Onboarding programs have missed the mark for years in making new hires feel connected to their organization, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial for HR leaders to update and improve these initiatives to set up new hires for success, according to Gartner, Inc.
“In a virtual world, it is harder, and more critical, to connect new hires to organizational culture,” said Lauren Smith, vice president in the Gartner HR practice. “Functional leaders must build this bond through an onboarding program that shows empathy for those experiencing it, demonstrates values in action and plants the seeds for peer relationships.”
To connect new hires to the culture through onboarding, HR leaders should do the following:
- Redesign onboarding to center on connection, not just productivity
- Link organizational values to on-the-job decisions
- Support development of a cross-functional network
Prioritizing Connection Over Productivity
The shift to virtual onboarding during the pandemic has often created an isolating experience for new hires as live training with peers was replaced by prerecorded virtual sessions, and Q&A conversations became FAQ pamphlets and “how-to” guides. This focus on productivity led to new employees without connections to colleagues or the organization’s mission and values.
“To build trust with new hires and reaffirm their decision to join the organization, leading HR functions are re-examining their onboarding experiences and adapting their programs with empathy in mind,” Ms. Smith said. “Rather than merely acknowledging the difficulties of remote onboarding, organizations should create opportunities to integrate the new hire into the existing community and make the process simple and seamless. Some organizations are also mapping the new hire journey and offering personalized support at emotional junctures.”
According to Gartner research, HR leaders indicate that when employees understand and feel connected to the organization’s culture their performance improves up to 22%.
Translating Values to On-the-Job Decisions
Employers often communicate around their mission and values via several channels, including organization-wide communications from HR and senior leadership, corporate messaging and co-workers demonstrating how their values play out in day-to-day work. Yet, most employees do not know how to translate cultural values into what they should do in their day-to-day jobs. This problem is more acute for remote new hires who do not “see” the organization’s values play out day to day in their colleagues’ behaviors and interactions.
Functional leaders must explicitly demonstrate what the values look like in action and how they translate to behaviors. In today’s virtual environment, progressive organizations are utilizing simulations that provide new hires with the opportunity to apply company values to critical business decisions. In these simulations, new hires team up to work through real-life business scenarios, discuss their responses and receive constructive feedback on how the responses aligned with business values and ideal behaviors
Providing a Cross-Functional Network
Employees are more likely to stay with an employer when they feel connected to their colleagues. The abrupt shift to a fully remote or hybrid work environment has made building relationships with co-workers more challenging. A September 2020 Gartner survey of more than 3,000 employees revealed that 46% said they were interacting with coworkers less often since shifting to remote work; 53% of employees reported that their interactions with colleagues were more transactional rather than meaningful.
“Managers and functional leaders can facilitate connections for new hires by creating visibility into employee profiles and offering communication tips and conversation starters,” Ms. Smith said. “Some organizations pair new hires with a peer mentor at the same level from a different department or business unit. The mentors can offer a different perspective on organizational culture and provide guidance on how different teams operate and interact with each other, building positive relationships with multiple stakeholders and how to interpret the broader organizational culture.”
Gartner clients can read more in the reports “Onboarding Must Work Better, Especially for Remote Hires” and “Fostering Cultural Connection in Onboarding.”
About the Gartner HR Practice
The Gartner HR practice brings together the best relevant content approaches across Gartner to offer individual decision makers strategic business advice on the mission-critical priorities that cut across the HR function. Additional information is available at http://www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/human-resources-leaders. Follow news and updates from the Gartner HR practice on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GartnerHR.