Winning the employee experience war with thorough onboarding

Sam Neo, HR Business Partner, Changi Airport Group, in his latest piece, explains why employers will benefit from personalising their onboarding processes.

In my last article, I touched on the importance of onboarding your talent from Day 0 before they join an organisation.

In this latest piece, I’ll focus more on some things you could potentially do to differentiate your onboarding programme from the regular ones when the new hire joins on their first day. That way, you can better create the right experience for your new hire at the onset, set them up for success and strengthen your proposition as an employer of choice. 

Create a sense of inclusion right from the start!

About the author

Sam Neo

Sam Neo, HR Business Partner, Changi Airport Group

Based in Singapore, Neo is currently serving at Changi Airport Group’s People Team as a Business Partner and Scholarship Engagement Officer.

Sam is an HR professional with over five years of accelerated HR experience in market-leading companies such as Keppel Corporation and Changi Airport Group.

His passion for HR has seen him take on a diverse range of roles in the areas of Talent Management, Business Partnership, Talent Acquisition, Corporate Social Responsibility and Staff Engagement among others.

The first two things that could create some apprehension for a new hire are probably the work environment and team members. After all, they would likely only have met the recruiter and the hiring manager while visiting the reception and interview rooms, which are typically the nicer parts of the company. 

Getting the desk ready with essential items such as a name tent, laptop, notebook and stationeries are basic yet easily overlooked components. There is no need to be overly fanciful but at the very least, show the new hire that you are ready for their arrival and set them up for success right from the very first day. Imagine how it feels sitting at your desk raring to go but not being able to do anything because of poor arrangements?

Since you will typically have at least a month to plan for the new hire’s onboarding (considering a one-month notice period), there is little excuse for the team not to free up some time in advance to welcome the new colleague during lunch.

As expected, the new hire will probably be unfamiliar with most people, if not all, since they are new to the company. The best way to get them on your side is to make them feel welcomed and part of the family right from the start. Connecting with someone on a personal level helps and at the first opportunity to do so!

Focus on what sets the talent up for success, not rules

It is usually part of HR’s responsibility to explain the key policies which touches on the Dos and Don’ts for employees. As important as it may be to do so, be cognizant about overemphasising on the restrictions because it can create an unnecessary psychological barrier right from the start.

Instead, why not think about reframing the boundaries by placing more emphasis on the resources that can help set them up for success? Think about how you can help him or her access certain database, how to reach out to people from other departments or even ways to navigate through the common cultural challenges that are perhaps still a work-in-progress. After all, is HR’s responsibility to create restrictions or is it to enable people to do their jobs better? It is essential to take a step back periodically to reflect on our core purpose before being sucked in to what is the “norm” in the market.

Make onboarding fun and memorable

Rewind a little back to your school days. When asked, “What was the most memorable part during that few years?”, many will probably tell you that it is the orientation camp! Why? Because it’s fun and they enjoyed it!

Likewise, an onboarding programme should have the same emphasis as that of a school orientation programme. Find ways to make it so memorable that the new hire will remember it for life.

One approach is by gamifying the process by allowing them to search for certain information or key personnel in a scavenger hunt manner, rather than sharing the information in a typical briefing. Not only will it create some excitement, he could potentially also become your ambassador to publicise the unique experience if the programme was executed right.

After all, why would a new hire go the extra mile to share their experience if it did not leave an impression? Of course, implementations need to take into consideration the culture and purpose as well. You do not want to create fun just for the sake of it. Remember, the element of fun is important, but only if it’s there to complement your objective delivery in a more effective and memorable manner.

Use e-learning to complement your face-to-face delivery

Besides the regular face-to-face sharing, consider using e-learning to complement your content delivery where your new hire can access certain nuggets of information in a bite-sized manner.

Anytime, anywhere learning is slowly gaining popularity and this applies to onboarding as well. Would you rather have HR go on and on about the organisation or would you prefer things to be broken down into smaller pieces where you can access at your free time? The challenge for utilising e-learning will then be to ensure that the new hire actually reads it, but yet, making it appealing for them.

It is thus important to strike a good balance between the two communication mediums and perhaps consider using the face-to-face opportunity to deliver the more important content where HR might want to place a little more emphasis on. As for e-learning, it could be utilised to communicate other useful yet less critical information that are readily accessible on the go.

Closing thoughts

Every new hire is unique in their own way. It is useful to think of ways to have a personalised message for each of them while working with your standardised toolkit.

Just think of it from your perspective; Would you rather be received on your first day feeling special or be “just another employee”? How would you feel when a company is ready for your arrival as compared to one that leaves you alone on the very first day?

The key idea here is simple, design the programme in the way that you find useful and enjoyable! Have fun on your onboarding journey and all the best!


Sam Neo is the host of HRM Asia's Millennial Insights forum, and regularly contributes articles on the ways Generation Y is impacting the workforce, and HR, in Asia-Pacific.


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