What Behavioral Science Tells us About Efficient Onboarding of the Distributed Workforces

Perhaps one of the most prominent experts on behavior patterns and consequent shifts in those patterns, Sigmund Freud, once wrote that “out of your vulnerabilities will come to your strength.” This is applicable on so many levels, especially given the current climate. What we have witnessed is an entire world made vulnerable. And yet, as we begin to emerge, post-pandemic we are seeing new strengths that prior to COVID-19 were still only vaguely defined. This rings true of people as well—everything from finding new ways of working, to more creatively balancing jobs/family lives, to adapting technologically. Our collective vulnerabilities, as Freud would have, forced us into stronger positions and spurred critical changes in behavior.

But we are not out of the woods yet. While yes, we have seen a positive change as a result of this crisis, we have also seen a need to assimilate ourselves to a whole “new normal,” as so many have noted. And as far as companies go, particularly those with a distributed workforce, this has prompted many to rethink their approaches to onboarding, training, as well as reskilling and upskilling.

As we move forward, leaders and managers are going to need to find ways to motivate those who might be pandemic-weary. Especially in onboarding new team members and doing so from a distributed workforce perspective, they have to integrate the kinds of resources that will most effectively bring about positive behavioral attitudes and shifts, such that contribute to enhanced overall productivity. Below are several strategies, informed by behavioral science practices, for onboarding distributed workers and ultimately encouraging behavior changes.

Behavioral Change for the Better: Start with Socialization

When it comes to a worker’s early interactions with a company, often one of the most overlooked aspects of the onboarding experience is socialization. That is to say, the way in which an individual is brought into the company culture, the manner in which their ideas, identity, and thoughts are accepted and embraced will either effect a positive change as that worker transitions into their new role or if done incorrectly, can mean a bumpy path for that individual moving forward. Socialization done well creates an innate sense of membership. And an established sense of belonging almost always serves as a motivational factor. Even just thinking about it on a basic level: grade school, for instance. Children who feel included, part of the group consistently performs better academically than those who otherwise feel excluded. The same is true of a company and its distributed workforce. Socialization fosters shared meaning and values. So how does a company ensure a more seamless process of socialization during the onboarding phase:

  • Establishing a sense of community without discounting individual identity. An individual naturally want to feel acceptance. They want to connect to the culture of the company and to the other team members. At the same time, it is important to note that conformity and community are two very different words. Workers want also to be appreciated for what they uniquely bring to the table and how these skills/knowledge work in the company’s favor.
  • Ensuring both formal and informal socialization. Socialization comes in a number of different forms. On a formal level, this may entail a mentor program for example. The orientation process in and of itself is often considered a formal method of socialization designed to help the individual identify “their place” in the scheme of things. Informally speaking, socialization occurs largely through more casual peer/co-worker interactions.
  • Integrating a gamification strategy. Gamification has been used successfully by many as far as onboarding distributed workforce members. It serves a dual purpose when it comes to changing behavior by way of socialization strategies. Firstly, there is that undeniable social component, that feeling of community that gamified learning lends itself to. Secondly, the use of leaderboards, points, and badges also inspires that inherent human competitive drive. Seeing a co-worker’s name atop the board, an individual is inclined to strive to do better and their behavior is apt to shift accordingly. Be very strategic when assigning points to specific actions (ask us about the best practices).

Promoting Positive Change: Assessing, Training, Measuring

Beyond the ability to effectively socialize new team members during the onboarding phase, there is of course the overall approach to training that really helps solidify certain desired behaviors.

  • Assessing. Are workers ready and willing to learn? This should be one of the very first assessments for any leader/manager. From there, it’s a matter of gathering the information that will enable you to determine strengths versus weaknesses. Filling in gaps early in the onboarding process, allows the individual to feel more confident and have more clarity in regard to job roles and expectations. The assessments however aren’t just important at the beginning of a worker’s life cycle with a company but throughout their tenure. Such data-driven assessments enable managers to automatically deliver the right type of reskilling and upskilling materials for instance and makes training overall far more effective.
  • Training. The training process should ideally consist of a variety of learning components personalized for the individual (again, why data collection is so pivotal). For instance, providing microlearning and consequently being able to instantly deliver smaller chunks of information to those who immediately need it, is a highly productive way of changing behavior without overwhelming or intimidating that person. What many forget in regard to this stage is knowledge reinforcement: by quizzing new hires on the newly learned topics from time to time, companies are getting data on what was learned and what needs some refreshing. Smart learning systems implement this learning loop such that helps ensure that the material learned has been digested. 
  • Measuring. While all parts of onboarding are critical, measuring is perhaps the most important; measuring learning shows you if the training is working, or if not, what needs to be done. In terms of the individual’s own development, measurements of learning provide a more tangible picture of their progress, or by the same token, help illustrate where they may require some remediation. This helps to see the bigger picture of how efficient your onboarding program is as well as how each of the new team members is progressing.  

The ever-evolving post-pandemic climate is a reality we all face. Every leader needs to be sensitive to their team members’ individual needs while still driving productivity during this challenging period and beyond. Enacting positive behavioral change right from the onboarding stage will help set both the worker and the company up for greater success. If you want to learn more about how Rallyware has been using people analytics and behavioral science to boost onboarding efficiency 8X, click here to schedule a demo.

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