In one way or another, the entire pandemic experience has been one of gravitational transitions. Companies quickly pivoted from in-office to remote work. Business goals changed as if overnight, creating new roles and new needs within organisations, and rendering some positions outdated.
This article will outline the importance of employees’ experiences as they undergo those role transitions, including areas of focus and concrete strategies to foster employee engagement and fulfilment throughout their entire journey.
Throughout the pandemic, families and communities endured immense stress in their personal and economic lives. Almost no one has made it to this stage of the recovery era without having to make a profound transition in at least one area of their lives.
In the corporate world, transitions are a liminal space in which enterprise leaders will either sink or swim. The onboarding process is the first opportunity for a new hire to feel the company culture.
Experiences garnered in the first few weeks go beyond the claims and promises made throughout the recruitment stage, and will become the takeaways that employees will carry with them throughout their time at their organisation.
Committing to fostering an enriching work-life balance
Likewise, cross-boarding – facilitating an internal transfer from one role to another – is another crucial opportunity for employee support that only comes once or twice in a career. In these areas, company owners and People and Culture professionals have a real opportunity to embody their commitment to a workplace culture that puts the employee first.
And in Corporate World 2.0, nothing less than an employee-centric focus will be tolerated. Talent in the workforce is effectively advocating for their newfound non-negotiables, a sustainable work-life balance, a supportive and collaborative workplace culture full of opportunities for their career development and intellectual growth.
Employers now face the Herculean task of re-engaging and retaining talent in their organisations. As many employees transition to new companies or new roles within their existing teams, those threshold processes of onboarding and cross-boarding are where real ground is gained toward trust, commitment, and sustainability in the workplace.
Below are a few areas of focus for employers and People and Culture teams heading into the new year with a real team-first commitment.
Successful onboarding: an important first chance
Glassdoor estimates that satisfactory onboarding improves employee retention by as much as 82%. With that understanding, two considerations are important. First, the financial side of onboarding is immensely consequential to a company’s bottom line.
The cost of searching for, recruiting, and training a new employee can be as much as twice the cost of a potential salary; a significant line item especially as corporate budgets continue to recover.
The second consideration relates to the quality and longevity of the new hire’s corporate experience. When employees feel supported throughout the onboarding process, they’re more optimistic about their entire employment experience with the company, and less likely to search for new opportunities.
But according to a survey conducted by Gallup, only 1 in 10 employees strongly agree that their organisation had a successful onboarding process.
When onboarding ends early, or when it’s left entirely to the new hire to navigate a new workplace culture, a rift begins to form that’s hard to recover from. The hire’s first experience of the company is one in which their needs aren’t met, and being new to the team can make it challenging to bring those needs forward.
A strong onboarding process elicits trust
Any senior level executive or company owner can remember their earlier work experiences–their first days in a new role, the early weeks full of struggle to remember names and navigate the office layout. During this stage, when an employee’s questions go unanswered, they’re likely to assume fault.
That feeling of fault can add to the stress and lead to a sense of dejection before they even really get started. Getting ahead of that process–providing information in multiple forms and leaving lots of room for questions–will greatly improve the employee experience.
A strong working relationship begins with an onboarding process that responds to those needs, and that solicits feedback from the new employee regarding any areas that might have been overlooked. This is the beginning of trust and reliance in the workforce, a crucial element to any enduring team culture and to any long-term employee-employer connection.
Fostering a cultural fit from the very beginning
Incorporating a social component into the onboarding process drastically increases employee engagement. The Human Capital Institute found that 87 percent of organisations that utilise a buddy/ambassador program find it effective and efficient. Yet, only 47 percent of organisations in the survey actually have a program in place.
Warm welcomes go an incredibly long way. Winning the trust of a new hire, and then failing to establish proper rapport upon employment, wastes an important opportunity to set the proper tone. Coordinated team-lunches, meetings with executives, and already prepared desks (or digital workspaces) help ensure the new employee feels welcome.
In the new world of hybrid and virtual work, maintaining a human touch throughout the process has never been more important. Video meetings on platforms like Zoom, happy hours, and one-on-one virtual ‘lunches’ can help maintain a sense of connection that can be lost over the phone and through email.
Along with socialisation, there’s certainly a place for ‘serious’ recreation during the onboarding experience. Business simulation games are a great way to fuse the learning and the leisure that’s needed at the onboarding stage.
Team-based simulation activities can put small groups through game-based thinking and engaging challenges that depict part of the daily role.
Many new approaches to recreational training came to market when teams were challenged to onboard from a distance. Virtual onboarding has proved effective, but often left something to be desired in the way of engagement. Business simulation games and immersive tech-heavy experiences answered to those calls.
Some companies are taking this to new heights and using it as a chance to really get creative and set themselves apart from their industry peers. Real-life business scenarios or more game-like settings both work well, and enhancing the experience through virtual reality or artificial reality is an impactful extra step.
Companies can use existing technological platforms or engage third party vendors to curate a platform designed for a specific experience.
Cross-boarding: the future of work
Almost everything about the post-COVID workforce is different. When existing team members are retrained and redeployed in accordance with the organisation’s new goals, aims, and expectations, team rapport goes up; the organisation has proved its reliance on and investment in the team that’s gotten it this far.
Cross-boarding is therefore the way of the post-COVID future. Role changes for skill gaps, relocation, contract changes, promotions, and many more catalysts are inevitable aspects of the next corporate phase.
For desired and voluntary role shifts, cross-boarding offers an opportunity to further boost engagement and retention. When 82% of people leave their job due to a lack of career progression, cross-boarding offers enterprises significant competitive advantage over their market peers.
Identifying cross-boarding opportunities requires People and Culture managers to have an awareness of existing employees’ abilities as well as skill-gaps within the organisation. Spotting potential areas for improvement that could make better use of the existing talent capital can help companies take consequential steps forward without the resource spend of traditional recruiting and onboarding campaigns.
Communication at the cross-boarding stage is critical. An existing employee may already be acclimated to the corporate culture and values, a new role will require an onboarding process. Even in transitions between departments, an employee may take as long as one to two years to begin to feel comfortable within the role and perform optimally.
The more support, connection, and commitment they receive along the way, the faster they’ll find their rightful and fulfilling place in their new workplace focus.
Goal setting— important every step of the way
In a workplace setting, goals and objectives are often thought about in terms of the results they can bring about. But goal setting has other important offerings as it relates to team culture, and the practice becomes increasingly important during transitionary periods.
Goals help employees who are onboarding or cross-boarding start to build a mind map of what early success will look like. But maybe more importantly, goal setting introduces a valuable opportunity to get specific about personal success.
During these transitions, team leaders, People and Culture professionals, or employers can encourage the team member to start to craft their personal vision statement. In one short paragraph, a personal vision statement can be the North Star that guides a person’s professional journey.
Future oriented and full of big thinking, employees can work to create a clear picture of what their years ahead at the company will look like. From who they’re brushing shoulders with to what they’re contributing to the company’s larger goals, this is a mental image that works best when real time is invested.
The personal vision statement should be kept in mind (or better, in sight) and returned to at different points of the employee’s journey. Full of big goals, the vision statement can then direct the employee to the smaller goals they can set along their path.
When goal setting, the best practice is always to set increasingly complicated tasks. New employees are still integrating into the day to day workflow. It’s best that they have smaller, understandable goals that can be easily completed in order to add slowly to their sense of confidence and contribution.
Creativity: critical to boosting engagement
With a growth mindset, those goals will only get bigger as the employee is able to take on more and more responsibility. Creativity at this stage helps drastically boost engagement. As the employee onboards or cross-boards, they might be able to see new aims that weren’t originally part of their jurisdiction, but which they feel compelled to take on.
The best employers know to reward that spirit of curiosity and autonomy. When employees are able to operate in open, goal-driven environments, they start to bring their full selves to work and earn a valuable feeling of fulfilment and engagement.
Too often, goal setting projects are started but not carried all the way through. To cement this practice as a core part of a company’s culture, employers and HR teams need to make sure that recognition and celebration is a part of the equation.
Being full of pride for a new hire, impressed with a senior team member’s work, grateful for an employee’s growth into a more complex role—these are emotions that belong in the workforce, and that need to find avenues for expression.
Words to that end go a long way; positive one-on-one checkins, words of affirmation from team leaders to prove they’ve noticed and benefited from an employee’s performance. Employee gifting and formalised recognition—employee of the month programs, weekly initiatives, etc.—also have a powerful effect.
When the power of celebration is internalised into a company’s culture, employees will get into the habit of doing the same to their coworkers. The result is an operation that’s fuelled through positivity, recognition, and respect; a recipe for success in the after-COVID market.
The name of the long-term game: employee satisfaction
Onboarding and cross-boarding are powerful processes that can either greatly enhance or detrimentally detract from long-term employee fulfilment. Satisfied employees accumulate a greater knowledge base, provide invaluable support systems, and offer important contributions to the company’s core culture.
The more satisfied employees are on the team, the better the chances of landing and maintaining future talent. With effective, efficient, and employee-centric transition protocols, companies can offer complex and changing roles, enticing career development opportunities, and invaluable skills training to both their hires and their existing teams.
Encouraging personal vision statements, and reinforcing the habit of goal setting with tailored recognition initiatives will help to guide employees through those periods of transition and growth.
Considering the current market feedback, the combination of those assets might just be the missing link between employers and a more motivated, more fulfilled workforce in 2022 and beyond.
The more satisfied employees are on the team, the better the chances of landing and retaining future talent. With effective, efficient, and employee-centric transition protocols, companies can offer complex and changing roles, enticing career development opportunities, and invaluable skills training to both their hires and their existing teams.
About the Author
Tara Milburn is the Founder and CEO of Ethical Swag, a sustainable branding company specialising in People and Culture. Tara helps HR professionals achieve their ESG goals through sustainable corporate practices and eco-friendly onboarding and employee recognition initiatives.
Certified as a B-Corporation, Ethical Swag has been audited to the highest global standard for sustainability.