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Reimagining our New Hire Onboarding Experience

The experience during a new hires’ first few weeks at an organization is critical. Alexandra, our North America Onboarding Lead, reflects on the process of pivoting to a remote experience and shares what new hires can expect from our program.

Alexandra Oates
Alexandra Oates

 

Welcoming new hires into an organization has always been a challenge, but in recent years companies have started to realize the importance of the function and invest in great experiences. As the North America Lead for Onboarding at Publicis Sapient, that’s been my focus for a few years now.

A Publicis Sapient, we have been running a structured Onboarding experience for over 25 years, with a multi-day, in-person orientation being our new hires’ favorite aspect.

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COVID-19 hit and prohibited us from gathering in person. But while our hiring continued, Onboarding couldn’t slow down. We pivoted our approach and adapted our ways to remote working. My team encountered five key learnings as we reimagined the Onboarding experience for our new hires.

 

"Facilitating networking, purposefully and thoughtfully, is done at the local level to give our new hires the most meaningful experience."

 

Get Comfortable with New Tools

Like many companies, Publicis Sapient has adopted a bevy of new tools to facilitate remote working.  Zoom connects us face to face, Microsoft Teams channels information to the right audiences, and MURAL allows us to recreate many collaborative processes. We’ve learned how to help our new hires get comfortable with these tools quickly, by incorporating them into our Onboarding on Day 1.

Zoom Fatigue is Real

There is a growing recognition that “zoom fatigue” is a problem, as our brains work overtime to process virtual communication1. 8 hours in a classroom just doesn’t translate into 8 hours in virtual training. In response to this, our all-day training sessions have become a series of modules that are spread out across many days. These modules are no longer than 90 minutes, and we ensure there are breaks of at least 2 hours between them.

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Cultural Onboarding Needs to be a Primary Focus

While Onboarding should be informative about business strategy, tools, or policy, the cultural aspect cannot be forgotten. We know that actively managed cultures increase employee retention2. Like learning a language by moving to another country, so much of learning a company culture is through immersion in it. Deliberate, thoughtful, and purposeful conversations about culture, values, and goals during Onboarding help us achieve this.

Agile is a Mindset

It’s not just developers or project managers who should embrace agile principles. Agile teaches us to welcome change, prioritize speed and nimble iterations, and be fanatical about continuous improvement. We actively solicit feedback from every participant and iterate on the program every time it is run. Through this, we have piloted new tools, webinars, and agendas.

Think Globally but Act Locally

Our Onboarding framework is fairly standardized across the globe, but Onboarding is not one-size-fits-all. In a matrixed organization like Publicis Sapient, relationships are key to a successful career. Facilitating networking, purposefully and thoughtfully, is done at the local level to give our new hires the most meaningful experience.

Personally, I take great joy in welcoming new hires to Publicis Sapient, partly because of my own career journey here. In the past 13 years, I have been given great mentoring, opportunities to grow, and the encouragement to think big and take risks. I regularly get to work with leaders who embody our core values, and I am lucky to call a lot of people here not just colleagues, but friends. For me, joining Publicis Sapient opened up a world of possibility, and I hope the same for every new hire coming in the door.

Alexandra Oates
Alexandra Oates
North America Onboarding Manager
Alexandra graduated from Boston University and joined PS right out of school. Since joining, she has taken on roles in Operations, Staffing & Capacity, and Learning & Talent Development. She has worked in 26 different offices around the globe and is looking forward to the day she gets to visit number 27.

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