When I went to university I arrived without knowing a soul. That’s not how it works anymore. Smart universities have realized that they can get a head start on onboarding long before a new student reaches campus. Not surprisingly, the key to this is social media.
Here’s how it works. New students are invited to join a Facebook group along with other new students, resident advisors, club presidents, and the admissions officers. In the group they are encouraged to ask questions, post something about themselves and get to know other students. The admissions officers prime the pump for discussion in various ways. For example one university keeps incoming students engaged by running contests every Monday with the winners getting university-branded swag like t-shirts or flip-flops. An even easier approach to starting conversations is just to pose a question like “What did you do this weekend?”
What’s the outcome? New students—to put this in business-language—come up to full proficiency faster. They walk in with a network, better knowledge of the university, and perhaps most important of all: a sense of belonging. It also builds the university’s brand as excited incoming students share the great experience they are having.
How is this relevant to a business? What should strike you is how one of the fundamental principles of onboarding (that it starts when the employee walks in on their first day), has been made obsolete by technology. Just as recruiting has learned that finding talent can begin long before you have an open job requisition (by building the employment brand and talent pools of prospective candidates), so too onboarding need not wait until new employees arrive on-site.
HR should look at the four pillars of onboarding: administration, networking, information, and transmission of culture and consider which ones can be built into the process even before someone starts work—just as the universities have done. Once employees do arrive, they can be introduced into your existing onboarding software to take them through the rest of the process.
It does not take a lot of work to add some pre-hire onboarding to your process. It pays off in terms of faster time to proficiency and improved brand. Take the time to give someone on your team responsibility for taking the first steps to modernize and extend your onboarding process.