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Let’s get one thing straight: onboarding should never be a one-and-done kind of thing. Companies should always be looking for ways to make the best experience possible for new employees. In truth, a lot of companies that are running into onboarding troubles with remote employees now may have needed a bit of a thought and strategy shift a while ago. 

We don’t want to alarm you, but employee onboarding is in pretty rough shape right now. The shift to remote and hybrid work hasn’t really made it to some onboarding experiences, and it shows. 

desk_freak_outBuck up champ, it's only week 2! 🎉

Sadly, we discovered that giving a manager a Zoom link and scheduling virtual meetings for people isn’t enough for long-term work environments. If you want to give your employees a solid start, it’s time to add some flexibility to your usual onboarding experience. 

Why flexibility matters in onboarding

The words “flexible” and “onboarding” may not seem like they should belong in a sentence without the words “is an urban legend”. But trust us, we’re on to something here. 

Your company may not have gone through a dramatic schedule shift over the past couple of years. Maybe everyone is fully remote or hybrid, or your onboarding is meant to be done in a certain way. However, that doesn’t mean that your onboarding couldn’t benefit from some flexibility. 

What do we mean by flexibility? We’re talking about designing an onboarding experience that lets new employees learn at their own pace. Mixing and matching different kinds of learning styles, media, and training techniques can do a lot to create a flexible onboarding experience. 

Guru_Collage_Image-Library-62-transparentWe’re all about creating better work experiences at Guru, so we decided to talk to reach out to some knowledgeable friends about flexibility and onboarding. WorkRamp is a learning management system that allows people to train new employees and customers in one platform. If anyone knows what it takes to make people feel confident and educated, it’s the WorkRamp crew.

"Onboarding has also been a really key aspect. Starting at WorkRamp has been the quickest I've ever onboarded and got to know the product. They approach the learning process in a flexible way that it can speak to different types of learners."

- Masha Abaturova, Client Outcomes Manager at WorkRamp

A more flexible onboarding experience is going to help everyone at your company. Here are just a few reasons why flexibility and onboarding should go hand in hand. 

Give everyone a fair start

In a working world where people from all backgrounds are spread across different work schedules and time zones, it’s more important than ever to make onboarding as equitable as possible. You don’t want in-person employees feeling like they got a lackluster experience at your mostly remote company. On the flipside, remote employees should feel as welcome as possible when they join your mainly in-person company. 

When you create a flexible and equitable onboarding experience you’re giving everyone an even playing field. This can help set people up for success and ensure that everyone has a fair shot to learn and excel at work. 

Reduce stress during onboarding

Let’s face it. Onboarding can be stressful for new employees. Aside from the nervousness of being in a new environment, you also feel like every move you make is being looked at under a microscope. There’s so much new information coming at you to the point where it almost feels overwhelming. Not immediately understanding a procedure or project process can make you feel like you’re doomed for failure. 

"Starting a new job is difficult. You don't know what to expect a lot of times. So, having a concrete onboarding plan, like here are all the steps you need to go through for onboarding, and getting up to speed with the company is extremely beneficial and sets me up for success."

- Andrew Barnhart, Software Engineer at WorkRamp

A flexible onboarding process isn’t just one that takes different work schedules into consideration. It’s a process that also lets people learn at their own pace and through their own style. Giving people as much (or as little) time they need to complete tasks and learn new concepts can make onboarding much less stressful and far more efficient. 

This is where having the right tools can come in very handy. Having a solid knowledge base and learning management system can be the key to reducing stress during onboarding.

Improve employee retention 

Aside from the warm fuzzy feelings creating something good and equal for everyone can conjure, it’s important for the company’s bottom line to have flexible onboarding experiences. 

Did you know that 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if employers invest in their careers? Employees who have bad onboarding experiences are employees who don’t understand how to properly perform their jobs. This can have a halo effect in the worst way possible. Aside from new employees feeling stressed and behind at work, eventually, that frustration can spread to other employees and people in management. 

peace_outLive footage from the Great Resignation 

Investing in a smooth, easy onboarding experience can lead to better performance and employee retention. Providing new hires and seasoned employees with ongoing learning experiences helps them develop and grow while also keeping them engaged and happy at work. 

How to make a flexible onboarding experience 

If you want to make a truly flexible all-star onboarding experience at work, you need to come in with a plan. When you’re revamping your current onboarding practices remember to keep these things in mind. 

Champion asynchronous communication/work culture 

It’s going to be difficult to create a flexible onboarding experience if you don’t have a flexible work culture. If you want to create an onboarding experience that can work for people regardless of where they’re at, lean into asynchronous communication at work. 

Before the pandemic, onboarding meant arriving on day 1 for an office tour, paperwork, and meet and greets. Now it’s often about rolling out of bed and signing into a new Slack instance. 

If you want to learn more about the right way to implement asynchronous communication at work check out our handy guide on the subject.

Help new hires learn at their own pace

Companies and employees alike prefer asynchronous learning in addition to asynchronous communication. In today’s remote working environment, taking a learner-centric approach allows companies to deliver and scale training across the team. Empower new hires to learn at their own pace by investing in a Learning Management System (LMS) for your onboarding program. 

"I enjoy the fact that I get to self-assign additional education. So when I found out I could learn more about instructional design, I was able to add that to my overall learnings to grow and develop...which leads me to be more successful at my job."

- Sarah Burch,  Solutions Engineer at WorkRamp

An LMS can support your flexible onboarding goals. The right system should support online learning, and give you the opportunity to diversify the types of content your learners consume. For example, your LMS can offer more than videos and (boring) articles. It can be engaging and fun!

LMSs can offer interactive content like flashcards, quizzes, note sections, videos, and more. Offering different styles can take the learning experience to the next level. Plus, not everyone learns the same way. So, having an LMS that offers more than videos and articles can improve and scale training.

Make different onboarding experiences based on schedule preferences 

Instead of taking a one size fits all approach to onboarding, add some variety to the mix. Take time to think about how onboarding experiences can look for people depending on their work schedules. 

check_scheduleWe get it, we're all busy

There will be some employees that will prefer to do their onboarding completely remotely. Others will want to go into the office, and some would prefer a mix of both. Your job is to tailor different onboarding experiences for what people need. 

We find that giving people a variety of options can be the best way to give employees a flexible onboarding experience. Let them know what’s optional, what’s good to have, and what’s mandatory. 

You have our official permission to get creative about how you want to structure certain activities. Send employees a welcome kit (we encourage you to get creative on what you want to include aside from the usual company swag: coffee, tea, snacks, or card games can be a plus) and put time on the calendar so they can bond. Let in-person employees connect with their remote teammates on scheduled calls. 

Remember, it’s okay to mix and match certain onboarding elements! This is where a little personalization can go a long way. Giving people the choice of learning from a mix of live calls, webinars, pre-recordings, and interactive content can make the onboarding experience much more effective. 

Create opportunities to connect with fellow employees

It’s always a little intimidating to be the “new person” at work. You’re excited about your new job, but you’re not ready to start leading brainstorming sessions and organizing team outings after week one. Don’t put the onus on employees to reach out to one another, naturally weave that into onboarding. 

isolated_weirdDo a good deed today and talk to a new employee (they need it)

If you want new employees to feel like they’ve been fully onboarded to the company, don’t just focus on creating time for them to talk to people on their own team. Let them talk to people across the company to get a true idea of the company’s culture. This can give them interesting insight and could even help them view their jobs in a different light. 

There are so many different ways to encourage connection that can go beyond a structured onboarding activity. Proactively invite new employees to attend meetings as a way to learn without the expectation that they have to participate. 

Encourage collaborative learning

Nobody expects a new employee to be completely ready to participate in project work as soon as they join. Working together immediately may be too much of a stretch, but learning together is more than possible. 

Learning together can help forge bonds, introduce people to new team members, and can even give you a unique opportunity to cross-train teams. Pair up some members of the sales team with your new support staff so new members can have an understanding of the best way to deal with customers. Let marketers and UX designers work together on a language workshop so they both know the right way to talk to customers. 

Have the right tools

Having the right tools is critical for a flexible and equitable onboarding experience. Each organization has its own preferences in terms of tech stacks, but there are a few things we think can make a stellar onboarding (and long-term working) experience. 

Knowledge management software is a must for all organizations that want to focus on seamless onboarding. You’ll be able to keep all of your most important information in one easy-to-find place, and that can be helpful long after onboarding is finished. 

Learning management software is another must-have for flexible onboarding. The right software can get employees up to speed fast by creating robust employee onboard programs tailored to your learner’s needs. 

If you’re looking for tool suggestions that go beyond software recommendations, we can't stress enough how helpful having a 30, 60, & 90-day plan can be. This gives both the new hires and their managers a way to lay out expectations and meet important milestones.  

Gather Feedback 

Want to know the best way to see how your employees like your newest onboarding experience? This isn’t the time to think that no news is good news. Take the time to actively gather feedback from new hires and other people involved in the onboarding process. 

Don’t wait until an employee is considered onboarded to see how they like the process. Schedule regular checkups with them to see how they’re moving along and if they need anything. This can help you catch problems before they get too big to manage.

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