Updated: Aug 26
For many organizations, The Great Resignation has challenged the way we look at employee onboarding. Whether it's onboarding in a remote environment or evaluating the new hire experience, organizations have had to rethink their onboarding process as a means toward improved retention of employees. These challenges can include (but are not limited to) a lack of documentation, inefficient use of collaboration tool(s), and not emphasizing employee engagement. Here are some strategies to help overcome each of these issues in employee onboarding.
Documentation is key to keeping the process as consistent as possible. Lack of documentation can cause the onboarding experience to be different every time. It’s important to document information, standard practices, or a process so that nothing gets lost. Oftentimes, when an employee with extensive knowledge leaves, they take with them a wealth of knowledge that is lost. Each transition forces organizations without a shared and protected documentation system to start over from scratch.
Maintaining documentation is equally critical. Whether a process has changed slightly or significantly, it’s crucial the proper updates are documented. Similar to organizations using decade-old position descriptions for roles that have dramatically changed, new policies need to be consistently implemented, documented, and properly stored for safekeeping. The key to proper documentation is to have a point person(s) be responsible for both updating documentation and long-term maintenance. By having a point person(s), organizations ensure that the documentation is consistent and maintained.
When I started my role as the onboarding coordinator, it was actually a new role that didn’t previously exist. I had to work with the managers and trainers from different teams to look into our procedures and quickly learned that every team documented differently. Part of it was because each team was in charge of their own documentation thus having different formatting and levels of detail. I became the point person in the project and quickly began converging all policies and procedures into a single consistent process. Being the point person, I continue to keep onboarding practices up-to-date and stable for all units in our organization.
Regardless of whether your organization operates fully remote, hybrid or in-office, collaboration tools are needed to make sure work is as efficient as possible within teams and across units. It’s critical that there’s a system in place for work to be stored for everyone on the team to access it. All collaboration tools, including Microsoft Office and Google Workspace operate similarly, allowing team members to quickly share and edit documents, make announcements, and engage in virtual meetings. Still, employees need dedicated training to learn how to use your specific collaboration tool in order to get the most out of it.
When I first started as the onboarding coordinator, we didn’t have a solidified collaboration tool that was used by hiring managers and trainers. I suggested utilizing one to track each step in the new hires’ onboarding experience. We settled on Microsoft Teams and created an onboarding channel for the hiring managers and the trainers to both communicate and document on onboarding. By having a collaboration tool among the different teams, we improved our internal communication and created a smoother onboarding process for newcomers.
With more and more companies moving to remote work, creating employee engagement opportunities is a growing challenge of onboarding. One of the biggest consequences of remote work is that employees feel less connected with one another. Organizations need to be both strategic and intentional in helping new hires feel part of the company–even in a remote setting. One viable employee engagement strategy is to send welcome kits to new hires on their first day. Company branded items such as notebooks, pens, shirts, and other items to decorate home offices can encourage employees to create a workspace that feels similar to being on-site. Similarly, providing a personalized, handwritten note welcoming newcomers helps them begin feeling connected to their new workplace. If your company is hybrid, it may be beneficial to have new hires come into the office on the first day, as this allows employees to meet face-to-face with their new coworkers. Regardless of the workplace arrangement, it is crucial that onboarding professionals over communicate rather than under communicate with newcomers to help combat any nerves or anxiety that they may experience. By personalizing the onboarding experience, employee engagement can improve as the new hire begins feeling more connected to the organization.
Brayan Castillo is the onboarding coordinator for the Retirement Plan Services department at Lincoln Financial Group. Brayan graduated from Purdue University Fort Wayne with a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership.