Building Hybrid Onboarding Programs and Practices

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Onboarding is an organization’s opportunity to leave new hires with a positive first impression of organizational values and culture. Especially as new hires navigate the uncertainty of the future of workplace environments, onboarding needs to serve as an inclusive, engaging, and positive experience that makes reps excited about their decision to join an organization.

As a fundamental aspect and core function of sales enablement, the effectiveness of onboarding cannot be left to chance amid changing workplaces. Rather, it is important for practitioners to intentionally build programs that are both flexible and agile as companies transition to hybrid and in-person work environments.

Onboarding is pivotal to the success and productivity of new hires, and practitioners can enhance the impact of onboarding on new rep performance by incorporating lessons learned from the past year. To craft inclusive and effective onboarding programs, keep in mind these three best practices.

Embrace Feedback

All of the changes that are occurring in the world of work are new for everyone, including both reps and enablement practitioners. As such, it is important that organizations implement feedback loops and open lines of communication to learn and iterate quickly. With continuous feedback, hybrid onboarding programs can evolve and improve as organizations gain insights from those going through the programs.

When gathering feedback on onboarding programs, practitioners can ask the following questions:

  • Do new hires retain the right information from hybrid onboarding programs?
  • Is the content engaging?
  • Do new hires want to participate in onboarding, or does onboarding just feel like another task?
  • Is onboarding setting people up for success?
  • Does onboarding give new hires a strong sense of the organizational culture?

“Survey the people that are going through your onboarding program and see what worked and what didn’t work,” said Stephanie Middaugh, senior sales enablement manager at Zoom. “Ask what they wish they had more of or wish they had less of, and take that back to your team.”

In addition to gaining feedback from new hires, enablement can also look to managers to assess how onboarding translates into the everyday performance and success of the reps on their teams. This can help add context of practical applications to the qualitative feedback of individual reps.

“Make sure that you have that open communication, not just with the new hires that are coming through your program, but also the managers that are managing them on the end of things too,” said Middaugh.

By creating feedback loops and open communication, both new hires and enablement can embrace a learning mindset to refine program design and iterate as best practices for hybrid onboarding are established moving forward.

Create Inclusive Environments

A common challenge to hybrid environments is the need to balance accommodations for both in-person and virtual environments. Since the reps going through hybrid onboarding might be in different locations, enablement needs to prioritize crafting inclusive onboarding experiences that help new hires feel comfortable whether they are in-person or tuning in virtually.

To adequately accommodate new reps, programs can be designed to include an onboarding facilitator in the office to support those who are in person as well as a virtual facilitator to help guide breakout rooms and monitor questions or comments that arise for those participating in sessions virtually.

“It’s going to be a good combination of that hybrid approach of how do we leverage the technology that we use internally to make sure that we give people the same experience, whether they’re in the office or not,” said Middaugh.

Regardless of virtual or in-person settings, onboarding programs should prioritize conversation and discussion to foster an open and communicative environment. This means that the bonding experiences that are often in person need to be designed to involve opportunities to participate and build relationships for those in the virtual sphere as well.

For instance, in-person happy hours or dinners can include a virtual component at the beginning, where organizations can send those who are virtual a gift card for a meal or beverage. Then, enablement can facilitate an activity or interactive game that involves those both in person and virtual. It is vital to the success of new hires to build connections with colleagues, which means hybrid programs must include activities that help reduce silos between those participating in different environments. Enablement can further enhance this connection by implementing regular one-on-one check-ins with all new hires to ensure they are having a positive experience in the onboarding program, and give them an opportunity to raise any questions or concerns.

“It’s important that we do get a moment to connect with somebody, even if it is over the phone,” said Brent Boeckman, head of revenue enablement at GoodData.

Foster Agility

The past year has cemented the fact that flexibility and agility are the best weapons for combating immense change. As onboarding continues to define itself with the ever-changing norms of workplace engagement, programs need to remain adaptable and agile.

“I am a big believer that an onboarding program should never be written in stone,” said Middaugh. “It should always be iterated against and continually improved upon because your market’s always going to change. The new hires coming in the door are always going to change.”

It is impossible to plan for the unknown. The next best approach is to be prepared for the inherent transitions ahead and create onboarding programs that have the flexibility to adapt to new situations and new business needs.

“In a profession like enablement, we get thrown a lot of curveballs, so just be flexible with your methods, but persistent with what your end goal is,” said Middaugh.

By prioritizing the goals of onboarding as opposed to the specific methods to reach those goals, onboarding programs will be prepared to deliver the right knowledge and skills for new hires, regardless of the environment.

“You don’t know what you don’t know, and you need to figure out as much as you can,” said Boeckman.

Since the transition to hybrid work environments is an omnipresent challenge in the business world, practitioners can find camaraderie by turning to peer networks both internally and externally to find solutions together. Connecting with those in similar roles or with those who have similar resources and challenges can help practitioners learn new approaches, brainstorm solutions to challenges, and ultimately develop innovative onboarding strategies.

“A lot of times, you may not even get an answer from somebody, but it may spark some other idea for you, and just being able to leverage that and understanding that we’re all trying to do the best that we can is important,” said Boeckman.

By fostering connection and agility, sales enablement can think creatively, uncover insights on what works, and bring those strategic insights back to their organizations to craft successful hybrid onboarding practices.

“I think it’s just listening, just keeping your ear to the ground as much as possible,” said Boeckman.“We don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like. We don’t know what next month is going to look like. There’s only so much that we can plan for.”

In the midst of change and transition, effective onboarding programs become even more important to the success of organizations. Learning from the past year is pivotal to redefining the nature of onboarding as work environments continue to evolve. With feedback loops, inclusive environments, goal-driven mindsets, and agility, practitioners can create onboarding programs that are engaging and efficient.

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