Strategic Onboarding – Part 5: The Personal Standard

Welcome to the fifth post in this series on strategic onboarding where we tackle the fourth of six common onboarding questions. Question #4:  How do you balance the standardized and personalized aspects of onboarding?


Imagine you are an employee showing up for your first day of work.  Surprise! Turns out that your manager is away on vacation and forgot to hand this off so nobody was expecting you.  No one set up a security pass for you either, so you spend your first hour at work getting a good view of the lobby.  And there is no desk, computer or phone waiting for you. Welcome to your first day at work for your new company.  How valued do you feel?

The best onboarding processes can fail horribly during execution.  Creating a positive onboarding experience is key to building a culture that motivates your employees.  To be effective and successful, strategic onboarding must be:

  1. standardized – in order to create a consistent experience for all new employees, and
  2. personalized – to make the onboarding experience more welcoming and meaningful.

When looking at the key components of strategic onboarding, standardization fits with forms management and tasks management, whereas the final component, socialization, pairs better with personalization.

Standardization’s purpose is to create consistent results. For instance, creating a general and pervasive understanding of the company vision, values and business objectives in new employees builds a stronger corporate work culture and promotes greater employee alignment.  You may also face strict requirements for safety and regulatory compliance.  Making sure new employees understand the importance of these requirements and their individual responsibility to comply is a must. Also ensuring managers and other key roles know and complete their tasks supporting the onboarding of a new employee is critical. Standardization helps ensure you properly welcome, engage, orient and integrate your new employees into your company.

With the basics (manager there, security badge, desk and computer) in place, personalization is the icing on the engagement cake.  Personalization used to require significant effort and often direct and sustained personal contact to pull it off successfully.  This is changing thanks to HR software solutions, which enable HR to efficiently create a personalized welcome by pulling together employee information from the applicant tracking system (ATS) and any employee profile information collected during preboarding.  For instance, HR can invite the new employee to join social and special interest groups based on their declared interests, hobbies and past activities.  Daycare services at work or nearby can be recommended for employees with children.  And questions or requests for special information from the interview or submitted afterward can be satisfied.

Additional personalized content which can be provided includes:

  • Introductions to key members of the organization including a welcome message, or better yet video, from your CEO and/or managers
  • Access to targeted ambassador communities
  • Suggested learning activities and resources specific to their job

Using HR technology makes standardizing this kind of personalized content not only possible, but highly practical.  For instance, HR can provide new employees with suggestions on where to park their car or bike, what to expect on their first day (if they should bring a lunch) and introduce/connect them to their manager/supervisor and co-workers.  Where practical and valuable, new employees can also be paired with a mentor – someone who is there to offer professional, as well as personal, support and help the new employee excel in their position and within the company.

It also pays to connect new employees with each other so that they can share their experiences and support each other.  All of this and much of what employees would describe as making up a personalized onboarding experience can be consistently delivered as part of a standardized end-to-end work process solution.

Finding the right balance of the personalization and standardization aspects of employee onboarding is something, which takes time and requires diligently mapping out the experience you want to provide, setting goals and measuring against them then incorporating feedback to keep your onboarding process relevant and effective.  HR technology facilitates all of this, enabling HR to deliver a consistent, welcoming and meaningful onboarding experience.

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