The Intersection of Employer Branding With Onboarding and Offboarding

Many organizations view a strong employer brand as a means to attract candidates. And it is. But employer branding doesn’t just relate to candidate experience. It also interweaves with employee experience. Too often, however, companies fail to consider their employer brand at two of the most critical parts of the employee journey — onboarding and offboarding.

Employer Branding and Onboarding

Research from Harvard Business School has shown that 1 in 3 recent hires will look for a new job within their first six months at a company. Coupled with productivity challenges and culture issues, it’s clear that the lack of a well-designed onboarding strategy can have a serious impact on the business.  

Thankfully, you can use your employer brand to elevate the onboarding process and keep talent happy, motivated, and engaged. 

To begin with, when a new hire joins a company, this is the first time they get to experience your employer brand firsthand, so there’s a real opportunity to orient the employee experience correctly. In the same way you use employer brand values to attract talent externally, you should use those same values to engage, excite, and retain talent internally. 

Likewise, a successful onboarding journey should be congruent with the philosophy, premise, promise, demands, and expectations of your wider employer brand. Otherwise, new hires will feel as if you’ve done a bait-and-switch. 

For an onboarding program to exemplify the complete picture of your employer brand, it’s important to embrace the positives, the harsh realities, and everything in between. Here are a few strategic considerations to keep in mind:

Keep employees accountable. In every strong employer brand, there is a “Give and Get,” a mutual value exchange between what the employee brings to the table in return for what the employer can offer. To bring your “Give and Get” to life, you must find a way to weave this exchange into the onboarding process, perhaps through gamification or recorded content. Doing so keeps employees personally accountable and empowers them to take charge of their own role in the onboarding process. You can then follow through on the behaviors and environment you’ve promised.

Set clear expectations. Onboarding is your company’s first and most important opportunity to highlight what’s important, what’s expected of employees, and how they’re going to be measured. As such, it’s a key time to set clear expectations from the start and be open about the challenges and the opportunities people will encounter. This helps talent acclimatize to the culture more quickly and feel a greater sense of belonging.

Build a sense of purpose. You can do this by making sure that new hires feel invested in their own onboarding. For example, with many people currently working remotely, you could build stronger purpose by giving employees a say in what computer equipment or provisions they need to succeed.

And here are some tactical ways to bring your strategy to life:

Leverage employee generated content. Your people are your greatest asset (it’s a cliché because it’s true), so make sure to leverage your existing employees by turning them into brand ambassadors who can help welcome new talent. For instance, consider asking people to pre-record video clips and other interactive content to convey important information during onboarding. This is a truly thoughtful way to reinforce a welcoming feeling. 

Create moments of magic. For an onboarding experience that truly wows people with surprise and delight, you need to find specific moments of magic. For example, you could reach out to your new hire’s emergency contact (typically a parent, sibling, or significant other) and ask them to film a surprise video wishing them well on their first day.

Encourage self-onboarding. Thanks to advancements in technology, it’s now possible to create customized onboarding journeys that put the new hire in the driver’s seat of their own onboarding journey. By pre-recording content unique to a specific persona audience or talent category, you can coach individuals through the first 100 days in all of the areas that are important to them. This content hub would enable employers to institute a fast-track program so that employees can choose their own pace and find an onboarding speed that works best for them.

Employer Branding and Offboarding

To be seen as an employer of choice, you need to start taking a proactive role in managing the offboarding experience. But doing so requires a radical shift in thinking.

Your company legacy and reputation doesn’t end when employees walk out the door. These people will carry their experiences and perceptions of your organization into the world, sharing honest opinions with others. Onboarding, then, is an opportunity to recognize and reward the impact that employees have had on the business. 

If talent leaders thought as much about offboarding as they did about onboarding, they would find a compelling opportunity to reverse-engineer the process and say: “Here’s what you achieved, here’s what you contributed towards, this is what we’re grateful for and this is what you should be proud of.” 

This is particularly important given the COVID-19 crisis. Imagine a statement like this when someone leaves: “We’re committed to the success of your career, even after you leave us. We’re going to continue to be proud of the impact you make on the world, whether that’s for us or for someone else.” That’s an incredibly profound statement that demonstrates the higher purpose of your employer brand legacy.

By demonstrating a commitment to care about people after they leave, you’re simultaneously leaving the door wide open for people to come back. This can reduce regrettable loss and keep your talent pipeline fresh and well-nurtured.

Ultimately, weaving in elements of your employer brand into your on- and offboarding experiences can enhance the reputation of your workplace for years to come.

Bryan Adams is the international best-selling author of Give & Get Employer Branding. He is also the CEO and founder of Ph.Creative, a leading employer brand agency that specializes in building world-class employer brand, EVP, and talent engagement strategy for companies such as Apple, American Airlines, GVC, and Blizzard Entertainment.

An employer brand thought leader and speaker, Bryan's aims to change the way people think about employer branding and EVP through unconventional and even controversial methodologies.

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