Want a Great Onboarding Experience? Understand Your Audience

April 11th, 2017 Comments off
onboarding experience

The world is full of HR buzzwords. Onboarding is one of them.

The fact that onboarding is a buzzword in HR doesn’t mean it’s without importance or merit. It simply means that it’s hard to do, but we understand the importance. That means that a lot of people talk about it, but few do it well.

To get a real game plan together related to onboarding, you need to understand multiple angles – including the difference between transactional and transformative onboarding, generational differences related to onboarding expectations and how to use your ongoing employee onboarding process to your advantage in recruiting.

Tired of your onboarding feeling like a buzzword? Great – let’s map out how to make your onboarding experience relevant to your company without having to hire another full-time employee to handle it.

Transactional vs. Transformative Onboarding

See what I did there? I added some more buzzwords! Transformative is a big word when it comes to onboarding, but it simply means that you’re doing more than handling transactions when getting new talent started with your company.

Most companies sit employees down, cover policy, benefits, payroll and get 109 forms signed in three hours and call it onboarding. This transactional side is important, but if that’s all you do you’ll never realize the full potential of onboarding.

The goal of any new hire onboarding process should be to minimize the amount of time spent on boring topics and doing paperwork. Get as efficient as you can with those items (use technology) and then move to things that can strengthen the bond new employees feel with your company.

Examples of transformative onboarding include the following:

  • Bringing in focused guest speakers to talk about your culture.
  • Linking new employees with guides/sherpas/mentors that will meet with them consistently in their first 90 days to provide encouragement/support.
  • Starting the goal-setting process of what each new hire wants to accomplish in their first 90/180 days with your company. Including the new hire’s manager in this is a great way to link onboarding with your broader talent strategy.


You’ve got your own examples for what “transformative” onboarding looks like. As long as you’re doing something besides popping a phone-book size of paperwork down in front of the new employee, you’re probably on the right track.

Generational Differences in Onboarding Expectations

As with anything talent-related, generational differences should be considered as you are building your onboarding platform at your company. Here’s what you need to know about generations as it relates to onboarding:

  • BoomersScared of their vulnerability based on their age. Sure, they may be easier to please because they’re happy to have found a job, and unless you truly run them off, they’re probably going to stick. But that’s not the path to engage this group. For best onboarding and subsequent engagement results, make sure boomers see role models their age doing interesting work and being valued as a part of your onboarding sessions (think guest speakers), and consider optional follow-up sessions on understanding benefits (because health care is top of mind for this group).
  • Millennials/ZHopeful that you don’t absolutely suck as an employer, but actively scanning for signs that you do suck. This group is most likely to make a quick change if their BS meter goes off and their needs aren’t met. For best results, you need to automate the transactional (signing paperwork) part of your onboarding process (they won’t respect you if you’re analog) and consider having follow up sessions that are delivered on demand. Those two things will go a long way with this segment (as will goal setting and mentoring programs), but you won’t maximize your street cred with this group without talking about corporate social responsibility. Knowing your company cares about something other than itself is huge toward this group sticking with you when the path becomes rough at work.
  • Gen X This group has no rights, and thus, no expectations. I kid – this is the group I’m part of. Managing to the tastes of Boomers and Millennials/Z will effectively paint the corners of what’s important to this group. Gen X has uploaded a lot of the tech habits of Millennials/Z, but is just old enough to feel some Boomer pain/fear as well. Do what you do to cater to the other generations, throw in a few clips from “Seinfeld” and you’ll manage the needs of Gen X effectively.


Cater to expectations of generations in this way, and you’ll automatically arrive at the 90th percentile of all onboarding programs.

Using Onboarding Programs as a Recruiting Advantage

Remember the Circle of Life in “The Lion King”? Of course you do. While I’d love to talk about Simba and company, I reference the song to make a simple point. If you ramp up your onboarding game, you’ve got to think like a marketer and play back what you’re doing to get new employees up to speed as part of your recruitment marketing efforts – think career site, social channels and more.

Think about the onboarding experience as a marketer, and you’ll realize the benefits are circular (thus my Lion King reference). Promoting what’s going on in onboarding shows future candidates you’re better than most, and there’s a vanity retention play for new employees – it feels great to them to be featured. It’s a big circle – of benefits to your brand.

Whatever you do, the first step is the most important. Make your onboarding more than transactions. Once you do that, you’ll see that you can provide tremendous value in your onboarding programs that impacts engagement, performance and retention – the reason you’re thinking about onboarding in the first place.

How to Use Technology During the Onboarding Process

Kris Dunn is the CHRO at Kinetix and founder of HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent.
Who am I? That’s an easy question – I’m a VP of HR type who has led HR practices in Fortune 500s and venture capital-held startups. I work for a living, and believe that the key to great business results is to get great people, then do cool stuff to maximize their motivation, performance and effectiveness once you have them in the door. As it turns out, that’s my simple definition of talent management. I believe that all forms of HR administration should be squeezed down to the smallest amount of time possible, giving you more time to do stuff that matters. I’m also among the most transparent HR pros you can find, and here’s why. I care so much about the art of HR that I’ve started two blogs (www.hrcapitalist.com and www.fistfuloftalent.com) with the goal of building a community I could learn from. I’ve been putting my thoughts down every business day for over 7 years. 

How Onboarding Technology Impacts First Impressions

March 21st, 2017 Comments off
onboarding technology

We’ve heard it said many times—you only have one chance to make a first impression.

We typically think of first impressions in relation to people. But, first impressions of places and experiences can leave lasting impressions as well. You can probably still remember the impact of your first day at a new school. Or, maybe you remember the last time you walked into a restaurant and were treated rudely by the host. First impressions can be powerful, and they often set the tone for an experience, either positively or negatively.

This is true at work, too. If your goal is to create an engaging, positive work experience for your employees, it’s critical that it starts with a positive first impression.

An effective new hire onboarding process includes a lot of moving parts, including:

  • Welcoming and socialization
  • New hire forms
  • New hire orientation
  • Workstation and resources
  • Expectation setting


These tasks are too often accomplished in a haphazard fashion with some combination of boring presentations, stacks of paperwork and a dash of wishful thinking. This just isn’t cutting it. To make a positive first impression in today’s workplace, there’s one ingredient that has become vital: technology.

Even for smaller organizations, using onboarding software solutions to automate is critical. Here’s why:

  • New hires expect the experience to be automated. We shop, play and connect online. We’ve come to expect that everything that can be automated, should be. When it’s not, it creates a lesser experience. Consider how you would perceive a restaurant or retail store that does not accept credit cards as a form of payment. At the very least, the experience is less convenient. At worst, it makes you want to avoid that establishment. You can’t afford to have your new, excited employee feel this way about your onboarding experience.
  • Millennials demand technology. As of 2015, Millennials are the largest generation in our workforce—making up more than 35 percent of employees. They are also the future, so we have to design our experiences to satisfy their expectations – or face the consequences. According to a recent Forbes piece, “Millennials demand self-service, algorithmically, and crowdsourced customer service options.” They want the technology to enable and assist them as they work through the process on their own terms. The piece also noted that “Millennial customers expect your company’s technology to simply work—so you’d better make sure that it does.” Not only do they expect technology, but they expect advanced technology that works for them.
  • Consistency of experience is key. The process of finding a job has migrated almost entirely to technology. Job seekers experience an array of technology tools as they navigate their way to a new position. They experience company websites, social media pages, job boards, applicant tracking systems, assessments and forms to complete online. The experience, even at small organizations, is technology enabled from beginning to end. So, imagine how odd and disconcerting it would be to step into a non-technology enabled experience upon making the transition from “recruit” to “employee.” It would probably feel a bit like a bait and switch. Not a great first impression.
  • We don’t have the time. Our plates are already full, whether we work as managers or in HR (or both). Even when we recognize the importance of the onboarding experience, it’s easy to drop the ball on new hire onboarding simply due to competing priorities. This is too important not to use the available onboarding software solutions to ensure our new employees get started on the right foot. A bad first impression may dampen the excitement of the new hire or even send them running for the hills with buyer’s remorse. Technology is not only a more efficient way to approach onboarding, it’s also more reliable.


Creating a great onboarding first impression is about exceeding your new hire’s expectations. This requires that you create an experience with all of the necessary human touches built upon a solid foundation of technology tools and resources.

The days of paperwork and boring, new-hire presentations are gone. It’s time to catch up.

See a tool that can create an efficient and effective onboarding process.

The Benefits of Using Technology in Your Onboarding Process

March 15th, 2017 Comments off
onboarding process

One of the most common (yet avoidable) failure points in the HR lifecycle is in the onboarding of new hires (or sometimes, internal company transfers). When done well, employee onboarding is thoughtful and repeatable – all new hires have a similar process and current employees are well aware of the process. When onboarding is not done well, new hires report feeling adrift and unclear on their individual, team or company purpose, their workflow or their role definition.

Ideally, the onboarding process happens over a series of weeks or months, not hours or days, allowing for numerous touch points and the opportunity to both unearth and answer urgent questions. A structured program over time also improves the likelihood new hires learn and appreciate the company goals, values, norms and processes – as well as what they’ll need to be successful in their role.

All too often, companies spend time, energy and money to build an “ideal” onboarding process, complete with checklists and company swag, yet those perfectly laid plans aren’t implemented, or the momentum is stalled when there’s a change in the champion of the onboarding process. In the end, new hires often don’t gain the required clarity, because new onboarding stewards may be more keenly interested in certain elements over others. This leads to the dilution of planned onboarding efforts.

How Onboarding Software Can Help

Many companies are leveraging technology solutions to ensure that all key actions are defined, assigned and completed for each new hire – providing clarity and consistency across the organization. These technology solutions elegantly interface with applicant tracking systems and other HRIS software, requiring minimal data entry. What’s more, HR maintains a clear line of sight into the proper onboarding of the company’s new recruits. Many solutions also offer ways to capture new hires’ first impressions, allowing early intervention if warranted.

The advantages to leveraging onboarding technologies include:

  • Improved clarity about the organization.
  • Accelerated networking and social interaction across the organization.
  • Instant tracking status and insight into required follow up.
  • Strengthened efficacy of onboarding initiatives.
  • An increase in new hire employee engagement and the likelihood new hires will thrive in the organization.


Finding the Right Onboarding Software

When it comes to finding the right technology solutions for your employee onboarding, you should consider the following:

  • Clarity on the problem you’re looking to solve. Is it improving onboarding? Having a centralized place to know what’s being done and by whom? A reporting mechanism?
  • Elements of your onboarding strategy. Is it straightforward or matrixed? How many people will need access to understand current status?
  • The “owner” of onboarding. Is it the new manager or is it centralized in HR?
  • Hiring projections. How many people will be going through the process?
  • Your need for qualitative vs. quantitative data.
  • Integration requirements with other HRIS software.


Investments to improve a simplified technology solution to track and manage onboarding for new hires can go a long way toward improving their employee experience and deepening their commitment to your organization.

Learn how technology can drive employee engagement.

Catherine Malloy Cummings is a breakthrough human resources strategist known for her ability to transform HR teams into champions of revenue and agents of business growth. When she’s not consulting, you’ll find her speaking and writing on aligning the HR function to your corporate performance and profitability.