Overcoming Onboarding Uncertainty in 2022

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An effective onboarding program is where employee engagement begins. With the “Great Resignation” still looming and the ongoing uncertainty of the future ramifications of the global pandemic, onboarding and the need for heightened employee retention remains a critical part of any organization’s goals heading into 2022.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to learn about the new starter and also for us to start walking the walk in terms of the vision that we set out during the interview process and to show that we really do live our company values,” said Nick Pilditch, director of sales enablement at Advanced.

For sales enablement practitioners, now is a perfect time to reflect and adjust the onboarding process for sellers to help alleviate pressures both for new hires and internal stakeholders. As the look and feel of work environments shift, the models should also help welcome new employees by meeting them where they are.

For sales reps especially, the need to orient and understand the company, its products, services, capabilities, and culture is critical to kick off the new role in a meaningful and impactful way.

Here are four tips for building out an effective onboarding experience even through uncertainty in 2022.

Remember Who is at the Heart of Onboarding

Much attention goes into the recruiting and hiring process, but it doesn’t end when the job offer is accepted. Organizations want to ensure they’ve made a suitable investment and so do new employees. At the heart of every successful onboarding program is an understanding of the needs and wants of the new employees.

“An effective sales onboarding program really puts the seller at the heart of their own onboarding, giving them the opportunity to own it, drive it, and feel empowered and confident throughout,” said Claire Scull, vice president of global sales at Cello Health. “It’s making things available to them when they need them in the right format, so they feel comfortable and confident with their onboarding into the organization.”

One solution can be to ensure enough time is built into the onboarding process to achieve all the necessary goals while avoiding burn-out.

“We try and build in time for the individual to digest information,” said Pilditch. “There’s a lot of information they’re taking on, so creating time to relax, to meet their team, and socialize is important.”

It’s also crucial that new hires feel welcome from their first day to get a real sense of the company culture from the jump. Incorporating the elements that make a culture stand out can also be leveraged in the onboarding experience. For example, investing in mental health and wellbeing through workshops and seminars can help demonstrate to new hires that an organization values them as people and puts their needs first as they navigate the change of joining a new company.

Investing in the time and resources to make an onboarding experience impactful will ensure the employee is prepared for optimal performance in their day-to-day role. Still, it’s as crucial to signal to the employee that they did make the right decision in joining the organization and that everyone on the team is just as invested in them as they are in the company.

“At Sendcloud, our onboarding program is combined in a 120-day plan to ensure that after sellers are successfully ramped, they are enabled and empowered toward their own success,” said Catherina Giese, sales enablement specialist at Sendcloud.

Building Connection and Community From the Start

With remote and hybrid work quickly becoming a mainstay across organizations, one of the ways to combat any trepidation around building an onboarding program today is to construct the program around the considerations taken in both a virtual and in-person setting. In doing so, the structure is imperative, as balancing between time spent in live sessions and on-demand, self-guided learning can greatly impact engagement and reduce fatigue.

Another way to combat fatigue or distance is to incorporate fun into the experience. Making the onboarding program engaging for all will amplify the excitement of a new opportunity, help reps meet new people, and introduce participants to the overall work culture. Creating a community that builds throughout the employee’s journey is a tool not to be overlooked, and one of the ways to do that is to consider making cohorts within the onboarding experience.

“Whether it is face-to-face, whether it’s virtual, bring that community of new hire sellers together so that they can help and support each other and learn from each other in that new community,” said Scull.

Mentorship programs are also a tool to leverage so new hires can have a more personalized experience and foster even more profound, meaningful connections with other colleagues. Whether that mentor is somebody specifically in their onboarding cohort or on their respective team, they can serve as a key contributor in a successful ramp-up to the employee’s role. Implementing a mentorship program can provide meaningful connection, support, and offer a more resounding welcome to the new employee.

Refine Tools and Generate On-Demand Capabilities

While enabling new employees to feel acclimated to the company, the culture, and the product or service, one of the key goals and metrics of a successful onboarding program is decreasing ramp time. For enablement practitioners, creating real-time, on-demand capabilities can create a more seamless experience for new hires. Technology is a critical tool that can be leveraged and adapted to the organization’s specific needs of its employees in the onboarding process.

“Technology is really important, but it’s how we use it for the benefit of the audience who’s going to be receiving the information from it,” said Scull.

Microlearning, Scull noted, is one way to engage new hires by leveraging technology. Incorporating more bite-sized or modular content in the form of short videos, quizzes to check knowledge, or short readings that can be referenced and returned to can reinforce learning quickly.

“[New hires] need to quickly be able to go and pull the information to help them go back to the client or prepare for a meeting,” said Scull. “A platform that provides them with access to information and knowledge at the point of need when they want or need it [is important].”

In sales enablement, the need to personalize and tailor an approach to be specific to the situation, person, or stage at any given time is essential. Leveraging technology that encourages a more data-driven approach to help retain knowledge and ensure success is something that will continue to grow.

“When you look at some of the sales enablement platforms that are out there, they’re building the onboarding training into real-world, real-life applications,” said Pilditch.

Feedback for a Better Experience at Every Turn

As with any other training and sales program, it’s beneficial to both the seller and the enablement teams not to be afraid to try things out. But measuring the impact and ultimate success of an employee’s onboarding experience will help quell uncertainty on adapting or improving the overall experience.

“If something isn’t working, we can’t be too stubborn about it,” said Pilditch. “We need to change it. Let’s figure it out early and fix it. We will make mistakes. That’s part of the charm of working in sales enablement.”

Tracking employee engagement over the onboarding period is a way to prioritize and ultimately decide where to take the program next. Quantifiable measures like surveys or even real-time feedback built into the program can help determine the common gaps or successes of the program.

“We all want to reduce the time it takes to onboard our sellers,” said Pilditch. “We want them out there winning new logos and helping grow the business, but you can’t rush that.”

Onboarding is never just a one-and-done deal. It’s crucial for practitioners to prioritize continuous improvement in order to help drive sellers toward success and build confidence in their decision to join the team.

“Never forget that you also started at one point,” said Giese. “Put yourself in the shoes of a new hire because it can be very overwhelming at the time. Having the right expectations, communication, and transparency at the beginning is the first big milestone, and remember to have a good relationship and a fun relationship between a new hire and the company.”

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