Onboarding – Manager of First Impressions

This is the first in a blog series about onboarding; to read along and get updates, follow us on twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. To join our quarterly newsletter fill out the form in the right margin of this page ->

In this blog series we are going to focus on practical advice for one of the most complex, yet most common business processes.

Onboarding starts a new relationship. This is usually done in reference to a person or a business. And just like any relationship, this first experience accomplishes a lot. It sets expectations, communicates value and helps move the relationship along during the first critical moments.

The same can be said for business-to-business (B2B) companies. You will need to onboard new clients, customers and partners regularly. The trust and collaboration will be based on these preliminary transactions.

Being able to onboard well is a symptom of high performing organizations.

First impressions last forever! The onboarding process sets the expectations of the new employee, client or company. If it goes smoothly, they think things will go smoothly in the future.

Having the discipline, resources, foresight and leadership to make onboarding go smoothly is no simple feat. Oftentimes the complexity of a person or company destroys our ability to build something that works for every situation.

Nonetheless, through trial, error and sheer perseverance your teams can achieve an acceptable and delightful experience.

So how do we start?

Most designers agree that a map is a decent place to start talking about processes. Mapping out the workflow will help people understand what is being discussed along with the upstream and downstream impact. For example, if an HR role enters in a new hire name into a form; don’t make anyone type it again.

This might seem obvious, but if you’re drowning in paper forms you might not be able to see the forest through the trees.

Onboarding is a living and breathing process. It is always changing.

What happens prior to the on boarding process starting? Literally. What is the trigger to start onboarding? Did they accept an offer? Did they sign a contract? That’s a great place to start!

When they signed the contract, is that the last thing you need to get started? If not – work upstream to that contract or agreement so that you can gather the necessary information required to take on a new client/customer or teammate.

Next, how much lead time do you need?

If someone just signed a contract, how long until they have products in their hands? How long do you have to set up a new employee and prepare for their arrival? How long until they are trained?

When the first order of business is to do “all those things we didn’t do last time”, it looks like you are disorganized, your teams are disorganized and you can’t be bothered to make things better.

The stream of tasks and workflow to onboard a new employee should go as fast (or faster) than you expect the employee to also produce and contribute to the teams’ success.

And this is the most basic of all requirements for an onboarding process. You see the process should right-fit your culture and organization. Go as fast as needed for success. Not faster, nor slower. Both will cost you more than is necessary.

So hopefully mapping out the processes and seeing what needs to happen and when will start to make you look more organized. Like you care about this new relationship!

So how much of the experience of a new employee should we consider “onboarding”?

This is one of my favorite questions and it’s one of only two places left to innovate most onboarding programs. Many organizations already get the process of intake of personnel along with assignment of security and tools. Companies and teams looking to take onboarding to the next level, add security training to match their access and tool training as well. Then start career path activities and mentorship programs.

Putting these talent management basics in place at the onset of a relationship will help in very valuable ways. Things like attrition avoidance and risk mitigation. This isn’t just an investment in security, efficiency and recruiting; it’s also an investment in protecting intellectual property and talent retention.

The management of any relationship is, in entirety, onboarding.

From the moment a new relationship is formed, to the time professional ties change or sever, onboarding is happening.

If an organization has excellent ownership of internal and external processes, specifically in learning and development, there will be a continuous effort to grow and nurture relationships with and between staff.

This is also why it’s so hard to make improvements to onboarding as a process. You have employees, partners and clients participating in the process at all times.

The only time onboarding ends is when you complete offboarding. Lest we forget; if it’s important to give people access and tools, it’s probably just as important to remove their access and collect their tools.

This brings us to the next biggest innovation gap of most organization’s onboarding process.

Knowing what access, tools and skills each employee, customer or partner company has is an extremely valuable set of data. This value extends to multiple departments, processes and systems. It also keeps the information up to date for audit and reference within other processes and applications.

The easiest way to manage your most valuable assets (your people) is to capture their context when they start. Then manage the lifecycle to continue to keep this information up to date.

The opportunity cost of capturing what tools, access and skills an employee has during onboarding is too great for any organization to overlook.

As your team diversifies the skillsets needed to design and deliver great onboarding efficiency, content and procedures; the onboarding process will continue to improve. And so will your employees.

Stick with this series as we continue to explore on boarding. We’ll cover a myriad of related subjects on this topic.

Portals: Content is king!

This post is the fifth in a series about building portals for teams and groups to interact with customers. If you’re interested in reading more please follow us on twitter or subscribe in the right-hand margin of this blog —>

Now your site is up and running and you can talk to your customers and they can also participate in discussions. What comes next to provide value?

Content.

Content is what your customers want. Some examples that they might be looking for include success stories, examples of how your department or team helps people and the systems and data your teams use every day.

Consider how much information your team has. Building an interface into that information can produce some pretty unique and innovative ideas, solutions and value.

Let’s say for instance your team runs a library at a medical device manufacturer. You have access to tons of resources that most people are going to want to access and skim quickly – as well as in-depth research.

Can you extend access to the catalog via a web portal, api or guest access?

This simple integration not only saves time on employee productivity (direct access to information) – it could also lead to a more disciplined approach to product management; which translates to less risk and more profit.

Extending the data your company, team or project already leverages, adds value to your customer when they can do it themselves.

Take another situation – if you’re a bank providing financial services, surely your service partners have access to information and value your customers are begging to get at.

If you, as a bank, can offer that information, you now have a way to differentiate yourself from other local banks. Another benefit is that your partnerships grow stronger. I’ve also seen some financial institutions giving away this kind of information as a marketing tactic to attract new customers.

These integrations aren’t particularly easy. It’s not always as easy as copy-pasting an embed code from youtube. Sometimes, though, it is!

So, I echo the same thing; GO TO THE CUSTOMERS! What systems, information or things do they call your team for all the time, that they could just look up themselves?

Once you discover those things, you’ll need to determine if your software, website, whatever can integrate well. At which point you will evaluate the return-on-investment of the integration (meaning how much will you impact productivity/revenue) and the total-cost-of-ownership for this integration. Does it require a license? How about staff? Once these considerations are made, hopefully a decision can be made.

Here are some examples of common integrations being added to portals:

  1. Systems of Record
    1. Employee directory
    2. Team directory
    3. Ticket portal
    4. knowledge
    5. databases
  2. Writing
    1. How-to
    2. Company updates
    3. Team updates
    4. Project updates
    5. Fileshare
  3. Checklists
  4. Links
  5. Downloads
  6. Events/Calendars
  7. Dashboard/Reporting

Each one of these topics has complexities and considerations. Join us next week as we start exploring the fire hose of enhancement requests you’re going to start getting.

Have you been reading along? Send feedback, get involved or let us know how we’re doing!

How ERM Helps With Employee Retention

To enhance their competitiveness (or to address the expectations of stakeholders, in the case of government agencies), organizations have been investing in new and better technology for decades. These investments are generally made to meet one (or some combination of) of four primary objectives:
Technology that makes employees happy

  • to reduce costs;
  • to improve product or process quality;
  • to accelerate workflow; or
  • to enable new capabilities.

Employees were provided with and trained on the use of new technologies and tools in order to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. True, in many cases new technologies made employees jobs easier, but the primary objectives for new investments were still focused on operational and financial benefit for the enterprise. Continue reading “How ERM Helps With Employee Retention”

Four Ways to Optimize the New Employee Onboarding Process

New employees are the lifeblood of every organization. Beyond natural turnover, at some point in any enterprise it’s impossible to grow without adding people.

Implementing an organized onboarding process makes life better for both the organization and the new employee, at what is often a very stressful time. Enterprises want to get new employees settled in, up to speed, and contributing productively as quickly as possible. Employees want to get started on their jobs with minimal wait time and chaos.

And yet, “at many companies, provisioning new hires is a haphazard affair, often amounting to little more than handing out a laptop and a building pass,” according to the Wall Street Journal in How (and How Not) to Train New Staff on IT. While the WSJ article focuses on information technology issue, its recommendations can easily be expanded to encompass the entire employee onboarding process.

Have Everything Ready

According the WSJ article, “Many of the mistakes companies make come from starting too late and not having a clear ‘onboarding’ process.” While IT clearly plays a pivotal role in bringing new employees into the company (provisioning computer hardware, mobile device management, email and application access, phones, printer access and more), several other departments also need to be involved.

Employee Onboarding Process Task TreeHuman resources (HR) needs to get the employee set up with payroll, benefits, emergency contact information, training, etc. Facilities needs up to set and provision furnishings for the employee’s workspace. Accounting needs to coordinate pay- and expense-based setup tasks with HR. And so on.

What’s needed is for managers in each department to map out their onboarding tasks, approvals and deliverables, and coordinate these tasks with other departments. Then look for opportunities to automate as many of the tasks as possible to reduce labor, costs, and the potential for errors due to redundant manual data entry.

While onboarding processes will be different across departments and levels (e.g., the process for a call center operator will differ from a departmental VP), many of the same tasks still apply. So, a basic onboarding task workflow can be created, then modified as needed for various roles.

Simplify Systems Access

“One of the dumb ways of getting new employees set up is to have a complex process of approval for access to systems. New staff members can end up waiting days or weeks for managers in different departments to give them access to what they need,” according to the WSJ story.

Provisioning role-based system and application access should be part of the onboarding process flow as described above. For situations where the employee is in a new role for which systems access isn’t completely defined, or in which it’s determined after the employee starts that he or she needs access to an application that wasn’t specified in the onboarding process, incorporation of an enterprise request management (ERM) strategy (sort of an “Amazon.com” for any type of internal company service and equipment requests) can enable that access gap to be quickly filled.

Control the Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD) Chaos

As noted here previously, a properly implemented BYOD approach can both keep employees happy and reduce costs for the organization. The Journal article is spot-on that there do need to be guiderails around on the program, with both limitations and requirements clearly communicated up front, but “banning all personal devices is increasingly unrealistic.”

Training Done by Humans

“Giving someone access to an intranet site with instructions to read it and watch a few videos isn’t as effective as one-to-one training,” as the WSJ points out, but there is an even smarter approach. Pardon the cliché, but this is an area where “thinking outside the box” can really make a difference.

Rather than just considering various methods of training, consider designing new interfaces—what Forrester Research calls “systems of engagement“—on top of vital, but often complex, core enterprise applications (systems of record).

For example, a call center operator may need to utilize information from multiple applications and screens in order to answer even a few common questions. Rather than spend hours on training (regardless of the method used), build a simple interface with perhaps just a handful of clearly-labeled fields that provides the operator with the essential capabilities and information needed to resolve the customer issue while hiding all of the underlying complexity and cross-system navigation.

This approach can reduce to training time required, at least for many common tasks, to virtually zero. A simple user interface that eliminates the need for training is often the best training approach of all.

The combination of mapping the entire onboarding process flow, automating as many tasks as feasible, and doing as much of this work as possible before the employee arrives for the first day on the job, will get each new employee off to a comfortable, chaos-free and productive start as rapidly as possible.

For more information on this topic, download the white paper Business Process Automation Anywhere and Everywhere.

Automating Employee Onboarding and Provisioning Processes with Request Management

Ready, Set, Go!

Imagine that on your first day on the new job you already have your telephone, laptop, employee username/login, phone line and voice mailbox, employee email account, company iPhone, business cards, and name badge. In addition, you already have access to the appropriate databases and user groups. And to top it off—multiple departments across the organization have already been notified of your arrival. This is the ideal scenario for most organizations. As an employer, you want every new hire’s first day to be as reassuring and productive as possible.

Employee Onboarding and ProvisioningEmployee onboarding

Employee onboarding is best defined as a systematic and comprehensive approach to orienting a new employee to help them get on board.  All of this requires coordination between HR, hiring managers, IT, facilities, and other parts of the organization. 

Onboarding and provisioning the new hire

There are two parts to the employee onboarding process. The first part is known as employee onboarding, Wikipedia refers to it as “the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational contributors.” This part of the process includes HR’s protocol—company and departmental overviews, job expectations, policies and procedures, etc.

The second part of the onboarding process includes provisioning the new hire with the tangible and intangible items they will need to be productive. New hires need to have their workspaces fully provisioned with phones, computers, email accounts, and the appropriate database and application access as soon as possible.

Onboarding in large organizations

Large organizations must onboard and provision new employees quickly and efficiently in order to speed employee time-to-productivity. They need to be able to respond to onboarding and provisioning requests promptly in order to maintain an acceptable productivity level—especially imperative to organizations with many new hires and high employee turnover. If the employee onboarding and provisioning process is not fully automated, it can be tedious and time-consuming.

Benefits of automation

The benefits of automating onboarding and provisioning include less paperwork, reduced costs and increased efficiency. Automation also ensures accuracy—especially beneficial for compliance purposes—and provides a full audit trail if needed. Perhaps most importantly, new employees feel welcome and prepared in their new positions and are more confident they have the resources to quickly make an impact within the organization.

Automating onboarding with Request Management

There are several ways to automate employee onboarding and provisioning, including purpose-built applications, but using a Request Management application is perhaps the simplest and most efficient way to do it.

Request Management is the process of managing a request, from submission to follow up, in order to standardize and automate service delivery.

Request management is a key component of an actionable service catalog; it is the underlying workflow and processes that enable a service request to be reliably submitted, routed, approved, monitored, and delivered.

The benefits of using a request management application for employee onboarding include:

  • Speed the time to employee productivity.
  • Leverage a single configurable interface to orchestrate all employee onboarding and provisioning requests across multiple departments: HR, Payroll, IT, Telecom, Facilities, Security.
  • Reduce costs due to inefficiency.
  • Increase reliability and accuracy, and consistently assure legal compliance.
  • Get visibility to audit trails for compliance and reporting purposes.
  • Reduce human intervention to a minimum with user self-service.

Kinetic Request bundled with Kinetic Task has the capability to do these things and more for your organization. With the power of enterprise-wide flexibility and task management simplification, these products are a valuable asset for organizations looking to increase overall efficiency.  For more information on how these products enhance the automation experience visit Kinetic Data’s website.

In summary, employee onboarding and provisioning activities that are coordinated and orchestrated with a request management application are improved in a number of ways. The automation of these processes has proved time and time again that it is worth the investment. Companies who make the decision to streamline their procedures are rewarded with consistent cost reduction, accuracy, reliability, and cross departmental capabilities as well as increased employee productivity and satisfaction.