Onboarding Done Right: Six Pro Tips from Companies with Distributed Workforces

Onboarding done right has a measurable impact on ROI not only through the increased retention of key talent but also through enhanced productivity and, as a result, improved customer satisfaction. So, following on the question of what it takes companies to successfully onboard their distributed workforce, we’re excited to share with you these six pro tips from leading global organizations. Buckle up as Rallyware drives you through real business cases so that you can propel your onboarding forward!

1. Glanbia: You can’t afford to forget about the people working in the field.

Glanbia is a sports nutrition company that operates in 32 countries and distributes its products across more than 130 countries. Having fueled its business growth through multiple mergers and acquisitions, the number of people working in the field exponentially grew as well. Felicia Kohlenberger, former Senior Director of Human Resources at Glanbia, traveled a lot to meet new team members and ensure that everybody performed in line with Glanbia’s goals.

“We need to get everyone involved and make them feel like they are part of the larger organization. We can’t afford to forget about the people working in the field,” Kohlenberger commented. For this reason, Glanbia launched its talent acquisition platform called “MyCareer” that supports the field through ongoing development in the right place and at the right time. This solution includes a recruitment management system and a comprehensive onboarding experience to empower every member of the distributed team to continuously grow right from their first steps.

2. Evernote: Treat your field like they’re part of the core workforce.

Evernote, a tech corporation famous for developing a notetaking app, can boast its voluminous mobile workforce in the U.S., Japan, Switzerland, and other countries. Norman Happ, SVP of Sales, Customer Success, & Partnerships at Evernote, says that distributed teams need to be equipped with “the right infrastructure, the right boundaries, and the right level of support” to ensure success both for them and the company. Besides, there have to be strong interpersonal relationships with their leaders and peers.  

My experience is, you have to treat them all like employees and you really make sure that you invest the time to ensure that they understand the company’s mission, the company values, and what we’re strategically trying to accomplish. If you treat them like second-class citizens or somebody who’s not part of the core workforce, I think really the results begin to reflect that disconnect.

To avoid this disconnect that negatively impacts the bottom line, Happ says that Evernote pays a lot of attention to clear, holistic onboarding, using its Evernote Business tool. They say that your company is as good as your employees are. But when it comes to a distributed workforce, a company is only as good as the tools it provides its teams. “I want to make sure that we get the same experience, and so I know that we’re both heavily engaged,” says Happ. Similar to how regular employees have all the necessary tools on hand, distributed workforces should have the same resources incorporated into a single solution to avoid confusion and the loss of important information.

3. PepsiCo: Provide consistent information about responsibilities, goals, and expectations.

The worldwide presence of PepsiCo, with a global workforce of 263 thousand, calls for an effective onboarding process. In 2016, the company looked at its current strategic initiatives, seeing the need to “do a better job of onboarding.” Alison Hansen, director at PepsiCo University, reported at the annual meeting that new recruits across the globe “were not receiving consistent information about their new job responsibilities, how to meet goals, and how the company operates.”

PepsiCo had too many tools, so a large part of the information was scattered and difficult to find. That’s why the company implemented an eLearning and onboarding solution to ensure “a great experience where everybody gets on the same page and has the same fundamentals.” The onboarding process was segmented into four weeks, including a step-by-step immersion into the company culture, business priorities and goals, compliance requirements, potential career paths, and specific information related to each individual’s responsibilities.

“We think a good onboarding program is a big part of retention. If they [new recruits] came in the right way and had connections to other people then you can get them to be productive faster,” sums up Hansen.

4. HP: Offer your workforce a continuous but invisible training path.

As a company that highly depends on its salespeople, HP faced the challenge of keeping new recruits as well as the existing workforce well-trained without sacrificing their time and productivity. “We knew we had to insinuate our training into their [distributed salesforces] busy lives by giving them easy access to modules on the exact topic they required right at the moment they need it,” said Carol Cohen, former learning program manager at HP. “Since most salespeople are mobile, that content needed to be mobile-ready so they could access it while in the field. We must provide them with a continuous but invisible training path that enables them to bring training into their workday in a seamless manner,” continued Cohen, explaining how HP came up with a personalized, just-in-time training solution for its workforce.

In addition to developing invisible training paths, HP launched a social business platform called HP Connections to get new salespeople up to speed and increase their productivity through instant, seamless access to peer-to-peer knowledge. “Imagine almost a hundred thousand salespeople in the center like Saturn with the rings of knowledge and expertise orbiting around them,” said Carol, explaining the benefits of social learning within a company.

5. Ecolab: The Buddy Program and a field ride-along experience will power up successful onboarding.

Ecolab, the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies that operates in 170+ countries and employs 47,000 people, approaches onboarding thoroughly, with an onboarding process that lasts for up to a year. Apart from providing new recruits with clear expectations, company vision, and ongoing upskilling, Ecolab focuses extensively on ongoing support through communities.

“Having one or two close contacts can be a powerful driver of initial job satisfaction,” says Jennifer Shofner, senior talent manager at Ecolab. For this reason, the company offers a Buddy program that assigns “networking agents” to help new recruits answer their day-to-day questions and decrease the ramp-up time.

To avoid the feeling of alienation during the onboarding stage, Ecolab practices a field ride-along experience that better illustrates a day in the life of a salesperson. This way, new recruits also get a better understanding of how their job contributes to the company’s goals.

6. IBM: Effective onboarding cannot be covered in a traditional 30-day time period.

One of IBM’s peculiar features is its elaborate onboarding process. The company has an HR team solely responsible for the employee onboarding experience. The onboarding process is divided into two stages: pre-onboarding and a two-year support program.

The preliminary stage takes new recruits to a social onboarding community called Soon 2B Blue to introduce them to IBM’s history, company culture, compliance policies, and other critical information. This is followed by the participation in Succeeding@IBM—a personalized, two-year onboarding program aimed at helping new recruits succeed as an IBMers. Since this program is customized to meet each individual’s needs, new recruits’ experiences will be also different depending on their responsibilities and progress. Succeeding@IBM allows new recruits to communicate with subject-experts and mentors as well as outline different learning paths depending on what they pursue. Such a prolonged onboarding experience prevents recruits from experiencing information overload and helps them to develop supportive relationships with managers and peers.

At Rallyware, we ensure the effective onboarding and continuous growth of distributed workforces for companies around the globe by developing customized data-driven learning solutions. Our platform guides new recruits to success from their first day, prescribing the right business activities at the right time to the right people. Ongoing upskilling is supported by just-in-time training, personalized paths to success, peer communities, social learning capabilities and real-time reports on performance progress.

Get a demo of Rallyware’s platform to see how smart-triggering the right activity for the right person at the right time has been driving business results for the leading companies with large workforces, at scale.