Lessons from TalentSmith Technology’s future-of-onboarding webinar


Experts from Enboarder, MTN and Capitec explained the importance of creating connections.

Connection, particularly during the first few months of a new employee’s journey, has the biggest impact by far on retention. This was revealed by EMEA enterprise relationship manager at Enboarder, Robbie Williamson, during a recent CHRO webinar, which was sponsored by TalentSmith Technology.

The issue of how to create connections in a time of Covid-19 has been top of mind for every HR professional across every industry since the start of lockdowns and social distancing protocols. Onboarding is an essential link in a company’s talent retention strategy and HR leaders must find ways to support new employees through the process – especially when in-person interaction is not possible.

Not surprisingly, the matter takes on added complexity for new hires, who need to integrate into the company culture, understand the company’s procedures and processes and become productive.

“We realised quite early on that the traditional onboarding process was broken. It was being done on paper with the objective of ensuring compliance, mostly. It wasn’t what new employees wanted. So, we reinvented the process and looked at it through the lens of an employee,” Robbie explained.

The focus then changed to making onboarding a meaningful employee experience that would drive engagement levels and decrease the time it takes for a new employee to become productive.

Blended model

“This year has been crazy, for businesses, for HR and for onboarding. Organisations that were still hiring had to shift from in-person to a remote or blended model. The challenges have been significant and ranged from logistical to training to cultural,” he said.

“The pandemic has highlighted that we will continue to face challenges that are hard to predict and impossible to control. We have now seen first-hand what works and what doesn’t. Onboarding can deliver an exceptional experience for new hires during what has been a very difficult time,” he added.

With planning for 2021 now well underway, it is becoming clear that far more organisations will be moving out of the hiring freeze and have to find ways to efficiently onboard employees remotely or through a blended approach. 

According to Capitec Bank’s executive for HR and CSI Nathan Motjuwadi, onboarding has a link with longevity and turnover in an organisation. 

“We have always had a blended approach with online and face-to-face onboarding. It’s important for organisations to find the right mix between online and face-to-face for people to engage. It should also be continual as there are many changes in organisations, for example with new policies, processes and governance requirements,” he said.

Good lessons learned

Robbie outlined five steps, from the good lessons learnt over the past 10 months, that HR leaders can take now to provide new hires with a great onboarding experience. 

These were amazing new employees with a personalised experience, creating moments for human connection; empowering hiring managers; staying agile and listening, reacting and influencing. 

“It’s important to avoid having new hires sitting at home and receiving anonymous emails containing checklists and compliance information. This heightens the risk of early stage attrition. There are ways to personalise experiences like having lunch delivered to them on the first day and then arranging for a virtual lunch with the team,” he said.

This is exactly what MTN did. 

“The lessons we have learnt is to adapt and adjust our onboarding according to the circumstances. At the start of the lockdown, we contacted new employees to let them know how to get their laptops and onboarding packs like pens and T-shirts and arranged with the IT helpdesk for the necessary passwords to access the system. 

“We provided new employees with coffee vouchers so they could have a coffee session with their line managers and other colleagues online. Then for the first week, they met with their line manager to check-in, clarify expectations and receive direction and support online. The HR business partner is also responsible for checking in on new hires. 

“Full onboarding was conducted online, including medical aid and pension fund presentations. There were a few face-to-face interactions and once new recruits are introduced to their line manager and given the necessary tools, they can work from home. 

“At MTN we have taken the decision that only 20 to 30 percent of employees will be allowed back in the office. There are support systems in place for booking time in the office and an office furniture allowance to set up a proper office at home, as that is the future workplace,” said Bess Skosana, MTN’s regional talent lead.

The key takeaway from the webinar was that company culture has to change to be more people-centric and empathetic to personal circumstances – this is what will wow new hires from the first day on the job.

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