toolbox.com, July 21, 2021, by Ali Knapp
In today’s remote work environment, Gen Z employees do not have the luxury of traditional onboarding processes. Hence, they need an onboarding process that makes it easier for them to succeed in their new role. In this article, Ali Knapp, president, Wisetail, discusses how organizations can create such a process.
Instead of sitting down with their managers to learn about the company’s processes, expectations and culture, today’s new employees are too often thrown in the deep end to virtually tread water in our remote working environments. They rely on chat apps, emails and whatever training materials the company has put together in hopes they can figure things out on their own.
However, new hires need their employers more today than they arguably ever have. That’s especially true for the Gen Z employees that don’t yet have industry know-how or general business savvy to help them stay afloat. While advancements and improvements to virtual onboarding technology have made things a world easier in this arena, the truth is that there’s a lot more to remote onboarding than good technology and tools. It’s about creating an environment where the employee feels comfortable reaching out and getting their questions answered and is provided enough structure and process to do the job they’ve been hired to do.
The Case for Thoughtful Onboarding
There are a record number of job openings today, which means that people aren’t as likely to stick around at an organization that isn’t meeting their expectations. Furthermore, findings by The Work Institute, a research and consulting firm focused on employee engagement and retention, indicate an impending “turnover tsunami” as pandemic precautions lift. Onboarding — remote or otherwise — is the very first component of the employee experience. It paves the way for engagement and retention.
If we put ourselves in the shoes of Gen Z employees today, we realize just how different their first few days on the job are compared to what we may have experienced at the beginning of our careers. Gen Z employees need the same basic training as every new employee. But they also need help navigating the business world in general because they’ve missed out on a lot of the in-person experiences new grads are traditionally afforded. This will require employers to keep things bite-sized, be overly communicative, intentional about priorities and be more structured than they may have been pre-pandemic. Ultimately, when Gen Z gets stuck, they need to know where to go next, who to turn to and feel comfortable asking questions.
Approachability Is Key To Lasting Engagement
The first day, week, or even month at a new job is filled with moving pieces, people and data points. The most effective organizations will be able to shut out the noise and prioritize minimum viable content — in other words, the most universal and important pieces of employee onboarding for Gen Z.
For example, at Wisetail, remote onboarding for employees is paced out over four weeks and broken into two levels to remove possible confusion. We conduct a general Wisetail orientation and a separate orientation for their specific team. All of the onboarding is coordinated and well-spaced out with breaks and individual learning time so that employees feel welcomed and engaged but not drained.
It’s also important to keep communication clear and concise. Doing so can introduce a component of trust and reliability for Gen Z. In a way, onboarding new employees is a trust-building exercise. Clarity is needed because different teams bring different definitions of communication to the table, and new employees need someone to give them clear directions on how to navigate. Likewise, consistency builds trust through repetition.
Structure Makes Productivity Possible
Predictability is a good thing when it comes to new employees. Having a set schedule and structured workday introduces a level of control and familiarity that helps them feel less stressed and, in turn, freer to work productively. The last year and a half have been anything but predictable, and Gen Z has been through it all. Implementing processes that create structure will allow Gen Z to stay engaged and productive throughout the onboarding process. This reliance on the process is especially important for onboarding when it takes place remotely because it’s harder to catch employees and customers who fall through the cracks when all of their interaction is digital.
For instance, it’s much easier for an employee or customer to ghost or disengage from the process when there’s no record of getting things done or holding people accountable. When a new employee is working through the onboarding process remotely and can’t walk over to a colleague’s desk to ask a question, they’re going to lean more heavily on processes. If those processes aren’t there to help them stay focused and take the initiative, it can very quickly lead to a breakdown in culture or customer experience because an important part of the shared experience is lost.
Something else that improves Gen Z’s onboarding experience is keeping things digestible and relatable. Today’s remote new hires are increasingly susceptible to information overload, so they need their employers to break down new information into bite-sized pieces. The most common request we see at Wisetail is how to make the simplest, most streamlined user experiences so that an employee knows exactly where to start and exactly where to end. Keeping things simple will payout in the long run for employers and help new employees stay on track during the onboarding stage.
With college students graduating this spring and entering the workforce for the first time, the training and onboarding challenges will continue to increase. College grads will need the same basic training as every new employee, but employers will also need to help them navigate the business world in general. Employment market trends forecast even more job openings and fewer talented candidates as we enter post-pandemic life, which means employees cannot ignore the importance of a positive onboarding experience. Creating and maintaining a comfortable, approachable and structured workspace for remote new hires is a great way to stay ahead of the curve.