Reimagining Employee Orientation: Engaging Employees Before Day 1
Reimagining Employee Orientation: Engaging Employees Before Day 1

Reimagining Employee Orientation: Engaging Employees Before Day 1

Employee Learning & Development, Hybrid Workforce, Company Culture, Employee Well-being   — 4 MIN


Onboarding can be an important make-or-break moment for a company and its new hires. According to a study by BambooHR, employees with a positive onboarding experience are 18x more loyal to their new company. Unfortunately, traditional onboarding isn’t keeping up: Only 12% of new employees experience a positive onboarding process, according to a Gallup poll. The good news is that efficient technology and empathetic human engagement give some companies the edge in providing a positive onboarding experience. With microlearning content, new employees can learn what makes their new company special. Sitting in front of their home computer and delving into the company's mission statement, history, and goals can excite a new worker as they imagine what they can contribute to the company. By upping their onboarding game, companies can reimagine employee orientation and engage employees even before Day 1.

Filling the gap between contract signing and Day 1

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, American companies have continued to struggle with high employee turnover. In response, more companies understand that they must engage their employees earlier. Creative companies are working hard to counter significant rates of replacement with more positive employee orientation. From more frequent check-ins and diverse mentoring programs to personalized microlearning content, early contact with employees can make new hires feel like they truly belong.

Indeed, the “gap” between a new hire’s acceptance of a role and their official first day presents a creative opportunity to engage the new employee even before they start. An Aberdeen Group study revealed that almost 85% of the most successful companies begin onboarding before Day 1. Tuned-in HR departments can use that information to connect and evaluate these employees by tracking them for their current jobs and future positions they can grow into.

Companies that don’t provide an effective way of bringing on new employees risk losing them. Because it takes $1,830 on average to onboard just one new hire, poor employee orientation is a loss of training dollars and time that companies naturally want to avoid. With an 82% retention rate for companies that successfully onboard new people, according to the Brandon Hall Group, onboarding benefits the bottom line.

Starting with virtual onboarding

Virtual onboarding creates a training tool that’s a safe space for new employees to learn about the company and its expectations. With a diverse workforce, virtual onboarding helps employees feel part of the same team, regardless of their background. Employees learn the ropes of their company in a pressure-free environment from the first day. New hires can access their forms and learn about the protocols and coworkers in their departments. Virtual onboarding also creates a two-way street of information for the company and the employee. Just as workers absorb information about their jobs, the company can learn what issues are top of mind for their hires. When workers feel heard, they feel valued.

In addition to ethnic and cultural diversity, today’s companies are recruiting and hiring a more multi-generational workforce. In addition to some returning baby boomers, there are millions of remote and international workers. Even current employees returning from medical or family leave can benefit from virtual onboarding. Engaging new and returning employees earlier can make them feel welcomed and inclined to stay for the long term.

Onboarding managers can be an asset in both traditional and virtual onboarding. Appointing an onboarding manager, whose sole responsibility is simplifying employee orientation, can keep everyone on task, which may include supervising any virtual onboarding. This will help employees feel less overwhelmed and more confident in acclimating to their new jobs. Companies with a dedicated onboarding manager should keep up with the latest employee orientation trends, like hybrid onboarding and virtual reality training. Blending a high-touch personal approach with virtual onboarding can deliver the best outcomes as a win-win for both new employees and the company. 

Using microlearning to set expectations before Day 1

Every employee wants to know what’s expected of them on the job. Microlearning can ease new hires into their roles by outlining what is expected and clarifying how their role fits into their departments and the company. By accessing the content early, new hires come into the company with valuable information.

This kind of learning can go beyond the new hire’s role. For example: Work/life balance is frequently mentioned as important to new hires. Online company wellness programs can be implemented even before Day 1, helping to set expectations around work/life balance and giving new employees important skills for dealing with stress.

Additionally, a learning management system can be tailor-made for a variety of learning styles. Digital content can be consumed at the learner’s own pace, at the time of their choosing and most microlearning content presents material using a mix of graphics, text, and voiceover. A new hire could watch microlearning content on their smartphone or laptop—or just listen to it during their commute. The flexibility makes it much more likely that new hires will start Day 1 having already oriented themselves to a great extent. 

Tips for a reimagined employee orientation

So how can a company start with virtual/hybrid onboarding (or improve existing onboarding programs)? While every company is unique and will face different challenges, there are some simple steps HR departments can take.

#1. Sign documents and complete other tasks digitally. There are plenty of digital tools that allow HR departments to quickly and efficiently complete routine tasks, such as digitally signing documents. Take advantage of these so they don’t take up precious learning time on Day 1.

#2. Line up content around policies and procedures. Think of the various kinds of policies and procedures that employees will need to know starting on Day 1. What can be conveyed with microlearning beforehand? Some areas to think about include:

  • Safety procedures
  • Anti-harassment/anti-bullying (and other compliance topics)
  • DEI topics
  • Teambuilding
  • Reporting and team communication
  • HR options (retirement plan options, insurance options, etc.)
  • Overall company mission, vision, and values

#3. Look for ways to gamify learning. Gamifying content can be stimulating and fun! Digital content doesn’t have to be boring. Leaderboards and team challenges, for example, can make training content more engaging.

#4. Touch base regularly with newly hired employees. Keep the lines of communication open even before the first day of work. Your new hires will likely have questions as they consume your content, so use this as an opportunity to keep the conversation going.

#5. Assign mentors. While virtual onboarding is great, it is even better when combined with human interaction. One of the beauties of virtual onboarding is that it gets the more mundane tasks done and out of the way, allowing more time for mentoring and other high-engagement activities. Companies send a strong message of support when a coworker can help a new hire navigate the landscape.

#6. Engage with a learning content partner who can support your team. The key to much of the above is having ready-to-use content, a full grasp of what is needed at this stage of the employee lifecycle, and putting together a program that hits all the major needs (compliance, safety, orientation, etc.). This is something that HSI Blue Ocean Brain can help with. We have helped many companies design their learning systems and develop their learning cultures, and we would be happy to discuss making learning a part of your company’s orientation. Schedule your consultation with one of our experts today.