Competition for top tech talent is fierce and will only get fiercer. In an age where employees are demanding more attention be paid to diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI), that means organizations seeking to lure and retain the best and brightest need to have a comprehensive onboarding strategy.
This process of onboarding requires organizations to focus on new areas, including unbiased HR software and outreach that makes new employees feel recognized and valued.
“I believe onboarding is about demonstrating to team members that you care for them,” Leslie Jones, founder and master facilitator at SpiralMethod, told Dice. “You do that by providing new employees with time, attention, energy, and information over the course of the first weeks where you’re orienting them into the company culture, so they have an understanding of the operating principles and the expectations of the culture.”
It’s important to give new employees an awareness of the story lines within the culture they’re joining. “Awareness and buy-in is everything,” Jones said. “Honest onboarding practices give new team members a sense of the potential pitfalls they may find in your culture and what to expect when they bump up against those things.”
By consciously sharing the organization’s history, the lay of the land, and the operating principles and values, one can instill a culture of inclusion and safety. “We put ourselves in the new team member’s shoes and proactively create a feeling of inclusion,” Jones added. “We want to dispel the sense that the new team member is an outsider.”
That requires an ongoing practice to help new employees feel valued and empowered. Jones said the team must have a process for layered onboarding, which clearly explains the roles around the organizational chart, the individual’s role, and how this all fits into the organization's objectives at large.
This type of onboarding is often missing. “We throw them into the deep end and hope they’ll swim,” said Jones, who also noted that onboarding and inclusion should not be a one-time thing; there should be a regular assessment of team onboarding and how HR is managing the process.
Building a DEI Strategy
Yolanda Chase, chief diversity officer for the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA), would like to see organizations get “really explicit” about what DEI means for them. That starts at the C level: How are they going to build a strategy and define their DEI intentions, and articulate it in specific ways when it comes to onboarding?
“That includes taking steps like informing new hires about the company’s champions programs, or resource programs, talking about what they’re doing to ensure equal pay,” she said.
It’s also key to build solid mentorship programs throughout the life cycle of the employee—starting right from the beginning. Chase suggests employers should be talking to potential hires about what the onboarding process will be like, from a buddy system and employee resource groups to the benefits package. “A lot of employers don’t understand equity is a huge competitive advantage,” she said.
An updated onboarding process also has an IT layer. “That’s huge, because that’s the system organizationally supporting the onboarding process,” Chase said. “Platforms like Workday allow you to build concepts into them like adding pronouns and self-identification options. In the digital realm, it’s about having your internal tech reflect the values you’re talking about. Organizations should be infusing those through their onboarding process, and also creating new ones.”
She pointed to Workhuman, a company specializing in platform reward recognition and employee-centric recognition programs, as one platform that could be worked into the onboarding process and show employees that corporate DEI intentions are real.
It’s also incumbent on the interviewee to ask how a potential employer approaches their compensation strategy, if they do equity audits, and how those audits guarantee equity. “Ask them what their process is,” Chase said. “It might put managers on the back foot, but employees need to understand they need to be asking those questions, too.”