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How many times has someone said to you, “First impressions count”? I’m guessing it’s happened a lot. That’s because first impressions make a huge impact on our perceptions and experiences. And as much as these early impressions matter in our personal lives, they are equally important at work.
How your HR team communicates with new employees and the methods and channels used, even before their first day, can directly impact your new hires' sense of connection to your company’s culture and values, their sense of fulfillment and their sense of loyalty. This is especially true for millennial and Gen Z employees, who are mobile-first by nature, are digital natives and who spend inordinate amounts of time on social media every day. That would explain why 46 percent of the global HR professionals surveyed in our recent study reported that their millennial and Gen Z workers want an employee communications platform with similar functionality and experience to social media.
Why does this matter? According to data from our recent study, 48 percent of the surveyed HR professionals reported that millennials make up the majority of their workforce. Yet, 32 percent said millennials were the hardest group of employees to engage. The key to engaging these employees is fostering a sense of purpose and fulfillment early on. This is where pre-boarding is a tremendously beneficial tactic for HR teams to employ to help employees feel connected to the company’s culture, values and mission, and to help forge digital connections and bonds with future colleagues.
So how can organizations go about executing a pre-boarding strategy? And what does it entail? Here are some helpful pointers to get started.
Start the moment an employment offer or contract is signed
The typical onboarding process is focused on integrating new employees into the company’s vision, culture, values, organizational structure, code of conduct, payroll and benefits systems and more. But more often than not, it only begins on the first day - or in some instances, a few days or even a week into starting a new job.
For businesses in the retail, hospitality, entertainment, manufacturing and construction industries, this can be problematic for several reasons. These employees typically perform deskless roles, don’t have easy access to work emails and yet are often the first and last point of interaction with customers, guests or visitors. So the earlier you engage them and help them connect with future colleagues, the more connected they’ll feel to the company as a whole and to their colleagues and managers more specifically.
Tip: Communicate frequently, openly and interactively with new hires. Don’t wait until the day whey walk into your store, hotel location or elsewhere. The key is engaging early and relevantly.
Use a mobile internal communication app to connect new hires with future colleagues
Remember how I said millennials and Gen Z workers are mobile-first and digital/social natives? The data supports this. Gen Z, for example, spends approximately 15.4 hours a week on their mobile devices, while millennials spend even more time – an average of 16.4 hours a week – on their computers.
As we’ve also seen from our own internal employee communications platform usage data, social updates garnered 77 percent of the total likes on the enterprise social network, while comments accounted for 14 percent of the total likes on the platform. Whether it’s in their personal lives or at work, employees (especially the younger generation of millennials and Gen Zers) are somewhat addicted to social media and the need to ‘like’ and comment on posts on their timelines.
Tip: Invite new hires to join the company’s dedicated app for internal communications right away, so they can start seeing what their new colleagues are posting/sharing and begin interacting with those colleagues.
Sharing is the first step to building stronger relationships
Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking for new employees. The hardest part of meeting new people can be making an introduction. And sometimes it’s easier to make introductions and start a dialogue with people over digital channels – it eases the in-person nerves and makes it more relaxed when the time comes to meet, speak and interact with each other in the real world. This is where the socially engaging nature of enterprise social networks can have many benefits. By encouraging new hires to post a ‘hello, I’ve joined’ message on internal communication mobile apps – sharing details about who they are, what role, team, division/branch and even location they will be joining, along with some personal tidbits and anecdotes about themselves - can be a great first step in forging bonds and relationships with future colleagues.
Tip: Encourage new hires to send a company-wide “Hello, I’ve arrived or I’m joining soon” type of message on the mobile internal employee communications platform to introduce themselves and provide some context on their background, role and even personal interests.
Use the buddy system
Two are stronger than one. At least, that’s what I’ve always felt. The same principle applies in the workplace - it’s essentially the concept of pairing two employees together as a means of increasing the efficiency of both individuals. More specifically, HR teams can assign an experienced employee from any department to be a designated ‘buddy’ for a new hire.
In this role, the buddy acts as a point of contact (even before the new hire’s first day at work), a confidante and a connector to other colleagues, teams and regions, as well as to relevant information that will help the new hire better align with the company’s mission, values and culture. This not only helps new hires understand the company’s vision and priorities better, but it also gives them a head start in forging digital connections and bonds with their colleagues.
Tip: Assign a buddy/mentor from within the company to welcome the new hire and answer any questions they might have about the company’s culture, required attire/uniforms, scheduling protocols and anything else they want to know.
Integrate, integrate, integrate (less is truly more)
While employees today, especially the younger generation, are multi-taskers and tend to use up to 30 apps simultaneously each day, it’s still always a good idea to make things easy for them and consolidate multiple tools/apps so they can do multiple things in a single platform. That’s where integrations come into play.
Rather than asking your new hires to use (and install, download and log into) multiple tools and apps for various HR related tasks, such as payroll, benefits, shift scheduling and more, integrate your existing tools/platforms into your internal comms software. By doing so, you make things easier to manage, more convenient and more efficient for your employees. The more efficient and happier your employees are, the more fulfilled they feel and the more loyal they’ll be to your company (and less likely to leave for a competitor).
Tip: Set up employees with logins/access to any HR, workforce management, payroll and scheduling systems prior to starting.
Written by Ragini Bhalla
A veteran in B2B content and communications, Ragini lives and breathes for storytelling, traveling (up to over 50 countries and still so many more to explore) and trying out new foods.