9 Employee Onboarding Trends for 2022: Back to human

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Last updated:
November 25, 2021
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13 minutes

As we shifted to working remotely, virtual employee onboarding became the new norm. Just like your organization, a lot of other companies were experiencing this shift for the first time. Remote work - once dreamt by many, became a reality for all. And, on the surface level it all seems fine.


But, take a moment to reflect on your organization’s virtual onboarding experience. Ask yourself: How much communication is carried out between your company and the recruit? Did your new hire sense a positive feeling towards their manager? Did they feel connected to your company’s work culture? 
Dr. Brooks Holtom, Professor of Management, McDonough School of Business, Dr. Elora Voyles, Assistant Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Southern Illinois University, and David Niu, Founder and CEO of TINYpulse commissioned a study that highlights just these underlying issues of remote onboarding. 

A lack of peer-to-peer recognition and less engagement with the company’s values were listed as top concerns.

Peer-to-peer recognition for new hires

A massive part of the problem? Few companies were prepared for a large-scale transition from traditional to remote work and onboarding. Two years since the pandemic, and we’ve gathered expert insights, feedback from new hires, and successfully proven onboarding examples. 

Engagement with company values has heavily decreased: Bad onboarding trend

But we need to dig a little further than this to design an onboarding program suitable for evolving work spaces.

Fully remote or a hybrid work schedule - let’s look at the next wave of employee onboarding trends – one that ensures high employee turnover, engagement, and productivity.

9 Employee Onboarding Trends in 2022 You Need to Know

1. Remote or hybrid onboarding will continue to evolve

Hybrid onboarding as a trend will continue

The Four C’s of traditional onboarding - compliance, clarification, culture, and connection - also apply to remote or hybrid onboarding. It’s usually the latter two that take a hit. A Toggl survey found that 60% of HR managers had to adapt to onboarding employees remotely. 

Building culture remotely

Building a culture remotely is not easy

Welcome kits are attractive and offer a good start to greet new recruits. But are they enough to promote your company’s values? To do that, you need to create spaces that allow more peer-to-peer communication. One where existing employees can share their experiences of working at your company. 
Think internal blogs, Slack channels discussions, existing employees offering practical advice, and leaders having 1:1 chats with new hires. 

New hires need to feel welcome and heard. Establishing psychological safety at work is crucial in this heightened war for talent.

Prezly, a remote-first company, asks their leaders to go through the onboarding documentation with new hires. Employees are privy to everything that went right or wrong through their internal blog and are encouraged to give each other feedback and recognition. 

Building human connections online

Building meaningful connections virtually

Meaningful connections are an impossible metric to track, but its absence has not so surprising results.
Remote workers are voicing their struggles of creating personal connections, and cycling through jobs. They are finding it easier to quit because they’ve never met their colleagues in person.

Onboarding, usually a shared group experience, has become an isolating one. Let’s put the social back into it with virtual lunches, digital water-coolers, and other group activities.
For example, Microsoft nailed its remote onboarding experience in different ways. Managers create personalized onboarding journeys, have 1:1s early and more often, and prioritize the new employee experience. 

To create one for your organization, here’s a FREE remote onboarding checklist that you can steal right now for a stress-free onboarding experience.

Other remote-first companies like Buffer and Zapier hold annual company retreats that give new and existing employees a pressure-free space to bond. This strikes a balance between working remotely and creating personal connections over virtual meetups – a defining onboarding trend of 2022.

2. Reboarding employees post-pandemic

Onboarding program success factor: Reboarding

If you’re wondering why too many employees are slipping away from your organisation, it’s probably because of a poor re-onboarding experience. 

Reboarding or re-onboarding means re-familiarizing employees with your organization’s culture and their team. This is done by taking them through an altered onboarding plan - one that is designed for a remote work model.

Kristin Yetto from ebay on reboarding

The unfortunate reality is that most companies — by their own admission — pay little to no attention to their onboarding or reboarding processes.

With hybrid models shaping the way we work, it’s important to guide your employees through work schedules, communication tools, and necessary documentation. As an HR leader, you must plan for cultural and behavioral changes. For instance, while  the business handshake is gone, concerns about COVID continue to stay.

Everyone responded to the pandemic differently and went through unique stressors. Your reboarding plan should take that into account. Start with planning 1:1s as soon as possible to support employees going back to office full-time or part-time. 

3. A focus on inclusive onboarding programs

Studies have proven time and time again that diversity makes us smarter, creative, and diligent. Hiring practices account for it, but most onboarding programs focus on time-to-productivity.

While time-to-productivity is a metric most HR professionals measure because it’s efficient, onboarding should be about lifetime productivity. And inclusive onboarding programs are an excellent way to achieve that. 

  • Take new hires through a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) onboarding session. 
  • Invite them to internal forums where they can discuss pivotal issues
  • Link to resources that explain your company’s commitment to DEI through examples
  • Share the company’s vocabulary - acronyms, jargon, and a glossary to get new hires up to speed
  • Personalize the onboarding experience with regular check-ins
  • Encourage hires to bring their whole selves to work

4. Onboarding 2.0: Longer and more guided

We often get asked how long should onboarding last? Truth be told, it can vary from 1 week to 90 days, or even longer. We advise you to always keep the changing landscape of work into consideration. But in general, planning for the long term pays out: In most jobs, people need proper guidance and reminding beyond week 1. And often also beyond week 12.

Longer onboarding vs. short sprints

The longer you spend onboarding employees, the higher the retention. Remote and hybrid companies are likely to spend more resources on a lengthier and guided onboarding process. 

Alexander Young, founder/CEO at Virti and NHS Innovation Fellow, recommends onboarding to be a continuous experience. 

Instead of ending your onboarding after the first week or the 90-day mark, continue onboarding employees for at least a year. This just reflects your company values, the commitment to help your people grow, and creates positive PR for your organization. 

Social media onboarding trends

Guided onboarding: Buddy programs and tech

Without a doubt, Onboarding buddy programs for new hires result in increased productivity, job satisfaction, and better retention. Two companies - Microsoft and Buffer champion this with their personalised and engaging buddy program. 

While buddy programs help new hires build human connections, guided onboarding programs can also be powered by technology. 

This allows new hires to self-onboard so they can learn at their pace, and on the go. Although, It’s important to know that digital onboarding tools are not a replacement for human interaction. 

5. Onboarding automation with a human touch

automation as a key onboarding trend

Extended onboarding doesn’t mean drowning employees in paperwork. Get all your paperwork signed and completed before Day 1, that is during your pre-boarding stage.

Jared Atchinson, Co-founder of WPForms, shares, “You can improve the onboarding process by implementing automation. training, forms, and policy education are all areas that can be completed through automation so you can create a smooth onboarding experience.”

In a survey by Super CIO of 1,500 employees, 40% of new hires said it takes too long to get answers from HR. Automation frees up this time so you can engage with your new hires meaningfully. 

Digital onboarding doesn’t need to be static. Having an engaged comment section under training resources and a devoted Slack or Teams channels fosters peer-to-peer learning. 

6. Employee onboarding is going to become more interactive

employee onboarding is becoming more and more interactive

Gamified onboarding isn’t new. In 2018, Deloitte launched an interactive game, ‘The Chosen Analyst,’ to onboard new analysts. Analysts enjoyed learning new skills and consulting software, and the zombie apocalypse themed game was an instant hit. The best part? It helped Deloitte reduce its onboarding costs. 

onboarding in plugworld

But why is this on a list for onboarding trends in 2022? With remote work in full force, companies are strumming creative onboarding processes like video-based, and virtual onboarding. 
Some other ideas you can use to gamify the onboarding experience - 
On-site: Run a scavenger hunt

Remote: Host a scavenger hunt using the org chart

On-site: Host a trivia event

Remote: Try Pingboard’s Who’s Who onboarding game

On-site/Remote - Create a leaderboard for learning and award badges

7. Artificial Intelligence will reshape onboarding in 2022

Key onboarding trend: AI

AI chatbots are digitally transforming the recruiting and hiring processes. They are designed to answer FAQs, send automated reminders, and notify new hires about their upcoming training sessions. 

But it goes beyond that. Having a bot instead of a human also means it’s easier for new hires to ask common questions and complete their onboarding at their pace. This saves time, money, and surely enhances the overall employee experience. 
With remote work on the rise, unstructured knowledge that needs to be transferred can often get lost in translation. Chatbots are a great tool for easily avoidable miscommunication. 

AI can also be used to measure employee sentiment to ensure onboarding is on track. 

8. VR training: The new onboarding norm 

Accenture has made a breakthrough in efficiently onboarding new hires by distributing 60,000 headsets for employee training. Their XR services also enable employees to attend company events like holiday parties virtually.

employee onboarding trend: VR

Although VR failed as a consumer tech (large investment required), businesses are now starting to see it as an asset. A list of corporations like Bank of America, Walmart, and UPS have embraced the XR (Extended Reality) training. 

Bank of America’s pilot VR program with 400 employees had 97% of them feeling more comfortable with their tasks after the training. 

These VR situations deliver real-world value to employee training and development for sectors such as real estate, retail, tourism, and more.
Accenture Immersive Collaboration Platform VR Holiday Events

9. Machine Learning will change employee onboarding

Onboarding trend: Machine learning

When did anyone ever find paperwork interesting? To ease this taxing process, machine learning (ML) helps new hires with the paperwork pile. And it also makes training more intuitive, and grants need-based access to information.
Access to resources can be granted based on personality type, job level, role, and a wide range of other variables. Creating accounts, granting access, and answering simple queries can easily be re-routed to the ML algorithms. 

Focus on people analytics: The biggest trend in 2022

For far too long, HR leaders have been on the cost-efficiency treadmill. And now, they’re ready to focus on people again. 

chro onboarding survey results

Like great customer experience is crucial for a company, delivering an engaging employee experience has become a top priority, especially for chief human-resource officers (CHROs).
The parallel doesn’t end here. Like designers, CHROs can use design thinking principles to identify and solve onboarding-borne frustrations.
For instance, Cisco had a 24-hour “breakathon” with 800+ employees to identify key moments between HR and employees using design thinking principles. This led to YouBelong@Cisco - a completely redesigned version of employee onboarding aimed to target the pain points of people starting their careers at Cisco. 

Onboarding offers an imprinting window where you can make a lasting impression on new hires. More than having an effective onboarding program, it’s important that you adapt to changing times. At Zavvy, we design tools that help you eliminate redundant systems, while elevating ones that do.

Whether you want to improvise your onboarding program, or create one from scratch, you can start with our free demo. And if you have any questions, we’re always here to assist you


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