Creating an effective onboarding program requires a delicate balance. On the one hand, uniformity is key to onboarding, as you want to create coherence by ensuring consistent messaging and training practices across all new hires. At the same time, onboarding practices need to account for differences in gender, race, age, and ability to ensure that all employees feel welcome and included.
The best way to achieve this coveted middle ground is through a commitment to diversity.
At its core, diversity is about celebrating people’s unique perspectives and experiences, and recognizing that these differences can actually bring people together.
Numerous studies have shown that diverse workforces exhibit increased engagement, creativity, and innovation. For this reason, and many more, it’s important to build a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy for your business, beginning with the onboarding process.
Establish a Strong Foundation
One way to ensure a truly enriching onboarding experience is to create an atmosphere of inclusion that appeals to new hires before they even walk in the door.
This encompasses everything from using inclusive language in job ads to ensuring that your hiring team represents a diverse set of perspectives and has received anti-bias training. These steps help build the foundations for a thriving workplace community.
In a similar vein, being open about your business’s DEI commitments sends a strong message to prospective candidates about what your company stands for, making it easier for them to decide that your company will be a good fit for them.
If people know that their company is going to support them and empower them to be themselves at work, they are much more likely to bring all of their creativity and energy to their roles.
Openly celebrating your values makes your business attractive to candidates who share those same values, creating a positive feedback loop.
Commit to Communication
It’s important to remember that there is no single, premade framework for creating an inclusive onboarding experience.
When you give new hires the opportunity to share their questions, concerns, and feedback during the process, they feel like their voices are being heard and taken into account, which goes a long way toward making them feel comfortable and welcomed.
The buddy system is a common feature of many effective onboarding programs and is helpful at promoting inclusivity, as pairing new hires with an experienced employee who has shared intersecting experiences immediately establishes a network of trust and support.
Similarly, if an organization has an employee resource group (ERG) or similar structure, introducing new hires as soon as possible is an effective way to help them establish strong bonds with current employees.
Engaging them in 1-on-1 meetings whenever possible also helps them become more comfortable with management and with the company in general, as some individuals may feel uncomfortable addressing certain issues in more public settings.
Batching the start days of new hires is a great way to help make their first days on the job easier and more enjoyable. When new hires come into an organization with a strong shared context, they’re able to establish immediate bonds that lay the groundwork for thriving relationships down the road.
The fact that people process information in different manners and at varying paces often goes underemphasized in conversations about diversity. An onboarding process that truly works for everyone must recognize that not every employee is going to reach the same milestones at the same time.
This doesn’t mean that it’s necessary to expand the onboarding process to encompass every possible learning style. Instead, it means empowering individual employees with the tools and resources necessary to master the materials in a way that works best for them.
Putting onboarding materials into their hands and giving them time to process it and ask questions enables new hires to truly master it without feeling overwhelmed.
Finally, it’s crucial to remember that the best onboarding experiences are not only comfortable and informative but enjoyable as well.
Taking classic employee appreciation activities such as welcome gifts and personalizing them by opting for suppliers that share your organization’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals provides powerful, tangible evidence of your organization’s broader mission. In doing so, it promotes a more direct emotional connection to company values.
Diversity Can Be Your Company’s Strongest Asset
Onboarding is a critical stage in the hiring process, one that sets the tone for an employee’s future performance and relationships at work. In fact, 90% of employees decide whether they’ll remain with a company within the first six months of work.
If employees don’t feel that their workplace supports their unique needs, they may find it difficult to thrive, let alone stay.
An onboarding process that demonstrates a real commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion ensures that your business nurtures the widest possible range of strengths and competencies. When understood as a foundational commitment that benefits every aspect of a business, diversity can become a company’s strongest asset.
About the Author
Tara Milburn is the Founder and CEO of Ethical Swag, a sustainable branding company specializing in helping HR professionals achieve their ESG goals through eco-friendly onboarding and employee recognition initiatives.