August 11, 2021

Ten new and creative employee onboarding ideas

How companies welcome their new hires and bring them on board plays a significant role in engagement, productivity, and retention – especially in an increasingly virtual world. Here are some new and creative employee onboarding ideas that will help build connections, strengthen teams, and reinforce culture.

Employee onboarding looks vastly different today as employees are more dispersed and may be working from different locations – whether at home, from the office, or on-site.

Joining a new company is an exciting time but can be overwhelming for many – even before the pandemic. Today, new hires aren’t getting the same in-person experience, and this likely won’t change any time soon. A Gartner, Inc. survey found that 82% of business leaders intend to allow remote working some of the time, even as employees eventually return to the workplace.

Learn how you can use Dayforce Onboarding to streamline processes, create connections, and reduce time to productivity during Ceridian's annual conference

Investing in a digital onboarding infrastructure is key to success in this new business environment, especially for companies that haven’t done so already. Employee onboarding is more than simply a process of checking a set of boxes before ushering your new hire into their day to day. This is a critical time as it’s an employee’s first point of contact with your organization, so you need to strategically invest in setting the stage for a new hire’s tenure within the company – whether they’re working remote or not. Developing new, elevated employee onboarding experiences will help ensure each new hire is given everything they need to thrive in their new role.

Here are some new and creative employee onboarding ideas that build connections, strengthen teams, and reinforce culture. For companies that have already developed an employee onboarding process, these tips may help you take it to the next level to better support the workforce while increasing time-to-productivity and retention.

Ten creative employee onboarding ideas

1. Get leadership involved

When it comes to managers making connections with their team members, 91% of employees say that communication issues can prevent leaders from being effective. It’s primarily due to leaders failing to engage during crucial moments that could help employees see them as trustworthy, according to Harvard Business Review.

A critical time where leaders and managers can engage an employee is during the onboarding process –more specifically, at a new hire virtual event. Your new hire will have the opportunity to create connections with the leadership team and feel comfort in having an exec know their name.

Consider holding a virtual event two or three times a year where you bring your latest class of new hires together. Whether it’s during a virtual town hall or during happy hour online, think about ways your new employees can informally connect with your leadership team.

2. Establish connectedness early on  

Getting to know coworkers outside of a new hire’s direct team will help establish a deeper sense of connectedness before they even start. Consider sending an email to introduce the new hire with interesting facts about them to encourage other employees to spark conversation.

Employers can also ask the new hire to fill out a get-to-know-you survey so their coworkers can have a better understanding of who they are both personally and professionally. As well, employers can share a map or chart of employees and what they do within the department or company in a centralized hub for employees to access at any time or send it out via email. For key leaders, include a tidbit of information about them to use as an ice breaker or a topic of conversation.

3. Encourage new hires to network on day one

Seventy separate studies show that feeling socially accepted is a deciding factor in a new hire’s success. Therefore, it’s imperative to encourage new employees to start networking and building relationships with colleagues right out of the gate. If there’s a group of employees being onboarded together, they should virtually network with one another – connect with each other on professional networks, trade email addresses, and share their areas of expertise.

Many people typically get the opportunity to talk to their coworkers during in person onboarding. However, in absence of that, employers will need to take the extra step to get new hires to connect with other new employees during their first week of work. After all, it’s probable that they’ll end up in different departments – and connections outside of your department can pay big dividends.

4. Provide a breakdown of roles and responsibilities

It’s perplexing to note that 60% of companies don’t set short-term goals and responsibilities for their new hires. Establishing expectations, roles, and responsibilities not only provides new hires with transparency, but it also helps them attain early wins and build confidence.

Manually tracking a new hire’s progress can be time-consuming. Managers can automate and streamline the process with employee onboarding software. This technology can help new hires and managers understand expectations well in advance of what’s needed pre-hire date, for day one, and post-hire.

5. Establish a strong company purpose

Companies that have demonstrated a clear sense of purpose and strong values build loyalty with employees and affinity for potential candidates. A recent McKinsey survey found that candidates – specifically younger ones – look for a company that is contributing meaningfully to society. Similarly, a separate survey by LinkedIn found that 70% of employees said they would leave a leading company if it had a bad culture, while another 71% said they would take a pay cut to work for a company that shares their values and has a mission they believe in.

Employees want to work for organizations they can be proud to stand behind and that clearly demonstrates how they make a positive impact on the world. Reinforce purpose that goes beyond generating revenue and extend it to a broader societal benefit especially during uncertain times when people rethink the causes they care most about. While many organizations utilize this technique to attract investors and consumers, it’s an equally effective way to engage a new employee. Your backstory may appeal to their values and make them committed to your cause as soon as their first day on the job.

6. Help new hires accomplish onboarding tasks

The first 30 days of a new hire’s career with your company often makes or breaks their chances for success. Help your new hire accomplish administrative tasks that have the potential to fall through the cracks, so they don’t become hurdles. A central hub can help keep the workforce engaged and on track as managers can assign specific tasks and action items to complete by specific dates, such as health and safety courses or training on company policies.

Employee onboarding technology gives managers visibility into how their new hires are trending when it comes to completing their tasks and training. Furthermore, a one-to-one meeting with a new hires’ manager within the first week at the company has proven to be a catalyst for early growth. This is a chance for employees to ask any outstanding questions as they ramp up to speed.

7. Provide a unified employee experience

The dispersed workforce – which includes remote employees and those working in physical locations – allows for greater access to talent and more individual flexibility, but it has also introduced new challenges. Prior to the pandemic, 74% of employees felt they were missing out on company news and information. Now, establishing connectedness across a decentralized workforce is an even greater challenge.

Human capital management technology can help build a more unified and consistent employee experience as communications can be shared with the entire workforce. As many employees work remote, employers will need to ensure everyone is well informed and kept in the loop with changes such as an update to a work from home or sick leave policy. Employees can take control of their own work experience and find the information they need at any time – such as their benefits manual – no matter where they’re located.

8. Build a culture of continuous learning

Skills are more valuable in the current business climate as companies are under greater pressure to innovate and compete. Additionally, companies are looking for more efficient ways to leverage existing workforce skills and reduce recruiting costs. Employees are also looking for different growth opportunities that aren’t necessarily linear. One-third of respondents in Ceridian’s 2021 Pulse of Talent report said they would make a lateral move if it was an opportunity for growth, signaling that employers can build loyalty by offering this type of development. A LinkedIn study also found that employees who made lateral moves have a 62% chance of staying with their current company after three years.

Employers have been moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to learning initiatives and instead implementing new models and technology platforms that offer up relevant content during onboarding and throughout the entire employee lifecycle. Personalized learning platforms or Learning Experience Platforms help organizations create customized learning paths for each employee as this type of technology recommends modules to the learner based on their activity and interests that align with their specific learning paths. This can also help employers have the infrastructure in place to quickly upskill and reskill people for key roles to align with changing business needs.

“Looking to the future, it’s not about developing people to rise to a certain title. The focus will be on skills-based and experience- based talent development.” – Susan Tohyama, CHRO, Ceridian

Read more: Ceridian’s 2021 Pulse of Talent Report

9. Align employee goals with those of the company

From an early engagement and retention standpoint, employers can help new hires feel connected to the company, and understand how their work contributes to organizational success.

Talent management software can help organizations align employees’ performance, learning, and career development to the company’s overall goals and progress. This can help boost engagement and improve retention by giving employees a clearer understanding of the impact of their work.

As well, an onboarding portal or company intranet can be used to showcase company goals and values so new hires are aligned from the get-go. Videos are especially effective for engagement and fun for new hires to watch.

Read more: Keys to a successful onboarding program: Put culture at the center

10. Assign onboarding buddies

Not everything is going to get answered during the formal employee onboarding process, such as who key internal subject matter experts are for each department, or all the ways a new hire can get involved with a company’s community initiatives. For sharing culture-related information, a work buddy can go a long way in easing a new hire into their role.

In fact, 87% of businesses say that buddy programs boost a new hire’s proficiency. Assigning a virtual buddy is important as employees work from different locations and won’t get the same face-to-face time. A seasoned employee, for example, can check in once a week for the first month, and one or two times per month afterward, to make sure your new hire is feeling comfortable and acclimated. HR leaders can create and implement a new hire buddy checklist to ensure there’s a consistent buddy experience across the organization.

And going forward, it’s an opportunity to connect employees within different departments and teams to make the most of building connections across a distributed workforce.

The impact of a strategic employee onboarding process

Research has shown that a strategic onboarding process brings new employees up to speed 50% faster, which means they’re able to contribute to achieving company goals more quickly and efficiently. Today, as the world of work becomes more digital, employers will need to develop a strategic and focused employee onboarding process to help retain talent while getting them up to speed faster. Technology, particularly in this new landscape, is a critical part of reimagining the onboarding experience as it plays an important role in interacting with and guiding new employees to success.

Read next: The impact of good and bad employee onboarding experiences

Jill Cleary

Jill is an Employee Engagement and Culture Specialist for the People and Culture team at Ceridian. She is passionate about ensuring that our newest Ceridianites have the best possible experience globally. She is an enthusiastic supporter of our employee-driven charity, Ceridian Cares. 

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