5 alternative onboarding strategies you might not have heard about

5 alternative onboarding strategies you might not have heard about

The first few months on the job are critical to the success of a new hire. Outside of filling out HR paperwork, setting up technology, and sitting through orientation, this period, referred to as the onboarding phase, introduces the employee to the company policies, procedures, and leadership. It’s also a great time for giving new hires a taste of the corporate culture, customers, and a chance to see what they will be doing eventually. Employee onboarding has many benefits for new hires and the company. With a good onboarding process and you are likely to increase the productivity levels of employees sooner. A structured onboarding also gives new hires a safety net that makes them feel supported as they learn new tasks and take on increasingly complex projects. It’s part of the overall positive experience that employees need to be successful in the long-term.

Now many companies would respond, “But I already have an onboarding program.” Great! But are you getting as much out of it as you think you are? Here are a few ways to shake up your standard approach to onboarding that helps employees retain knowledge faster and for longer. 

Let’s have some fun  

Yes, your new hire needs to learn some tedious information when they start. That’s just a fact of moving into a new role. But knowing some of your material is likely dry should spur you on to make the parts you can more entertaining. People learn and remember better when they are actively engaging with the material which in turn makes for more effective onboarding. So instead of week-long orientations involving hours of listening to people’s rehearsed presentations (complete with slides) and piles of paperwork to fill out, think about alternatives ways you can expose a new employee to the material you need them to acquire. The impression that people get on the first few days on the job can set them up for long-term happiness and employee engagement so when it doubt, try to make it fun.

Read more: Check out 8 tips to improve your onboarding

Map out their first few days: Set up your new hires for success right from the start. Supply them with an itinerary for the first few days of orientation and a map of the corporate campus, including where to park. Tuck in some tips about the dress code, where to locate their manager and departments, and include a ticket for a free lunch (either on-site or at a nearby restaurant). On the first day, have an assigned “buddy” to greet the new hire and show them to their assigned training area. All of these efforts are to improve the comfort level that a new hire has starting out which lowers anxiety and improves memory.

Onboard multiple employees together: Think about how it would feel to be crowded into a stuffy meeting room with a bunch of strangers to listen to a presentation you likely won’t remember later. Doesn’t sound like a great first impression, does it? Instead, candidates could be invited to a brunch, during which time the CEO and members of management and Human Resource mangers can arrive in shifts to greet the new hires and say a few words about the company or their role. Afterwards, it’s off to the races as new hires are given a “treasure map” of the main office and are paired with another new hire for a “scavenger hunt”, during which they have to find a certain person and have them sign their scavenger map (or retrieve a small piece of corporate swagger). Even better, when people onboard together, it’s akin to graduating from a class at the same time. These connections create long-term friendships and networks within the organization which in turn helps retention rates.

Introductions don’t have to be painful: “Stand up in front of the class and say who you are and where you’re from.” Sound familiar? We’ve all heard this approach to “ice breaking” and it usually raises anxiety in new hires. Instead of putting them on the spot to tell their life story, shake things up a bit. Variations on the “who are you” question can include the game 2 truths and a lie where a candidate tells two interesting facts about themselves and a lie and their teammates or fellow new hires have to guess what the lie is. Or you can ask the candidate to share an achievement they are proud of, either business or personal, and have every new team member ask them a question about it. If they travel, “What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever visited?” is another question that most people will feel comfortable answering and provides a conversational opening others can use to start engaging. Making room for more authentic conversations goes much further than a forced biography.

Support continuous learning: Post-orientation, employees can continue their onboarding process by being given access to a corporate learning portal, complete with interactive modules, stories from employees, and gamification of lessons. Employees can earn badges for completing various new hire and training tasks during the year. This makes the process more enjoyable. While portals are a lot of upfront work to build, you only have to do it once and then all of your new hires will have access to their training materials, allowing them to revisit it whenever they need. 

Build strong teams: While it might be a new hire’s first day, remember the team they join will face a transition period too. Create opportunities for the team to bond with the new member through fun activities like an off-site event such as an escape room to see how different teammates handle pressure and problem-solving. Or if you have a kitchen in your office, what about cooking a team lunch together? Working together toward a shared goal will show off how the team already functions as a unit and what personality traits are at play. That allows the new team member to understand the dynamics they are becoming a part of and helps the team see a more personal side of the new hire. 

Pro-tip: Onboarding sends a message to new hires but what are they hearing?

What’s better – new versus old methods?

It can be easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to hiring and onboarding new employees. Most would say why not just stick to a routine and not worry about making things exciting or fun? But think about it. Put yourself in the shoes of a new hire. Do you want to have a lasting memory that is dreadful or is it better to start things off in a fun and personalized way?

Companies have got to find ways to have an edge in the market when it comes to recruitment and onboarding. While many candidates still expect the old fashioned boring orientation followed by confusion, you can elevate your corporate brand with a much better onboarding process. We’re not saying you should have them fill out all of their employee paperwork ahead of time but, a lot of the formalities, introductions, and orientation aspects can be handled easily through videos and online training modules. Consider also that this helps to prepare a new hire and introduces them to your culture. When you invest in onboarding, you’re laying the ground work for a successful future within your company and even better, your new hires will thank you for it.



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