Chris Kirkpatrick, Director of Offering Management in the Digital Workplace global practice at Kyndryl. “There can be 15 different things — or more — that must come together before an employee begins the first day. Digital workplace technologies can make it all seamless, integrate HR and IT workflows, and measure the whole experience from start to finish through Experience Level Agreements (XLAs). This can cut the business processes for a new employee from days down to hours.”
More than ever in a hybrid environment, onboarding should be engaging because it sets a tone. “It’s important for employees to be clear on their roles, how they contribute to the organization, and how to work across their various teams. We must consider that many employees are working from their home. That changes the reality of work culture. Employees need to know where they fit and how they can contribute. Then they need to be supported,” Kirkpatrick said.
Technology with a Human Touch
Even though many onboarding experiences are now virtual and must be digitized, Kirkpatrick focuses heavily on the human touch — and especially personalization.
“We must understand the context of the employee,” he said. “The big thing is timeliness. The business needs employees functional as soon as possible, and there can be a tendency to overload them with too much information.”
“We should consider, ‘How can we avoid doing that?’ ‘How can we explain to employees what is to come so they understand where they are in the onboarding process and what they will experience the first week, the second week, etc.?’ We want to make sure the onboarding experience is personalized to the role and intuitive, and considers how the employee will balance work with onboarding,” Kirkpatrick said.
After that, HR leaders must ensure new employees feel connected and supported; effective use and deployment of digital tools help, but the foundation is sensitivity to human needs.
“Remote working, with the right tools, can actually drive a more inclusive and diverse culture,” Kirkpatrick said. “But remote work can lead to increased isolation for some types of personalities. Hybrid work gives businesses access to a bigger pool of talent, but you also have to address isolation considerations. But culturally, if done right, it can drive sustainability.”
By that, Kirkpatrick means sustainability as a human issue. He points to ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance), a framework to evaluate companies on how they manage their impact on the world. Kirkpatrick prefers using the acronym SEE, standing for Social, Economic and Environment. “We believe that organizations must focus on the social element first to drive the sustainability and impact on communities and of human life. This approach then naturally feeds into wellness, which also impacts engagement and employee experience in their day-to-day lives.
“Sustainability is huge for Kyndryl because we were spun off as a company (from IBM),” Kirkpatrick continued. “Sustainability was born into our company’s purpose and our mission. What I love about my job is being able to talk to customers every day about elevating sustainability and improving work culture through our solutions and about how that drives employee experience and makes the business sustainable by design.”
Technology, sustainability and employee experience must operate in balance and organizations need to realize the benefits of focusing on these areas. Kyndryl uses XLAs to measure that. Digital tools, including AI-driven solutions and data and analytics, enable automation of processes, reducing manual intervention and adding speed and reliability. XLAs deliver insights to help improve the employee experience — during onboarding and throughout the employee lifecycle.
“Ultimately, You can’t fix what you can’t see,” Kirkpatrick said. “HR leaders must be able to see the current employee experience and pain points. You can use journey mapping, but you need to be able to gather data and analyze it to deepen the understanding of the experience and quantify where the friction is. Some of it is technical design, but then you have to put yourself in the shoes of employees and make human-centric decisions.”