9 things we learned at Onboard Amsterdam 2021

Appical Team
Jessica Heijmans
November 11, 2021
min read
Table of Contents
What a blast we had at Onboard Amsterdam 2021! It was a day full of exciting presentations, networking and lively discussions, both on location and online. Our speakers from GGD Utrecht, Eurofins, Radboudumc, Deutsche Telekom, New10 and Appical shared their knowledge and best practices on preboarding, onboarding, remote onboarding, and of course: hybrid onboarding. Missed the event? No worries, we’ve got you covered. We summarized the presentations in 9 lessons.

1. Adapt your onboarding to a hybrid workforce

The theme of the day was none other than ‘Rethinking employee onboarding in the hybrid workspace’. So of course we couldn’t let our audience leave without sharing our knowledge about hybrid onboarding. Peter Straatsma, CCO at Appical, shared 5 steps to proactively transform your current onboarding program to fit the new demands of the hybrid workforce. One of the most crucial learnings is that you should use a bottom-up approach. Find out what your employees want, look at best practices of other companies and talk to employer associations. Create a new hybrid policy with this information and then find out where you see the gaps in your current onboarding program. Improve, launch and keep adapting to new situations.

2. Get to know the lingo with bingo

The winner of Onboard Amsterdam 2021 was… the good old bingo card! Marleene van der Grient (New10) shared this idea with the crowd and it kept them - and the other speakers - talking. New10 added gamification to onboarding with a bingo card that’s full of assignments that are all about what makes you a New10’er. Some examples of things new hires can cross off of their scorecard? Have your first nerf gun fight, finish all the onboarding knowledge meetings and have your polaroid picture taken in the office. “If your bingo card is full, you can hang it on a wall in the office and are fully integrated with New10.” Bingo!

3. No time to lose? Preboard!

If you want your new hires to reach their full potential quicker and build an emotional connection early on in their employee journey, preboarding is the way to go. While Eurofins built a high volume lab in just 9 weeks time, they also had to onboard a lot of people to process the huge number of samples. Preboarding their new employees remotely for a non-remote job, helped get them deployable in no time. And it also saved time on recruitment, because turnover was severely reduced. How? Eurofins created instructional videos involving the work processes and created a virtual tour through the office. Thus, the first day feels a lot less like the actual first day. 

4. Turn on the TV

Wait what? Did you just say to turn on the telly? Yes! Let me explain. Our speakers Gerrit-Jan Mulder and Nienke Stiphout (Radboudumc) incorporate the format of former Dutch talk show ‘De Wereld Draait Door’ in their onboarding program as a way to connect with new hires. How? They invite one of the board members to the table and ask one of the onboardees to be the co-host. And they showed us how it’s done on the Onboard Amsterdam stage by turning their presentation into a talk show. Really creative! 

Furthermore, Eurofins’ HR-manager Jennnifer van Valkenhoef was inspired by the television show Sons of Anarchy. She noticed that some of the men in the motor gang had patches on their biker jackets with titles like ‘President’ or ‘First 9’. This last label referred to the first nine men that joined the gang. Just like the first 25 employees that joined Eurofins. The result? She gave her first employees a special ‘first 25’ button to pin on their lab coats as an expression of appreciation. 

5. Spread onboarding out over a longer period of time

Why have one introduction day, when you can have two or three, or even more? At New10 they even have a whole introduction month. Why? By spreading out onboarding tasks and information, you give your new employees the time they need to absorb all the information you give them. Remember, it takes time to get settled and get to know a new company. So make sure your onboarding is an experience, not a one-off event. Also, this gives you time to include some fun activities. The introduction month can be a nice hybrid experience because of the multiple in-person events accompanied by relevant information communication via the app.

6. Standardize with a human touch 

What to do when you want to improve your global onboarding process? “Digitize, digitize, digitize”, in the words of Tim Höttges, Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Telekom. Why? Cause you can save time and money by creating great material just once. But what Adrian Debbeler, Deutsche Telekom’s Product Owner Onboarding, taught us as well: don’t insist on just one process. The human touch is just as important. Especially when you’re working with different brands, IT systems, countries and languages. So standardize, but customize when needed: on a cultural, department or role level. How does Deutsche Telekom achieve this? For example with a virtual onboarding event for employees from all over the world to network with each other.

7. Embrace diversity

No matter if you already have an inclusive policy in place or not, make sure you embrace the different backgrounds in your team. When GGD Utrecht had to scale up fast to respond to the demands of a world in crisis - the different backgrounds and vast diversity had to be supported during the onboarding process. The expansion of employees included students, pensioners and people with various cultural backgrounds. GGD Utrecht made sure to be open to demands and needs of all different backgrounds for instance by giving employees the option to choose ‘gender neutral’ on the certificates they received, and by celebrating not just Kingsday or Easter, but also other cultural holidays such as Eid Al Fitr. In the words of Erna Jansen and Maaike Schaap: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

8. Involve your employees in the onboarding process 

When Jennifer van Valkenhoef started at Eurofins, there wasn’t an onboarding process in place when the first new hires started working. Hell, there wasn’t even a lab at this point. But letting the new employees shape their own onboarding program on their first day turned out to be a virtue. The first new hires onboarded themselves and figured out how to best onboard the new hires after them. On top of that, they starred in the introduction videos that were available to next groups that started working with them. This may be an extreme example, but involving your onboardees could be really simple. Ask your onboardees what they think of their onboarding and use their feedback to improve and make adjustments. You want garlands in the cafeteria for atmosphere? Done! Salt and pepper in the kitchen? Already taken care of!

9. Collect data to improve the onboarding

Speaking of feedback, always gather data to improve your onboarding program. “Without data, you're just a person with an opinion”, says Marleene van der Grient (New10). A data-driven approach makes sure you’re making more informed decisions, and you can use the data in discussions with stakeholders. You can capture data throughout the whole onboarding process. Start by asking your employees their opinion about the current onboarding program via in-depth interviews, workshops or a gap-analysis. Use this feedback to improve the onboarding process and ask your new hires afterwards to give their feedback as well. With a digital platform, it's even easier to collect data, analyze it and then adjust according to the needs of the employees. Develop, launch, assess, improve and repeat!   

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