Sneh is an engineer turned content marketer and loves tech startups that get marketing. She is a Content Marketing Manager at Animalz, moonlights as a content marketer and strategist, and hosts a podcast - Bet On People. When she’s not online, she can be found reading books, petting her dogs, or vibing to music.
9 Employee Onboarding Trends for 2024: Back to Human
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.
A massive part of the problem?
Few companies were prepared for a large-scale transition from traditional to remote work and onboarding.
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 low employee turnover along with high employee engagement and productivity.
1. Remote or hybrid onboarding will continue to evolve
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
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
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.
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 2024.
2. Reboarding employees post-pandemic
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.
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.
According to Nigel Wright Group’s remote onboarding guide, "you should always aim to ‘over-communicate’ during the remote onboarding process, and that means lots of virtual meetings and conversations with the whole team, over a longer onboarding period than originally anticipated".
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.
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
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
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.
But why is this on a list for onboarding trends in 2024? 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, host a trivia event
Remote: Host a scavenger hunt using the org chart, 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 2024
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 an interactive chatbot 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.
👀 Read more about the disruptive potential of AI in HR in our case studies on of AI in onboarding and AI in employee engagement.
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 business events like holiday parties virtually.
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 lead generation for real estate, retail, tourism, and more.
9. Machine Learning will change employee onboarding
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.
The biggest trend in 2024: focus on people analytics
For far too long, HR leaders have been on the cost-efficiency treadmill. And now, they’re ready to focus on people again, and use key people analytics for better-informed decision making.
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.
➡️ How to deliver outstanding onboarding experiences at a click
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 have developed a uniquely powerful onboarding experience software that is not only ridiculously easy to use, but also helping you get the most out of current best practices.
Whether you want to improve your onboarding program, or create one from scratch, we're always happy to show your through our onboarding experience solution. And if you have any questions, we’re always here to assist you.