In the latest episode of Process Street’s Employee Onboarding Podcast, we’re diving deep into the fascinating world of employee onboarding, guided by the insights of Vicki Ulinici, a seasoned HR enthusiast and career coach.
Hosted by Erin Rice from Process Street, we’ll explore a myriad of strategies and best practices that are reshaping how companies welcome and integrate new hires.
From discussing the evolving landscape of onboarding to understanding the importance of pre-boarding, this episode is a treasure trove of knowledge for HR professionals and business leaders alike.
Join us as we unpack the key takeaways from this enlightening conversation. Here’s a brief overview of the topics covered:
- Introduction to the Podcast and Guests: Erin Rice sets the stage for a comprehensive discussion on onboarding with Vicki Ulinici, highlighting her rich experience in HR.
- Ice Breaker and Personal Interests: A light-hearted start with Vicki sharing her recent reading interests, providing a personal touch to the conversation.
- Deep Dive into Employee Onboarding: Vicki discusses her current role and her approach to various HR processes, focusing on employee engagement and satisfaction.
- Personal Onboarding Experience: Insights into Vicki’s memorable onboarding experience at her current company, emphasizing the tailored approach and support she received.
- Exploring Pre-boarding and its Impact on Onboarding: The significance of pre-boarding activities and how they contribute to a successful onboarding process.
- Ensuring Success in Early Onboarding: Tips and strategies for new hires to navigate their initial onboarding phase successfully.
- Onboarding in Various Working Arrangements: Discussing how Vicki’s company adapts onboarding for hybrid, remote, and in-person work settings.
- The Future of Onboarding and Closing Thoughts: Vicki shares her vision for the future of onboarding, focusing on gamification, cross-departmental involvement, and the integration of AI tools.
Introducing Vicki Ulinici, HR Expert
Welcome to The Employee Onboarding Podcast, where we unpack great onboarding ideas and best practices from the world’s top HR practitioners and thought leaders. At Process Street, that starts with our mission to make recurring work fun, fast, and faultless for teams everywhere.
My name is Erin Rice, and I’m the People & Operations Coordinator here at Process Street. Today, I’m joined by Vicki Ulinici.
Vicki is a passionate HR enthusiast and career coach with over a decade of experience. She discovered her love for HR at a young age when she participated in NGOs with dedicated HR departments. It was there that she conducted interviews, recruited new members, designed onboarding and training programs, and developed initiatives to enhance motivation and engagement.
Later, she would go on to work for a recruitment agency where she honed her skills and talent acquisition before transitioning to a business consulting firm. That was when Vicki had the chance to take charge of the entire HR department, overseeing recruitment processes implementing Employer Branding initiatives, facilitating onboarding and training, conducting appraisal reviews, and handling exit procedures.
She has worked for two different entities in two different countries, further expanding her cross-cultural understanding. Currently, Vicki’s main focus as an HR professional is employer branding, and employee experience and engagement.
Ice Breaker and Personal Interests
I’m so happy to be part of this.
So before we dive in, I’d like to ask a question. You know, just to sort of get everybody comfortable. What is the last book that you read or currently reading?
I’m currently reading the basics for financial education, which is Rich Dad, Poor Dad. And it’s different from what I’m usually reading. But it’s nice because it was part of a course for financial freedom for women. And I’m learning stuff about budgets. So I really recommend it for those who want to learn more.
That’s amazing. So, just really paving the way to have financial freedom.
Yes. This is regeneration now, especially the young generation. I think that’s what everybody in this world is after.
Deep Dive into Employee Onboarding
Yes, great. So, what we really came here for: employee onboarding. So why don’t you share a little bit about your current position in your company. And maybe the different projects that you’re working on?
Yes. So, as you mentioned, at my current company, when I started, I was doing recruitment injuries. After that, I transitioned to employer branding, and development, then to engagement. I covered most of the HR processes at my current company.
But now I’m more focused on engagement processes and everything that is related to employee satisfaction, and how we can retain them. Also, I’m helping with the employer branding strategy. And basically, these are the three main processes that I am covering now.
Personal Onboarding Experience
Great. So, joining your current company, can you share a little bit about your onboarding experience with the company?
Yes, it was around five and a half years ago. And still, it was a memorable experience because I felt important during the process. My onboarding process was an experience and was very tailored to my role, and it involved a lot of research, a lot of job shadowing, which was very nice. And I had that during the whole onboarding process, which usually is around three months.
At our company, it really differs depending on the department. But still, usually, we have a checklist and we have activities that should happen during three months, so I had a lot of support during this. And I was even allowed to make some mistakes because usually, people are afraid they will make a mistake or something like that. But I had constant support, and it was nice that I wasn’t thrown directly into the work because I was doing some job shadowing at the beginning, which really helped.
Some things that I remember, which were like, maybe a “wow” experience:
First of all, during the onboarding period, in the first days, I was given an office where I was introduced to all the employees, which are over 100. This made me feel welcomed and important.
After that, I was invited to have lunch with my colleagues, which was very important for me to feel like I was part of a team. Because I wasn’t eating alone! I didn’t know anyone, so it was nice having it like this. I felt important and heard, which is very important for a new employee to have this kind of experience.
Exploring Pre-boarding and its Impact on Onboarding
So are you familiar with the term pre-boarding?
Well, everything that is happening before the person is hired, I guess this is pre-boarding, yeah?
Yes, definitely. What would you say is the role that pre-boarding plays in onboarding?
Well, I think that pre-boarding is very important. And many companies, they don’t, and they don’t see this as an essential part of the process. Because they think that once the job offer is accepted, and let’s say that the new employee’s starting, like in two weeks or in one month, they don’t do anything during this period, and they just expect the person to start.
But during and from our experience, we understood that it’s very important to be in constant communication with the new employee because it shows that you care and you want the employee to be part of the team, which means maybe giving some access to some study materials or sending that onboarding agenda. So because many employees have many candidates, they still browse jobs, even if they have already accepted your offer.
So that ‘s really important. If you’re in constant communication, during this pre-boarding period, you’re on the top of their mind, and they feel that they are important, and you expect them to join. So it’s very important, this constant support and communication before the starting date.
Absolutely, you don’t want to lose them to the competition before they even start.
Ensuring Success in Early Onboarding
Are there any tips that you would or could or do share after somebody does start their onboarding process to ensure that they’re successful in those first few weeks, or maybe three months of their onboarding?
Usually, we encourage them to be proactive and try to ask as many questions as possible. Because this period when they’re sent out, they are just getting to repeat and they’re learning because you cannot take the reality of one company and implement it, like the whole process to you, it’s very different, so we give them time to understand to get into the process.
We recommend they also show initiative, and willingness to connect with team members just not to stay in their corner, but if they want to be part of the team, they need to get involved in some meetings and in some office events depending on what’s happening.
It’s also important for the new hires because there is a thin line between asking many questions and being mindful of the manager’s time because we had experienced one meeting where the person wasn’t really listening or taking notes, and they were asking the same questions again and again.
This is also not what we are encouraging because you also need to ask questions when you have a difficult situation, but you also need to take some time and do maybe some research by yourself.
Or it’s like finding the balance between this job but also being proactive; seeking answers independently, but turning to the team again when you have difficult moments.
Onboarding in Various Working Arrangements
Absolutely. And is your company a hybrid company fully remote or all in person?
We have all the free working your range. We have hybrid for the local because we have offices in some countries. And our biggest office is in Moldova. And here we have a hybrid work arrangement. But we also have a lot of full-time freelancers, let’s say, contractors, and they are like fully remote. we have all the regions.
And how does your onboarding vary based on how much time you get with them in person?
Well, it doesn’t. The only thing that may change is the format of the meetings. If the person is local, near the office, we might have some training and some meetings in the office. If it’s remote, it just happens online.
But we still do all the items from our onboarding checklist. We don’t miss a single task. The only things that might vary are some employee benefits. But usually, we don’t want to make the onboarding process different.
That’s awesome. Do the remote people also get access to the social things that you talked about? Like lunches and that kind of stuff?
We have those. We sometimes do in-person team lunches, and we sometimes do coffee breaks or “Happy Hour” or similar things like that. For example, on Fridays we just connect and talk on random topics.
The Future of Onboarding and Closing Thoughts
So tell me a little bit about where do you see onboarding going in the future? It’s changed so much, you know, since COVID even. And it’s rapidly changing with the introduction of tools that are AI-based. I’m very curious to hear, you know, after 10 years of experience in this industry, where do you think onboarding is going?
Recently, I came across an intriguing article on onboarding that coincided with our scheduled call. The article discussed an innovative approach to onboarding, transforming it into a gamified process. This approach is fascinating because it extends beyond traditional training methods, involving new hires in various tasks and levels they need to complete to successfully onboard. This gamification aspect is particularly appealing to the newer generation entering the workforce, who come with high expectations and a desire for engaging experiences.
The concept of gamification in onboarding isn’t just about making the process fun; it’s about making it memorable and interactive. New hires are given assignments that encourage them to step out of their comfort zones and actively participate in their learning journey. This method of onboarding can involve competitive elements like completing specific tasks or setting up meetings, which requires active engagement and initiative from the new employees.
Another critical aspect that I believe is often overlooked in the onboarding process is the involvement of people from various departments. Traditionally, onboarding is seen as a predominantly HR-driven process. However, incorporating individuals from different departments can enrich the onboarding experience. This cross-functional interaction allows new hires to gain diverse perspectives and understand how to collaborate with various teams. It also allows employees from these departments to contribute to and possibly improve the onboarding process.
Moreover, many companies are beginning to automate certain aspects of onboarding, such as using video presentations or interactive step-by-step guides. This automation is beneficial but there’s still much to be explored and implemented in terms of making onboarding more effective and engaging. The future of onboarding is promising, with innovations like gamification and cross-departmental involvement, and I’m excited to see how these developments will enhance the onboarding experience.
Yeah, absolutely. I love that idea of turning onboarding into a game, because you’re exactly right. This next generation entering the workforce is going to have very high expectations of us and, and life is, you know, coincides with work. And work has to be fun.
Yes, I agree with that. And you need to get pleasure from what you’re doing. And if you’re not, then it’s because you need to invest around 40 hours per week. And if you’re not having fun, and you’re not passionate about what you’re doing well said, and it’s only going to take, you know, a handful of companies to gamify their onboarding, to encourage and sort of force everyone else into that path.
Because then when you’re comparing, you know, apples to apples, it’s going to be apples to oranges, and the companies that are onboarding the old boring way, like we did with manuals, when we first started out, are not going to have a competitive edge anymore.
Yes, that’s true. And especially because the onboarding period, it’s, it’s called, like the honeymoon for the new employees. And they’re very excited during this period.
That’s amazing. That was gonna be my last question. What is that key, “wow” moment, but you’re exactly right. Like having that buy-in and being able to sort of carry that through their entire employment is going to be super key.
Yes, but also in terms of a “wow” thing for new hires is that it’s nice when companies can provide freedom. I like to do all the jobs because many micromanage, or they track each task. But it’s nice when the new hire is coming. And he feels that he has the freedom to do his job. And he’s not monitored so strictly, so he can come up with initiatives and creativity.