Persona-Powered Onboarding for Better Employee Engagement and Retention

By Joel Raper

Imagine starting a new job where digital interfaces replace the comfort of friendly introductions and in-person guidance. Many who are now working in hybrid or remote roles have already experienced it.

The hybrid digital workplace is rewriting the rules of onboarding. While a hybrid model offers the flexibility to work from anywhere, it also brings the challenge of creating a cohesive and inclusive experience for new hires.

The essence of onboarding, once a straightforward process of on-site training sessions, device provisioning, and team lunches, now faces a transformative era. Without the nuances of face-to-face interactions, new employees can sometimes feel isolated, trying to make sense of the company’s culture, human resources (HR) workflows, and technology tools all while working literally outside a traditional workplace environment.

To address these challenges, organizations are transforming their onboarding strategies. HR and IT leaders emphasize creating robust digital onboarding platforms; integrating team-building activities suitable for remote settings; and ensuring that every new hire feels connected, valued, and equipped to thrive in their new role, even without a physical presence.

Tailored Solutions for Diverse Needs

Onboarding today is more than just handing out new laptops. The process begins before an employee’s first day, offering them the opportunity to select equipment and familiarize themselves with company culture, enabling immediate connections with other employees and new hires.

Beyond an introduction to company values and processes, however, modern onboarding offers an entirely tailored—or persona-based—experience, often involving digital platforms customized for every new hire, directing them to vital resources and fostering connections. Simultaneously, a persona-based approach includes specialized technologies, trainings, and resources that align with distinct job roles.

Examples of Persona-Based Onboarding

Remote software developer:

  • Preselected tech stack tutorials reinforcing standard coding procedures and access to code repositories.
  • Virtual coffee breaks with current team members.
  • One-on-one virtual mentoring sessions with a team leader in order to establish alignment with the company’s coding best practices.

Regional sales manager for a territory far from corporate headquarters:

  • Office tour and team meet-and-greets via augmented reality technology.
  • Immediate inclusion in hybrid sales meetings and client interaction simulations.
  • An established on-site “buddy” to partner with during the first week.

Manufacturing associate on the factory floor:

  • A mobile app that serves as a one-stop shop for all required HR workflows, accessible at any time.
  • Remotely deployed device provisioning to enable productivity from day one.
  • A blend of live in-person trainings for complex tasks and safety policies, and virtual modules with evergreen information and resources.

Global marketing team member based in the U.K.:

  • Tailored compliance training based on U.K. regulations.
  • Time-zone-adjusted virtual town halls.
  • Localized training content to help them understand market-specific sales strategies.

U.S.-based customer support representative:

  • Access to customer interaction simulations and CRM
  • Virtual team-building exercises with U.S. and global support teams.
  • Cultural sensitivity training designed for a diverse customer base.

A successful onboarding process in this landscape recognizes the individuality of each new hire. While every employee requires a solid comprehension of company tools, culture, and objectives, the nuances of their experiences and expectations can vary widely by persona. These idiosyncrasies intersect to create custom onboarding experiences, designed as deep dives that align with individual learning styles, demographics, and company roles.

The Importance of Dynamic Tools

So how can HR and line-of-business managers begin to understand each relevant onboarding persona and their respective needs?

You don’t need to start from scratch—digital experience management tools and their insights are pivotal in shaping personalized onboarding experiences during the first 90 days of employment. Organizations can craft journeys that resonate with each persona by aggregating device performance feedback with employee engagement and sentiment metrics.

In this environment, the goal is consistent: to ensure each newcomer feels seamlessly integrated and satisfied. Through iterative feedback loops and adaptive platforms, the onboarding experience becomes a journey that keeps refining itself.

Such a proactive stance doesn’t only cater to immediate onboarding needs. It also positions companies at the cutting edge, crafting a digital workplace experience that’s truly inclusive and primed for productivity in the long term.

A Balanced Approach

Yet amidst all this technology and data-driven personalization, organizations must not lose sight of the human essence of onboarding. The challenge—and indeed, the opportunity—lies in seamlessly weaving together the digital and the human (the “phygital”). Achieving this balance could involve virtual team-building activities, mentorship opportunities, or collaborative projects designed to foster a sense of community and connection.

The hybrid digital workplace requires balancing digital solutions’ scalability and personal connections’ intimacy. By embracing persona-based onboarding solutions, you can help ensure that every employee begins their journey with a sense of purpose, belonging, and excitement, regardless of where they work.

The Future of Hybrid Onboarding

The hybrid workplace combines the best of both worlds: the opportunity for purposeful in-person collaboration and remote flexibility. The challenge lies in preserving the personal touch and ensuring that employees feel connected and valued, no matter where they are located. This blended model necessitates an evolved approach to onboarding, one that’s persona-based, inclusive, and engaging.

Onboarding is no longer just about acclimating new hires to their roles or company tools. It’s also about creating an inclusive experience that instills a sense of belonging. Through thoughtful strategies, innovative tools, and an emphasis on genuine human connections, you can deliver an onboarding experience that takes your hybrid workplace—and your business—to the next level.

Joel Raper is senior vice president and general manager, digital workplace solutions, at Unisys.

Learn more about crafting a persona-powered hybrid workplace here.

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