Stop Onboarding Like It’s 1970! Employee Onboarding Best Practices and Tips from HR Expert Cyndy Trivella

Neil Miller

September 30th, 2016 employee onboarding  

employee onboarding tips

We’ve been focusing on employee onboarding recently and reaching out to experts and real practitioners. This week, we spoke with Cyndy Trivella at SmartSearch, Inc to get some insights into onboarding. Here are some of the onboarding tips she had to share.

Employee Onboarding Tips & Onboarding best practices

What has been your experience with employee onboarding, Cyndy?

I’ve been doing advertising, marketing, and communications for over 20 years now. At one time, I was a branch manager of an ad agency which meant I had to hire people, take them on board, and train them.

My first job out of college was of a training and development coordinator. I continued to work somehow, someway around the fields of HR. Eventually I ended up working for a client of mine in HR, marketing and communications. A few years later, I went to work with a competitor agency and moved my way up to the branch manager. That’s where I was responsible for hiring, training, and taking people on board.

What are some of the struggles managers face with onboarding new employees?

Unfortunately, we didn’t have any automation at my disposal when onboarding a new employee. I wish I had.

One of the biggest challenges is with skipped dates. In an employee onboarding process, there are certain steps placed at defined intervals. onboarding automation can definitely help in that capacity, instead of depending on humans to be a calendar for such processes – when are touchpoints due, what interval is coming up next, etc.

I, for one, can definitely see the value in onboarding automation and it can be incredibly beneficial. It certainly helps to keep people organized; it helps people to avoid things slipping through a crack.

Ultimately, when employees are new to an organization, they keep a keen eye on watching how they are being treated. When things are forgotten, they make mental notes about the company. This doesn’t help in company’s employer branding image or to help fortify the organization’s culture.

I’m a believer that onboarding begins at the very first touchpoint you have with the candidate. How you put your presence forward with the candidate, the initial communication, etc. all matters even before the person even becomes an employee of that organization. Good recruiters/hiring managers start onboarding at that very first touchpoint.

Automated technology/communication helps doing it in a timely fashion and with some amount of humanity is going to affect company’s employer brand, the public perception, and the culture.

Where do companies usually see the first cracks or stress points in a manual onboarding process?

It usually begins when a hiring manager or HR personnel has an emergency come up – who’s going to take up that job? Usually, automation is something multiple people can access. Somebody else can easily and quickly go into a software application, pull up what’s happening on that day, and attend to it accordingly. The onboarding program is a process that is usually set up on the backend. Applying that process at the proper intervals during an onboarding is what makes it all work. So it’s really a two-step process; developing how your process and touchpoints are going to look like and automating/streamlining that process.

How important is communication across departments?

One of the things about hiring people today is you need to hire people in a way that they want to be hired and onboarded. So if a company is using an old-school system – one that is not automated, one that slows down the process, one that makes difficult for people to complete paperwork – it’s not practical in today’s day and age. Oftentimes, paperwork can be provided through mobile technology, for example. That makes the process very streamlined and helps to eliminate tedious paperwork.

By having automation, applicable people can get into the system and see what needs to be done, see what has been done, see who’s the next responsible person in the step. Everybody can get on the same page. This way, even the candidates understand everything that’s going on and they are kept in the loop. It’s all part in the welcoming process which begins even before the candidates walk in the door and sit down at their desks.

What about documentation? How often do you have to refer back to someone’s initial onboarding to make sure something was done, or to make an audit?

There is a two-step process; you’ve got getting your processes in order and automating the processes. I have worked with many client companies in the past to help them create their onboarding processes. Some companies had a 9 month onboarding program, some had a 12 month program, some even had a 2 year program. I don’t believe any of them used automated onboarding technology, and so the onboarding process was really labour-intensive.

One of the clients that we administered the onboarding program for was a healthcare facility and they hired between 300-400 people a year. Because they didn’t have any effective automated onboarding software in place, I had to hire someone to manage the onboarding. We are talking about buying a software versus hiring a person that had benefits, salaries, all that goes along with that, and we had to onboard her too!

As you interact with clients now, what’s your main advice for building a new system?

Think about what the goal is. Whether it’s manageable within the conscience of your company’s practices and philosophies. Always stick to your company’s mission, vision and values. That’s always a big mantra of mine. When hiring people, hire them in the way they want to be hired. You can’t use 1970s style of hiring when you’re trying to hire people in 2016; it’s not going to work because that doesn’t communicate to them on a level that resonates with them, which means you’re going to have a lot of open positions for a very long time. It also doesn’t do much to convey your employer brand nor does it uphold your culture in a very positive fashion. However, if your culture doesn’t have a lot of positives, then you need to revert back to looking at your employer brand and putting up a philosophy or a program, or some kind of tactic that’s going to build that out.

Thanks, Cyndy, for a great conversation. You can view her profile here.