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Onboarding in a virtual world: SocialTalent Live

The world of work has never looked so different. As we continue to optimize and orient ourselves to the new-normal, it’s important to bolster our knowledge on the processes which have changed most. That’s why we launched SocialTalent Live, an online event dedicated to bringing the learning of SocialTalent to life. In this edition we discussed virtual onboarding. Gathering together keynote speakers and an expert panel, we spent two hours dissecting the topic of remote onboarding. The result? A catalogue of actionable tactics and insights from the industry professionals who know the score.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most important lessons.

Remote onboarding

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A people-centric approach to onboarding

With Anjana Sreedevi, the Global Onboarding Design and Delivery Leader at IBM.

Having been tasked with reimagining IBM’s onboarding process, even prior to the pandemic, Anjana and her team asked themselves a very simple question – what does good onboarding design look like? And the overwhelming focus was to make sure the end user was always at the center of the program. This empathy based approach had to be the crux. Even before COVID hit, Anjana’s team had been revolutionizing the digital onboarding experience to personalize and tailor it – something that stood to them when change hit. 

Their primary goal then was to ensure that new hires were comfortable and engaged, reducing areas of anxiety and stress that can be associated with starting a job and the uncertainty during the pandemic. “Communication was key,” Anjana stated. IBM wanted staff to feel integrated and connected, even when being onboarded digitally. Their proactive, “you’re an IBMer from the moment you say yes” approach, allowed them to build rapport before day one. Jumping on from this, they created many initiatives to immerse new hires, like culture-based networks and personalized virtual support to buoy them emotionally during high-impact moments. All elements that keep the user fully in mind.

During the pandemic, IBM virtually onboarded twenty-six thousand people and 93% of them reported feeling welcome. An incredible result that is testament to the effort put in to ensure that people come first. But Anjana left us with a very important nugget – “fail fast, learn and iterate.” It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but IBM continued to optimize the process until it was. Wise words to keep in mind as we continue to adapt to the future of work.

For more information about IBM’s onboarding restructure, find the full Gartner case study here.

Virtual onboarding

Inclusion, cohesion and alignment 

With Simon Haigh, the growth strategist and Co-Founder of Inclusion in Leadership

Simon’s talk focused on the macro issues of onboarding in a virtual world. Companies are facing many unique challenges at the moment. From improving DEI to difficulties surrounding remote work or value building, these distinctive needs can all be addressed in the recruiting and onboarding process. His first port of call surrounded alignment – which, incidentally, was selected as the second biggest obstacle for remote onboarding during our live poll. Crucial to success, Simon spoke on the need to build it into the onboarding process and ensure new hires understand the purpose, strategy and capability of the business. You have to be on the same page with this. It is intrinsic to growth and a critical component of proceedings during the onboarding stage.

The topic of inclusivity also formed an umbrella over Simon’s discussion on onboarding. It is a fundamental human right that each employee has equal access to opportunities, and onboarding can set the tone for this. In a simple, but potent sentence, Simon stated that “companies are their people” and each of these people possess unique talents and abilities. Our onboarding processes have to cater for this. And they also have to include simple, measurable and monitored approaches to ensure they are working. The ultimate goal of onboarding, according to Simon, is to empower your employees. You want them achieving their best, and it’s vital that onboarding demonstrates this goal.

Find information on future SocialTalent Live events by clicking this link.

Leadership buy-in

With our industry panel:

Jolie den Boer, the Global Director Recruitment Tech at

Steve Mair, the Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Procore

Saskja Lodemann, the Learning and Development Manager at Celonis

Our industry panels during SocialTalent Live always throw up amazing insights from so many different areas of work. But there was one thread in particular which tied Jolie, Steve and Saskja’s unique experiences with virtual onboarding together – the importance of getting executive leaders involved. Each speaker resonated with this aspect; Jolie spoke to how this personal time increases a new hire’s understanding of the organization and helps make the transition comfortable. In Steve’s own words, senior leaders “need to be all in,” and Saskja echoed these sentiments, talking about how Celonis’s C-Level executives are hugely motivated to get involved with the onboarding process because they know how important it is for growth and success. It all leads into this crucial idea of onboarding as a strategic tool. When new hires are onboarded with purpose, it benefits the company as a whole.

A lot of the discussion also related back to Anjana’s mission statement around the importance of being people centric. In both and Celonis, a buddy system is used to help employees settle in, network and ask the uncomfortable questions that might be difficult if a manager is the only contact. Storytelling was another unique onboarding avenue that Procore use to help “people get a sense of where the heart is in the company.” And this really seems to be the fundamental theme of good virtual onboarding – you have to make it personal.

Want to catch-up on the whole event? Not a problem! Find the full recording here.

Interested in learning how SocialTalent can help you optimize your onboarding processes? Get in-touch with us today. Or check out how SocialTalent is helping our customers achieve hiring excellence by reading some of our case studies.

SocialTalent is the world’s only learning platform dedicated entirely to hiring. We give teams the skills and knowledge to find, hire, onboard and engage great talent. Learn from leading industry experts on an intuitive platform that can be easily tailored to your specific needs. SocialTalent is the solution for hiring excellence. Contact us today: [email protected]

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