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How To Design Inclusive Onboarding Strategies From Day One


LAST UPDATED: 31 May, 2023

“There's no way to increase diversity if people are leaving your workplace as quickly as they are entering.”

The above is a message I often share with audiences that we are training on inclusive onboarding. When your organisation commits to increasing diversity, a part of your strategy must include inclusive recruiting practices, and another must focus on retention. And as we begin to consider retention strategies, one often overlooked space is onboarding.

Onboarding helps new employees get acquainted with your workplace, adjust to all aspects of their new role and reinforce that they have made the right decision to join your company. According to a study conducted by Enboarder, onboarding will impact the three things that employees want: progression and development, support and connection, and alignment and purpose.

Psst. To learn more about how to improve your organisation's diversity, equity, and inclusion, check out our new, three-part report to help move your company's diversity goals forward here.

Think about the onboarding experience for new hires through the lens of inclusion and equity. Onboarding is where we can systematically level the playing field, especially for employees from historically underrepresented populations, and especially in spaces where they are underrepresented in your workplace.

In other words, we can create equity in someone's employment experience by giving new employees access to certain resources during their onboarding experience.

Here are seven actions you can take to help the talent you've worked so hard to recruit have a more equitable onboarding experience. These are in no formal order of importance.

Action #1: Welcome New Hires

During the time between the offer acceptance and the first day of work, connect with them to welcome them to the team. Consider the hire experience and give new hires access to you. Don't let a significant amount of time go by without a new hire hearing from you. Remember that it's often the connection that prevents new hires from jumping ship, accepting a competing offer, and reneging on your employment offer.

Action #2: Create An Inclusive Orientation Experience

It's likely that during the hiring process, you've had one to two meetings with this individual, and you had a chance to get to know them more. If you've learned something that can make their experience more valuable for them, be sure to share this information with the facilitators of the orientation so that they can create a more welcoming space.

Every detail matters when it comes to inclusion, so don't keep good information to yourself. For example, if you have learned that your new hire brings with them lived experience intelligence in a certain area, find out if they feel comfortable with this information being shared.

Action #3: Connect To Networks

Connect the new hire to effective networks based on what they have mentioned as being important to them, like an employee resource group (ERG), a recommended mentor, a formal mentoring program, and/or a new hire buddy. Through the hiring process, you have already started learning what areas of access and networks are important to them. Use this information to make sure they have the right support networks. Don't make any assumptions about what's important to a person simply because of the way in which they identify. In other words, don't assume that a new hire wants to join a specific ERG simply because of their identity.

Action #4: Commit To A 90-Day Check-In

Encourage your recruiter and new hire to check in after their first 90 days. Throughout the hiring process, the candidate (now employee) grew to know, like, and trust the recruiter as a representative of that organisation. Leverage this relationship and encourage the new hire to open up to the recruiter about their real 90-day experience, and partner with your recruiter to do a check-in with the new employee. Use the information to learn about new ways that you can continue to create more inclusion so that they feel a better sense of belonging.

Action #5: Position Your New Hire Well Within The Organisation

You did not hire your new employee because of how they identify. You hired them because they bring great value to the role by way of their knowledge, skills, and abilities; and great value to the company by way of their perspective due to their lived experiences. Make sure the rest of the company knows this, particularly their peers in your department. Explain the value that the new hire brings and how their lived experiences increase the spectrum of perspectives and give the organisation a competitive advantage. Without this credibility, and with so many preconceived notions on how diversity plays a role in hiring, misinformation can create a disadvantage for new hires from historically underrepresented groups. When you position a new employee properly, your team will start to listen instantly. When a company sends out an announcement sharing a new hire's credentials, this is a great way of establishing credibility for the new employee within the organisation.

Action #6: Orient Your New Hire In An Inclusive Workplace Environment

Think of your culture as your intent, but the environment as the impact or outcome. Your company may have good intent (i.e., culture), but how are employees presently impacted (i.e., environment), especially employees who identify similarly to the new hire? Take a moment to reflect. Is your company, business unit, and/or department ready for increased diversity? Does it have a culture of being inclusive, and belonging to ensure that as you increase diversity, you increase retention of those who have been hired

Action #7: Share The Career Success Playbook For Your Workplace

This is my favourite onboarding tip. What are the unwritten rules to getting ahead on your team, within the department, and within the organisation? Do you have to enter exclusive networking circles? Do you have to have a certain look or presence? Do you have to say or not say certain things? What do you have to do, and who do you have to be to win the most influence and have access to the most coveted roles within your organisation?

If you do not know the answer to that, look and see who holds those roles today and learn more about how they got there. Then have that conversation with the new hire. Unveil the political game. Whether they elect to play the game or not is up to them, but at least they know about it. And if they do want to play the game, let them know what you plan to do to enable them to navigate effectively.

In Summary: Inclusive Onboarding Strategies

Give these strategies a try. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. For a template on building a more diverse team, download our DEI Toolkit with actionable checklists on gaining stakeholder buy-in, conducting equity audits, and attracting/retaining diverse talent.