Podcast | How To Build Award Winning Onboarding

December 8, 2022
June 26, 2023

AND Digital won Onboarding Programme of the Year at the 2022 Learning Awards. After this episode, we’re pretty sure you’ll understand why!

​Daragh Gillen (Europe Academy and Onboarding Lead) and Harriet Perks (London Academy and Onboarding Lead) joined us live to explain how they built an authentic, effective and innovative onboarding approach that took home gold.

​Expect to learn…

​Why you should be encouraging people to make mistakes in onboarding. How to create off-the-shelf onboarding that can be personalised. The ways you can keep enjoying the onboarding process, not matter how often it happens, and much more.

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Running order

0:00 How AND Digital won Onboarding Programme of the Year.
3:57 How to leverage your brand in onboarding.
13:16 Keep enjoying the onboarding process.
18:44 The 6 C’s of onboarding.
20:26 How AND structure their onboarding process.
28:00 Pushing people to fail and feel okay doing it.
34:53 Audience question: Who owns the process.
36:50 Audience question: Getting people up to speed with tech.
46:13 When you should collect onboarding feedback.

Seven lessons on building an award-winning onboarding approach

1. Leverage your brand during onboarding

How many people applied because of your culture? Whether it’s from personal recommendations or the things they’ve read online, new employees have a set of expectations from those touchpoints.

Onboarding can help us meet them.

And incorporating your brand into the process is really helpful, especially if you make it tangible and visible.

“One of the things we do with our brand specifically is create a visible, tangible community. Even in the language we use… Every person who joins our company is an ANDi… we have AND titles, ANDiversaries. Our inductions are actually called ANDuctions.

“We have this semantic field around what it is to be in our company, that really makes you feel like you can be part of it quite quickly.” – Harriet Perks, London Academy and Onboarding Lead.

AND titles tell your colleagues a little more about you personally. For example, Harriet is London Academy and Onboarding Lead AND Intersectional Feminist.

2. Keep enjoying the onboarding experience

Onboarding can end up being a hamster wheel: You repeat the same processes, change very little, and end up feeling jaded.

AND Digital have an intentional mindset to keep growing and evolving their process, but to keep enjoying their role too.

  • They celebrate the end of each onboarding process but simultaneously look at what’s next – so they’re not resting on their laurels.
  • The onboarding team builds relationships across communities within the company, collecting continuous feedback and ideas to evolve their approach.
  • They offer their onboarding expertise to other teams in the business as they onboard in different ways.
  • And foster those personal relationships between onboarding coordinators and new employees.

“[People] always talk to us about how much they loved and remember their onboarding. For us, that has a massive impact! Because you’re led by one coordinator during that time… they’re an ear when I needed something, made me comfortable the whole first week, someone I still contact now to joke with…” – Daragh Gillen, Europe Academy and Onboarding Lead.

Onboarding touches on so much within the company – so the onboarding team connects with lots of different communities internally. Those relationships keep providing opportunities for feedback and new ideas for the onboarding team.

3. Implement the 6 C’s Of Onboarding

Compliance, Clarification, Confidence, Connection, Culture, and Checkback.

“We don’t just look at compliance. It’s about clarification of processes, ways of working, and expectations. It’s about your confidence, and do you really feel like you can succeed here?

“It’s about the culture and being fully embraced as part of that. Connections and check-ins – making sure you’re constantly giving and receiving feedback.” Harriet Perks, London Academy and Onboarding Lead.

4. How do AND Digital structure their onboarding program?

“With the growth we’re having, this off-the-shelf idea, that we have this one or three-week ANDuction for everyone that comes through, makes it easier to start with that.

“That first ANDuction aims to hit those Cs that Harriet was talking about: around culture, compliance and trying to create that feeling of belonging.” – Daragh Gillen, Europe Academy and Onboarding Lead.

After that first week, some team members go directly into their teams and business units.

But the focus for associate members and those going into new teams over the other two weeks includes:

  • Resetting people: Establishing expectations and how things are done at AND Digital, revisiting the basics to get rid of any bad habits.
  • A mini sprint challenge as a team: They’re given a task to complete as a team and then present what they’ve done over that week to the rest of the business.
  • A party and celebration: Everyone comes together for a social gathering to talk about those three weeks and get integrated with their team before going into their role.

5. Make the implicit, explicit

“One thing we do really successfully at AND is to make the implicit, explicit. It’s very easy to take things for granted, but we really break things down… we really spell out the history and how it evolved. What it means now in practice.

“It’s the same with the sessions around ambiguity and feedback, we do not assume knowledge of our business ways of working and culture. And we don’t let people discover it for themselves ad hoc. There’s real explicit support of what it looks like tangibly.”
Harriet Perks, London Academy and Onboarding Lead.

6. Create situations where people are stretched and encouraged to fail.

Sometimes, we worry too much about people feeling comfortable and not enough about them feeling competent.

At AND Digital, they intentionally move goal posts and add obstacles so that practice tasks feel like the real thing:

“That’s the most fun part… we’ll encourage people to be a cheeky product owner or not very available to recreate client interactions. ‘Can I put in a meeting?’, ‘Well, I’m not available until Wednesday’ – short little responses to test them.

“We want to push people outside their comfort zone… So when it comes to particular roles, we might ask for people who’ve never done a Scrum Master role before. It means you’ve got people who are less experienced mixing with people who are more experienced.” – Daragh Gillen, Europe Academy and Onboarding Lead.

The goal is not just for people to be challenged or to fail but to share those lessons with others at the end of onboarding.

That’s where the fun comes out, and people can understand that if these were the things they struggled with in a safe zone, we might need to work on them before doing the real thing. Safe zones can sometimes be too safe, and we have to meet that halfway.

7. Collect onboarding feedback during the process and once people are in the role

Onboarding is about setting people up for success in their role, and yet we so rarely capture feedback when people are actually doing the role.

Rather than simply collecting feedback throughout and at the end of onboarding, create touchpoints for when people have started performing their job.

Now that they’ve done it, is there anything they thought was missing or could be improved during onboarding?

“Rather than waiting until the end of the entire thing, we have these weekly retros where we get much quicker views on where things have landed… We have daily standups with our onboarding coordinator, plus regular reflection Q&A sessions.

“We give people the space regularly to be able to have one-on-ones, but feedback is definitely two-way. And by having an explicit session on feedback, we teach people how it’s done at AND and give them that expectation that it’s two-way and consistent.” Harriet Perks, London Academy and Onboarding Lead.