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AI can be a valuable tool to improve the onboarding process for new hires. Onboarding is critical because roughly 90% of employees decide with the first six months whether to stay or leave a company, and 20% leave within the first 45 days. AI can shape the onboarding experience for each employee, for a hyper-personalized feeling.

Only 12% of employees found that their organization does a good job with the onboarding experience[i].

About 90% of us decide whether we stay at a company during those critical first six months (the average time we need to onboard) and about 20% of us leave during the first 45 days[ii].

Making people feel seen and supported even before they begin and offering them a warm jacuzzi to ease into before the work intensity starts, is the single best predictor of how long an employee remains at their job, her sustained level of engagement, and her willingness to be a Brand Ambassador during her off-hours.

The full range of multimodal AI combine powerfully to give the new joiner a highly personalized, energetic and distinctly Human welcome to a new role, whether it’s their first or their tenth.

Everyone who joins an organization has their own unique journey. Some people are moving from another country, with children and a trailing spouse, who need schools, housing and a bit of cultural training. Some are insiders transitioning roles. And some are still in school engaging in their first working experience, desperate for structure and advice on how working life works.

In a perfect world, onboarding starts well before your first day at the office. The best time to gather excitement for a new job is before you start it. You’ve signed the contracts, uploaded your financial information and performed the background checks, and your new job starts in ten days’ time.  

Thanks to AI, we have the opportunity to hyper-personalize the employee experience, from the moment they express interest in a vacancy to the moment they leave the organization, and open the door to their return as a “boomerang”.

Let’s look at an example of AI-Powered onboarding. Imagine you’re starting a new job in about ten days’ time. On “Day -10” the employee engagement begins with AI-assisted personalized communication. Whether there’s an employee app, external social feed, or just a good old-fashioned series of incoming emails, every day you receive a new message with just a little bit of information. A short message will pop into your inbox, there to inform you and excite you about the new community you’re joining. Make you feel good about your decision to choose this job over any of the other offers out there in a market which is still very much in favor of the job-seeker.

Your AI-Powered HRBP will know the kind of information you will need, as you will fall into one of a number of pre-designed onboarding personas. Are you an executive moving her family to a high-level role from another country? Likely you will receive a daily drip of relocation information, spousal support, access to third-party services and activities that aren’t currently covered by the company relocation division.

Are you an intern starting a new position with no previous corporate experience? You might feel better prepared with an upgraded tutorial series about basic workplace expectations, an explanation of company culture, teamwork, how to use the socials, how to dress, behave during video calls… all those little things you’re “supposed to know” before you start you first job but no one ever tells you.

During the course of your “pre-week”, you might receive a virtual tour of the office, who the receptionists are, the administrative paperwork so you can hit the ground running, forms to complete to check out your laptop, an upload area for your badge photo, credentials and more. A video to welcome you from your team. A welcome from the café barista talking about the types of coffees and teas available, and the baked goods he’s most proud of. A schedule of upcoming social events, extra-curricular activities you might want to join or clubs to check out. The week’s menu at the cafeteria. How to reserve meeting rooms. A link to the CEO Weekly Podcast where he speaks to you in your local language. The interactive org chart so you can start learning the names of your team members, stakeholders and associates. An overview of the special interest clubs, running groups, exercise classes, and the Lunch-and-Learn schedule for the coming half year.

Onboarding material is built based on the needs of a number of various New Joiner personas; for every newcomer, there will be a path right for her, exposing her to the most relevant material, at the right time, in the right order, in a steady, digestible stream. This is the best way to prevent total cognitive overload and short-term memory loss, anxiety and lack of confidence that often accompany those first few weeks of work.

A partial onboarding persona list might include…

Boomerang Bob: an employ who has left the company and re-joined between 2-10 years after his initial employment period. He will already know most of the company basic information, tooling and processes, or might just need a reminder.

Erin Entry-Level: a recent graduate or intern who is joining a company for the first time, has only ever studied or worked at a Starbucks, who requires guidance on generic company policies, procedures, tooling, stakeholders and expectations.

Meghan Manager: an individual transitioning into a managerial role, needing support (but not micromanagement) understanding company-specific leadership responsibilities and processes.

Ronny Remote: an employee hired in another country without the expectation of joining the physical context in the future. This employee is “Onboarding in the Dark”, and will require more guidance than others in building relationships with colleagues not immediately in his working team[iii].

Iris International: someone relocating from another country, requiring assistance with immigration, cultural adaptation, housing, schools for the kids, support for a trailing spouse as well as specific policies and benefits for expat employees.

Connie Contractor: an external contractor or freelancer working closely with the organization, needing a streamlined onboarding process that provides access to necessary systems, project-specific information and alignment with company values and expectations without exposure to sensitive information or political sub-plots.

Tony Technical: a new employee in a highly technical role, such as a software development or data science, requiring highly specialised onboarding for particular tools, systems and internal practices.

Carl Customer-Facing: an employee in retail, service, sales, or customer support, needing onboarding focused on understanding customer needs, product knowledge, active listening, effective communication and relationship-building skills.

Deskless Don: a field, delivery or factory worker who does not have access to a desktop computer in his daily work, is not in the company headquarters, and likely works in shifts. This worker might not log in to the company website but will have an employee app that is his main contact point with general and personalised communications.

This list is further segmented by Business Unit, location, contract type and combination. A new joiner, for instance, could be a deskless worker working from a remote location, a customer-facing embedded consultant and international who is not a native English speaker, all at the same time.

Each of these professionals – and their combined subsets – have a unique path to onboarding that keep them in the “zone” of appropriately engaged, supported and informed with relevant information that is just enough given where they are coming from, that allows them to pull at the threads of their learning rather as they’re ready for the next level rather than asking them to drink from a fire hydrant.

The latter condition is defined as “NonBoarding”, which is the act of doing nothing at all, having no pre-designed pathways in place and expecting people to understand everything immediately, gracefully and cheerfully within 4-6 weeks without making mistakes in the process[iv].

Reach out to me for advice – I have a few nice tricks up my sleeve to help guide you on your way, as well as a few “insiders’ links” I can share to get you that free trial version you need to get started.

No eyeballs to read or watch? Just listen.

The Working Humans Podcast

Working Humans is a bi-monthly podcast focusing on the AI and Human connection at work. The goal is to help leaders and teams understand and integrate AI, understand each other, and be their best at work. The task is to empower and equip the non-technical professional with knowledge and tools for the transformation ahead.

About Fiona Passantino

Fiona is an AI Integration Specialist, coming at it from the Human approach; via Culture, Engagement and Communications. She is a frequent speaker, workshop facilitator and trainer.

Fiona helps leaders and teams engage, inspire and connect; empowered through our new technologies, to bring our best selves to work. She is a speaker, facilitator, trainer, executive coach, podcaster blogger, YouTuber and the author of the Comic Books for Executives series. Her next book, “AI-Powered”, is due for release soon.