Blog Articles

Tips for Keeping Your HR Strategy People-First

How HR can champion an approach that values each employee as an individual

Robin Nichols, Managing Editor @ 360Learning

by Robin Nichols, Managing Editor @ 360Learning - May 12th, 2021


Throughout the employee lifecycle, workers want to be treated as people—not as ID numbers, salaries, or quotas. 

And companies that get this right reap the rewards. As Kris Boesch, founder and CEO of Choose People explains, “culture-driven organizations experience 26 percent fewer mistakes, 22 percent higher productivity, 41 percent lower absenteeism, and 30 percent stronger customer satisfaction than other businesses.”

But how can HR professionals develop these people-first strategies in practice? With everything HR and L&D teams have to manage, how can they ensure they champion an approach that values each employee as an individual?

360Learning, GoCo, and Together teamed up during a recent webinar to offer advice for doing just this. We’ll explore the highlights below.

1. Don’t skimp on onboarding

Onboarding is a crucial phase of the employee journey. 

Though many managers might be tempted to cut corners during the first 90 days to get new hires up and running ASAP, this is a mistake: Not only does 20% of employee turnover happen in the first 45 days, according to OfficeVibe, but 58% of employees that have positive onboarding experiences are more likely to still be at their company three years later (Wynhurst Group).

Unfortunately, only 12% of employees strongly agree their organization does a great job of onboarding (Gallup).  The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t make this any easier, but the stakes are still just as high—if not higher—for companies onboarding new hires remotely.

But let’s step back a minute: What does ‘great’ onboarding actually look like? 

Great onboarding experiences are personal

Onboarding is like the honeymoon phase of marriage—if both parties aren’t feeling on top of the world, there’s a problem. Employees should feel welcomed, excited, and full of optimism about their new adventure. This kind of great onboarding needs to be:

  • Clear: Employees shouldn’t be guessing about where their desk is, what meetings they should be in, or which papers they need to sign.

  • Robust: One week does not an onboarding make. A good 90 days, with plenty of courses, introductions, and training sessions, is standard.

  • Personal: This is the most important aspect of a truly great onboarding experience. Companies that take an interest in their new hires’ personal interests, preferences, and context will be rewarded with motivated employees that champion the brand.

But HR teams aren’t superheroes with unlimited time. There’s a host of critical tasks, like payroll and compliance paperwork, providing basic resources like computers, and initiation training that all have to happen before HR can even think about adding a personal touch to onboarding.

This is where automation can change the game.

Focus on the person behind the paperwork (with automation)

Solutions like GoCo let you ‘climb the HR ladder of needs’, so to speak. They automate away the essential administrative tasks like collecting I9s and W4s, to make room for you to create customized onboarding experiences. With the time saved through automating workflows, preboarding, and collecting hiring packets, HR managers can:

  • Send a personalized swag bag. If you include questions in the hiring packet like, ‘what’s your go-to snack?’ or ‘your all-time favorite movie?’, you can send little goodies unique to each new hire. This is a great way to make someone feel welcome and appreciated as an individual.

  • Immerse the new hire in the company culture: Every organization has its own culture, norms, and set of expectations. Some explicit and others implicit. New hires appreciate being shown the ropes personally, so they can settle in without worrying about making a faux pas or rubbing a new colleague the wrong way.

  • Do a personality inventory:  Though personality tests aren’t ideal for assessing candidates during the hiring process, they can be useful tools for getting to know them after they’ve accepted an offer. Tests like Birkman, CliftonStrengths, or even a simple Buzzfeed quiz can help managers and peers get to know the preferences and interests of a new teammate.

With that kind of personal attention to detail, new hires will really feel welcome and excited to join your company—and chances are, they’ll stick around for longer.

But what about employees who are fully onboarded and have been around the block at your workplace? Maybe they’re itching to explore new areas of interest, or they’ve identified a skills gap that could really help them grow professionally. How do you ensure employees feel like they’re continuously learning at work?

2. Let your employees drive their own learning 

In traditional workplaces, employee learning is a top-down phenomenon. Upper management determines what training employees need, and, in the most restrictive cases, imposes rigid programs on their workforce.

This isn’t a very people-first approach to learning and professional development. Especially according to Adult Learning Theory, most employees want to feel more actively involved in the learning process. Here are a few ways L&D teams can use learning platforms like 360Learning to empower employees:

  • Use bottom-up learning needs analysis. Instead of relying on upper management to decide what employees should be learning, give your workforce the means to decide this for themselves. Diversity training, compliance training, soft-skills training...let your employees declare where there are skills gaps.

  • Empower employees to collaborate on course creation: When subject-matter experts within your company contribute to creating contextually relevant courses, everybody benefits. Skip off-the self SCORM content and opt for the institutional knowledge your workforce is eager to share.

  • Integrate peer feedback at every step: Give learners a voice by providing them with forums, reaction buttons, surveys, or any other way to provide feedback around course creation and iteration. Your training programs will stay up-to-date and highly engaging.

  • Recognize those that participate: Bake in recognition of employees that contribute, either by sharing their learning needs, working on courses, or contributing feedback to make them even better.

All of these approaches are part of a bigger methodology for learning: Collaborative Learning. It’s a model that puts employees at the heart of the learning process, and relies on individual initiative, feedback, and knowledge to make it work. It’s an excellent way for HR departments to express that learning is something employees actively drive, not something that happens ‘to them’.

Bottom line? Listen to your people.

It really comes down to treating people as individuals—and that’s made infinitely easier with the right tools. Platforms that let you automate low-value tasks and connect the people in your workplace in meaningful ways not only creates a smooth experience for individual contributors, it saves time across the board for your HR team.

To deep-dive into these topics, including the role of mentorship in driving a people-first HR strategy, be sure to check out our webinar replay, here.