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Onboarding in a hybrid world

Capability Group
9/28/2022
6 min read

Recently Drew McGuire from Capability Group hosted a webinar to discuss existing and new approaches to onboarding in a hybrid world. Featuring JD Dillon, Axonify’s Chief Learning Architect and Stacie Morgan, the Learning & Development Manager at Vocus, the New Zealand telecommunication company that manages the Slingshot, Orcon and Flip brands, it was a fascinating conversation packed with insights and practical tips to improve your organisation’s onboarding process.

Over the last two years, hybrid ways of working have become the norm, staff turnover rates are skyrocketing, and business strategies are evolving to deal with this rapid change. COVID and the shift to working from home have had a huge impact on how we grow the skills and capabilities of people in our organisations and led to a redesign of onboarding programmes to ensure we're engaging new hires in the best way possible from day one.

Onboarding was already a challenge and it has become more difficult. Labour shortages mean that there’s an increased urgency to bring people onboard and up to speed faster than ever before. It has also changed how organisations recruit people. Where previously, industry experience or a basic level of qualifications and/or soft skills was essential, now organisations are forced to train people from scratch, people who may have never worked in the industry or done a similar type of work before. That creates its own onboarding challenges.

You can watch a replay of the webinar here, or read some of the key takeaways below.

1. Onboarding is a process, not a programme

JD Dillon: “It's a shift in mindset of how we think about onboarding from a programme that has a predictable start and end date to the beginning of the process of working here. It's not about how much we can get into someone's head in three weeks or a set period of time.”

“You need to focus on hitting key milestones to get people up and contributing as quickly as we can, but also continue to develop them. When people walk through the door there's a whole bunch of stuff they don’t know. They're not going to know all of the product details. They're not going to know how to overcome every possible obstacle or answer every possible technical question. So how do you provide them with the resources to grow their knowledge and skills while they're doing their job?”

2. Make it easy on your employees

JD: “Starting a new job is hard. Employees in their first few days in a new job are more worried about their pay rate, how they get paid and what the pay schedule's going to be than what they’re learning in your training or onboarding module.”

3. Prioritise the information that matters most

Stacie: “The flexibility of the Axonify platform meant we were able to look at our onboarding content and work out what we ‘need to have’ and what’s ‘nice to have’. By taking out the ‘nice to haves’ we were able to cut a day and a half from our onboarding process.”

JD: “I've yet to meet an employee who was unable to do their job if they didn't know what year the company was founded. Employees don't need to know the history of your company straight out of the gate. You can still cover all of that stuff but it doesn’t have to be front loaded in a programme. All of the information employees don’t need to do their job from day one can be introduced later when they have some foundational understanding of what they're doing. Build up their knowledge over time. Front loading all of the information creates a lack of confidence and a lack of knowledge that causes bad decisions. Introducing it at the right time and reinforcing it is much more effective.”

4. Make the simple stuff simple

JD: “People should be able to find resources and get questions answered with little-to-no effort from day one. This is true of any onboarding situation, but especially in a remote setting where you can’t tap the person next to you and say, ‘Hey, what does that mean?’”

“Employees need to easily find the information they need without adding layers of frustration. On the internet I can find the information I need really easily. Why is it so much harder at work? Employees should have a robust set of resources so they can focus on the things they need to learn that are more complicated.”

5. Managers matter

JD: “Managers are the most important people in workplace learning and performance because they have so much influence over the employee experience. If the manager isn't aligned and supporting the right types of development and behaviours, nothing is going to work. Now managers are physically separated from employees, their role is more important than ever. Those casual moments of interaction in the workplace that make a great manager are missing in a hybrid environment. They need the time and resources to have meaningful communication, especially with new hires. Too often, managers get on a webcam and talk about deliverables and priorities and product releases and don’t take time to talk about the human beings on the other end of the call.”

6. Make it personal

JD: “There are a number of reasons to leverage technology as part of the onboarding process including speed, scale, consistency and personalisation. Technology is allowing us to personalise the learning experience. Data allows managers and team leaders to have more meaningful interactions with each employee instead of treating everyone like they're the same and learning at the same pace.”

7. Social engagement and connection conundrum

Stacie Morgan: “In an office basedcall centre it's very easy to create and cultivate a culture. It’s not so easy when you're working from home. There’s a disconnect. At Vocus, we're constantly thinking about ways that we can keep that culture alive.”

“There are things that can't be replicated when people are working from home. Nothing beats talking to someone face to face, right? We've had to think about ways to make people feel connected while working from home. How can we make them feel like they are part of a team? We’ve created Slack channels, weekly check-ins and competitions to keep people engaged.”

JD Dillon: “I don't have an answer for how to create effective connections in a remote and hybrid work environment because I don't think there is an answer. We're figuring this out as we go. I do know that a Zoom happy hour or a team quiz only goes so far, for so long and what worked five years ago, probably isn't going to work today. Employees have more flexibility so they don't feel pressured to attend a work thing. They’d rather spend that time with their kids instead.”

“I would urge everyone to look at your culture and experiment and play and try different things. For example, we have a talk show at Axonify where employees talk about their random interests and hobbies.

8. Focus on outcomes

JD Dillon: “Design your onboarding process for outcomes. If you don't know how you're going to measure the impact of the training you deliver, what's the point of delivering the training? What does contribution mean in your business? With Axonify, we can measure how people are changing in terms of what they know and how they're behaving on the job. You have lots of data and metrics. It's about figuring out which ones are most impactful and designing training that does what it's supposed to do.”

“The priority should be to accelerate the onboarding experience and get people to that level of comfort so they can contribute and help close the staffing gap, without lessening the customer experience. The customer does not care how long an employee has worked for you. They don’t care if they’ve worked with you for five years or five minutes. The customer expects a knowledgeable employee to support them. Onboarding should make sure that the customer experience is what it needs to be to make your business profitable and competitive. This is a great opportunity to reimagine the onboarding experience because businesses understand the limitations that we’re up against now.”

P.S. For more deep-dives into onboarding in a hybrid world, check out the full webinar on demand.

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