Intelligent Onboarding: How Early-Stage Engagement Helps Boost Employee Retention

Change Lives

In this article featuring commentary from Elisa Dovio – People Change & Learning Analytics Owner and Amedeo Moscaroli – Talent Management & Employer Branding Owner at Gi Group Holding, we explore how well-planned, people-focused onboarding processes can get employees’ work experience off to a good start and boost long-term commitment and retention.

Onboarding is the first step of any company’s employee lifecycle. It is a process that gives a profound first impression of how a business cares for its people and in many ways represents a first step in a promise to new hires that the organisation wants to support employees in doing their jobs well and giving them a voice in how it delivers its services. At Gi Group Holding, onboarding processes also include training in how new workers can help fulfil the basic tenet of the company’s employer value proposition (EVP) – which is to #changelives.

Gi Group Holding delivers a well-planned, consistent process throughout its onboarding programmes. This consists of two phases: a pre-onboarding and an onboarding segment. The pre-onboarding phase begins once the employment contract is signed and concludes on the first day of the given worker’s employment. In their pre-onboarding efforts, Gi Group Holding teams focus on building a relationship with the future employee, helping them prepare for their new career journey as part of a committed peer group and work collective. This involves delivery of basic information about the company (its brands and divisions, overarching company values, the Gi Group Holding mission, etc.), while also having discussions about the new employee’s needs: what do they expect from their job, where do they feel they might need to strengthen their skills?

As someone with an extensive background in HR, I believe that onboarding represents a key moment in an employee’s life. These are people who have just made an important career change and are embarking on a crucial, delicate transition: both on a professional and personal level. Bearing this in mind, our company teams feel it is our responsibility to provide the best onboarding experience possible – for both signed hires and persons just beginning in their new roles. For me, the pre-onboarding and onboarding processes at Gi Group Holding are intrinsically connected: success in one ensures high probability of success in the other,

Beginning with the first day on the job, the standard onboarding phase begins and lasts for two months. This allows department leaders and team managers to guide the new employee through work processes; assisting them in fully understanding the company culture, what tools and support mechanisms are in place to facilitate their work, what career development opportunities there are, and what standards for work delivery the company adheres to. New employees receive a boost in acclimatisation at this time through the Gi Group Holding Welcome Onboard e-learning tool, which offers a deep dive into the mission/vision messages, previously mentioned support tools and process clarifications. The overall onboarding programme culminates in a 3-day, live induction session for new employees. These take place twice a year and involve both the newest employees at the country and global levels and include presentations from the Holding’s strategic committee as well as special opportunities for our new teammates to network and create deeper relationships.
“The difference with our onboarding process at Gi Group Holding is how seriously we take it. We invest large amounts of passion and care into designing and implementing these programmes, because we believe they are crucial to engaging new hires and making sure they feel welcome and valued in our company. That is why we decided to invest in a digital tool that lets us create a constant communications workflow with future and newly-started employees. Our onboarding process centres on addressing people’s needs, listening to new hires, and trying to support them in successfully facing the most common challenges presented by a new role,” clarifies Elisa Dovio – People Change & Learning Analytics Owner at Gi Group Holding.

People Come First

Onboarding processes at Gi Group Holding focus on creating and maintaining a human touch. The company prides itself on making highly-personalised connections with new employees: ones that help foster a sense of belonging that can only be achieved by developing sincere, honest connections between people as colleagues and peers. Manager and colleague support is vital during the first months in a new role. “It is important here to underscore how much connections mean within our organisation. We ensure that new employees see the value they have for their teams, understand that they are appreciated and truly feel so, and finally identify with the company’s mission, values and purpose and clearly see how they live out those promises and commitments in their daily work,” adds Elisa Dovio.

Onboarding Is a Living Process

The Gi Group Holding team is committed to a functional, agile and adaptable approach to employee onboarding. Process designers and managers review onboarding structures regularly and always base any changes on the content of employee feedback. This includes insights given throughout the actual phases of the onboarding process as well as information collected during in-depth interviews dedicated to process analysis. This follow-up enables the programming team to map and react to employee challenges and struggles, while adjusting plans for future onboarding communications such that they deliver better, more targeted support to all future hires being onboarded. “After the launch of our new digital onboarding programme, we have continued to update its phases and improve the content. Thanks to new employees’ unique and invaluable feedback (e.g. through their survey responses), we edited questionnaire content which helped deliver new perspectives and allowed us to add more meaningful insights to our onboarding materials; for example, in refreshing our FAQ documents. This also allowed us to forge deeper, meaningful connections with our new people and transform the onboarding process from a one-way communication path to a mutually beneficial dialogue. We built a mechanism where people have the possibility to express their opinions and feel they are heard. They see very quickly that they are playing an important role in contributing to the company and enhancing service delivery,” explains Amedeo Moscaroli.

One thing I would highlight here is our efforts to react to feedback and use it to enhance the employee onboarding experience. In particular, we are now making adjustments to programmes for internal mobility roles so that we can react quickly to our colleagues’ needs and support them with a buddy system where fellow employees individuals transition from different departments, countries or areas within the company,

A Commitment to Doing Right by Employees

Feedback from employees shows that company processes are perceived as useful, supportive and friendly. New colleagues appreciate the welcome they receive when joining teams at Gi Group Holding. Figures from measurement and tracking tools point out that greater investment in the programmes is paying off. Tracking figures for engagement rates show that employee net promoter scores – ENPS (how likely an employee would be to advise friends or family to work for Gi Group Holding) are trending positive. ENPS figures for the average company ranked at 21 in 2023, while new hires involved in the Gi Group Holding onboarding process gave mean ratings of 55. This helps the company achieve very high retention rates and boosts satisfied new colleagues’ willingness to take on roles as external ambassadors. Gi Group Holding currently runs a Super Ambassador programme, which it promotes during its Global Induction events. This is an activity that new employees have been constantly enthusiastic about and willing to participate in. This level of passion and engagement does a lot to fuel our future talent attraction and recruitment processes.

Ultimately, our teams at Gi Group Holding look to management of onboarding processes with a long-term view. “Onboarding is a good start for helping people find an employee experience aligned with what they were told during the recruitment process. Done well, it forms a good basis for maintaining high retention levels, which is vitally important. We are living through a period of drastic changes in the labour market. Businesses face candidate and skills shortages. Nowadays, people as candidates have multiple work opportunities from the job market, and THEY choose which employer to work for, not the other way around. So the better employee experience you offer, the greater the chance you have of retaining your people and attracting top talent. Since we adopted our new pre-onboarding process, drop-off rates during this phase have been almost zero. This is a great achievement and benefit for Gi Group Holding,” concludes Amedeo Moscaroli.
We are proud of the passion and enthusiasm of our new hires and newly-promoted colleagues; however, we aspire to have our onboarding programmes also have a broader meaning: by helping employees work better. Our onboarding managers commit themselves to ensuring that new employees understand the company’s mission and values, while coupling that with learning tools and best practice in smart ways to work so that it is easy for new recruits to get up to speed and excel in their roles. Gi Group Holding teams deliver the know-how for new employees to not only be happy, but also productive and effective in their professional lives; which in turn comes round to contribute to their overall happiness at the workplace. And satisfied, fulfilled and engaged workers help create a company driven by people committed to delivering quality services: ones that change lives.

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