Inclusive Onboarding

This resource forms a part of Illuminate Opportunity: Equity in the Workplace, a set of HR tools developed by EHRC for Alberta electricity and renewables employers.

 

Investing in onboarding a new employee helps them:

  • become productive and be successful in their role as soon as possible;
  • feel that they are a valued part of the team and organization; and,
  • have a positive first experience, influencing their long-term decision to stay.

Once you’ve selected the right employee for the role, following through by helping them feel welcome from the start is a solid investment. This is particularly true for hires from under-represented talent groups who may be the “only one” on their new team.11

Make it a team effort

A broader team effort can lead to a more positive and productive first experience for the new hire.

  • Inclusion is everyone’s responsibility: Communicate to the team that each member can play a role, provide specific examples of what this could look like, and highlight how this will benefit the team.
  • Be proactive–and positive–in preparations: In advance of the new hire’s arrival, share information about the qualities, expertise and experience the new hire brings to the organization so that they are not viewed as a “token”.  Help the team become more comfortable with a particular “difference” that the new hire may bring. Tap into the expertise of Employee Resource Groups or local service providers to lend a hand, as appropriate.
  • Promote employee networks: Invite participation in employee committees, teams and Employee Resource Groups or local service providers to lend a hand, as appropriate.
  • Promote employee networks: Invite participation in employee committees, teams and Employee Resource Groups, which can provide further support to help the individual settle in.
  • Make useful connections: Set up one-on-one meetings in the new hire’s first few weeks with people who can help welcome and support them–and to start to build their internal network. This could be individuals or leaders with whom the new hire will be collaborating. Work with the new hire to identify other relevant individuals to meet based on their expressed areas of interest.

Inclusion starts on day one

  • The little things matter: Ensure the basics – like a working computer, access to the building, etc. – are in place well in advance. Research has shown that these affect new hires’ experiences and first impressions of a workplace.12
  • Check in frequently: Having several one-on-one meetings with a new hire during the first week has been shown to have significant benefits for engagement.13
  • Offer DEI training/education early on: This reinforces that a DEI focus is part of the organization’s culture and provides the new hire with clear expectations and skills for inclusive teamwork.
  • Watch for any unintended bias: Keep an eye on, and address, any tensions or negative micro-messages that can have subtle but significant effects on how welcome new hires feel. This could include being unintentionally left off distribution lists or invitations to team social events or being skipped over at meetings when input is invited.
  • Don’t make assumptions: Avoid assuming what the new hire knows or needs – be sure to ask and remain open for questions. For example, share information about all available workplace flexibility options, rather than assuming what the employee would be interested in.
  • Celebrate small wins: Set the new hire up with activities that can allow them to contribute in line with their experience early on.
  • Gather two-way feedback: After a couple of weeks, arrange a one-on-one meeting to provide some early specific feedback to your new employee, and ask them for input on their experience of the onboarding process.

Assign a go-to "buddy"

A “buddy” can play an invaluable role in supporting the new hire’s onboarding, and in building a connection with the team.

They can:

  • Help a new hire understand the ‘unwritten rules’ of your organization’s culture.

Common “unwritten” workplace norms: These include punctuality; expectations for after-hours availability; communication with leadership; and tone of business/client meetings, including small talk, attire, roles, and decision-making processes.

  • Provide the context needed for the new hire to successfully become part of the team – such as how the team communicates, collaborates, and other team norms (such as providing feedback or handling difficult conversations).

They should:

  • Have good knowledge of the new hire’s role.
  • Be in a position–and freed up–to welcome the new hire on day one, answer questions, and dedicate a pre-specified amount of time to provide support.
  • Ideally, report to the same manager as the new hire, to facilitate access to other team members.

Young workers and collaborationMillenials and Gen Zers are used to sharing, so facilitating early opportunities to interact with others through teamwork will be invaluable. This will also help build the feeling of community and social connections that many seek from their employers, which will help engage and retain them.

Accommodate with Authenticity

  • Be prepared: Ensure all agreed-upon accommodations are in place in advance of day one. Check in with the new hire early on and a few weeks in to confirm the accommodations are working well.
  • Provide a comfortable and supportive introduction: Avoid any inappropriate “fuss” that could make a new hire feel uncomfortable and could undermine efforts to provide a respectful welcome.
    To put it in context, approach it in a similar way to how you may have provided accommodation to an existing employee returning from leave in the past.14

Everyday accommodation can help new hires start working at their best. Informal accommodations to meet the diverse needs of new hires includes:

    • Checking for major faith-based holidays when scheduling events or planning work.
    • Giving orientation information in writing in addition to orally.
    • Structuring meetings to be more inclusive (providing advance information, intentionally inviting input, etc.).
    • Being flexible, such as by making available a multi-purpose “quiet room” that could be used for prayer, mindfulness or other needs.
    • Communicating inclusively, such as asking about preferred pronouns.

How to Leverage Employee Resource Groups

Up to 90% of Fortune 500 companies have realized the value Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can bring to supporting employee inclusion.

Benefits: Increases employee engagement and retention, develops new leaders, and helps refer and reach out to high-quality and diverse talent.

Key activities: Welcome diverse hires, new hire buddy support, social events, professional/skill development opportunities, networking and sharing best practices and lessons learned.

Solicit Expertise: Employee experiences, including issues and barriers to addressing customers and understanding new markets.10

How to Onboard Inclusively

Common “unwritten” workplace norms: These include punctuality; expectations for after-hours availability; communication with leadership; and tone of business/client meetings, including small talk, attire, roles, and decision-making processes.

Young workers and collaboration: Millennials and Gen Zers are used to sharing, so facilitating early opportunities to interact with others through teamwork will be invaluable. This will also help build the feeling of community and social connections that many seek from their employers, which will help engage and retain them.

Everyday accommodation can help new hires start working at their best: Informal accommodation to meet the diverse needs of new hires includes:

  • Checking for major faith-based holidays when scheduling events or planning work.
  • Giving orientation information in writing in addition to orally.
  • Structuring meetings to be more inclusive (providing advance information, intentionally inviting input, etc.).
  • Being flexible, such as by making available a multi-purpose “quiet room” that could be used for prayer, mindfulness or other needs.
    Communicating inclusively, such as asking about preferred pronouns.

Note: According to the Conference Board of Canada only 20% of workers who have a disability require any accommodation, and the cost for doing so in 65% of cases was between $1 and $50015. Common accommodations such as flexible schedules and remote work options cost nothing. The cost of software, ergonomic chairs, and other physical accommodations is relatively small. The phenomenal strides that have been made in assistive technology, such as talk-to-text software, have made technology accommodations not only highly effective but also very cost-effective16.