An onboarding program is foundational to a new hire’s experience in the company. At it’s best, the program introduces the new hire to the company as a whole, demonstrates how the new hire’s work and role fits into the bigger picture, and orients them within their new organization.
But how do you scale a high-touch process like onboarding? Here’s how one HR professional tackled the challenge.
Jessica Chan is currently the Director of People at ReD Associates and a global HR professional with experience in multiple industries.
But in a former role as HR Associate at a global tech company, Jessica witnessed a concerning trend.
Newly hired consultants were joining the company rapidly and at varied timelines, sometimes as many as ten a month. But, onboarding wasn’t as straightforward as completing payroll forms, meeting their manager, and being assigned on a project. Without much context or orientation, these new hires would often leave upon project completion, and the cycle would start again.
Jessica knew that a process like onboarding, when effective, could be time-intensive, and managing dozens of individual timelines would be unwieldy and inefficient.
Instead, she synthesized and standardized it into a recurring day each month, where recent new hires would come together as a cohort to meet key people in the company, develop relationships with one another, and learn as a group.
Jessica’s idea would be a marked shift from the existing protocols. She had the head of HR’s approval to pursue it, but because it would affect numerous departments, she had to get senior management on board as well.
The toughest selling point was that the program would require the consultants get the day off, which would affect their utilization.
She pitched her proposal for an organized, recurring onboarding day to senior management, making sure to explain the trade-off of utilization and retention, why it would be beneficial to each team lead and her primary goal of reducing employee turnover. She got the go-ahead.
Jessica attributes her success in pitching the ideas to her defining clear expectations for outcomes. Over her career, she’s found that if you want to change something, you should be able to explain why it should change and what you’re looking for as a result.
Once she had gotten buy-in from leadership, Jessica outlined a schedule for the day.
Her two driving questions:
The balance of mission-critical information and broader context helped balance the day and gave the new hires a cohesive picture of the company rather than the small window from whatever project they were assigned.
Jessica’s schedule included:
The program build-out took a few weeks. When she put her plan to action, Jessica made sure that the agenda was clear, each presenter knew their topic and time, and the recent hires had the day set aside to dedicate their time.
After six months of executing the cohort onboarding program, Jessica measured a significant decrease in turnover amongst employees under a year, solidifying the program as a success.
While reflecting on the program, Jessica notes that, like many things, you can’t necessarily copy and paste programs or initiatives, especially within the realm of people operations. Different companies have different cultures and different priorities.
For example, she pointed out that not all companies would be able to have their consultants take a day off entirely for onboarding, depending on the size or scale of their operation. She advocates for adapting programs to company culture and framing them in ways that can benefit all stakeholders involved.