0 min read

Five onboarding best practices you can learn from Unilever

Share this post

During our first Digital Onboarding Summit, we spoke to Sandeep Abraham, the then People Experience Director of Unilever. Two years of COVID and some drastic changes in the work models and employee expectations later, Sandeep’s insights and what Unilever was doing pre-pandemic stands relevant even today. You can catch the entire conversation here or if you are short on time, we’ve summarized the most crucial points in this blog for you.

Unilever has long been challenging the traditional employee-employer dynamics and creating pioneering work models that benefit both, the organization and its employees. 

One such organization-wide effort that the Unilever HR team embarked on was to make their HR services more personal, experiential and less fragmented. 

Can payroll, recruitment, benefits, and compensation be less impersonal? Can HR services be centered around key employee needs? How can the HR team serve employees better?

This deep dive led Unilever to build some best practices for their HR services including onboarding.

1. Identify and focus on key employee moments…and frustrations!

Unilever identified as many as 10-12 key employee moments throughout the employee lifecycle. These moments lay dotted across an employee’s time with the organization, starting before they join and until they retire. Some of the key moments that Unilever identified were ‘my onboarding’, ‘my role’, ‘my pay’, ‘my personal information’, ‘my time off’, ‘my learning’, ‘my career’, and ‘my exit’. Once these key moments were identified, they aligned HR services around these key moments.

Unilever even went a step further and also identified key employee frustrations! They dug deep into the universe of frustrations from the key employee moments standpoint. 

For instance, Sandeep, in his interview, points out that one key frustration that popped up over and over again in employee feedback was about onboarding.

‘Why am I going through ten different powerpoints on my first day at work because that’s so much information for me to grasp. By the end of it, I don’t remember anything.’ 

Or, ‘Why am I not given a proper handover and then expected to deliver results without relevant handholding?’ 

This kind of feedback clearly meant that the onboarding process needed a revamp and that’s exactly what Unilever did.

2. Employee relationship manager is a thing!

Unilever created a front-facing role designated the People Experience Lead. 

So who is a People Experience Lead?

Just like banks have customer relationship managers who are responsible for maintaining ongoing engagement with customers, a People Experience Lead is the face of HR for an employee whose job is to make their experience more personal and human.

At Unilever, the People Experience Lead is a single-point contact who an employee interacts with from the start to the end of their employee journey, helping them navigate and nurture their experience with the organization. This person is truly responsible for taking care of the employee.

For instance, if an employee is faced with a payroll issue, typically, they go through three levels for resolution. Step one is self-service. Go onto the payroll app and figure out if anything is wrong there. If not resolved, you move to the contact center where you may or may not find your resolution. And then you reach out to a specialist who will assess your problem. All this while your salary for a month hasn’t been processed and you have bills to pay. This leads to an angry, frustrated, worried employee who can’t be fully productive at work. 

Unilever’s People Experience Lead nips this problem in the bud. Employees can now go to one person who will figure out and help resolve the problem for them. As a result, employees get a personalized experience and genuinely feel cared for.

3. Four key focus points of employee onboarding

Unilever wanted to wow candidates even before they joined the organization. This meant they focused heavily on employee preboarding as much as Day One and even after.

And the four components of this process that one needs to strategically plan out are:

  1. Content: What are you telling the new hires during their onboarding? Are you going to have the manager send out an email? Will the CEO have a quick chat? Will they have access to videos of employees sharing their experiences with the company? Content is key to wowing new hires.
  1. Data: Data lies at the heart of it all. What is working and not working? What can be improved and not are all hidden in gold mines of data. A key part of employee onboarding is accessing this data, pulling out the insights and customizing the onboarding experience with data-driven decisions.
  1. Team: “Bring technology and people together to drive a brilliant experience.” A team who can complement the employee onboarding process - oversee and improve it. 
  1. Distribution: Having content is great but it is important to distribute it on time and in a user-friendly manner. Will content be in emails, sent on Whatsapp, hosted on Youtube, or sent through some other channel. Creating a distribution plan and sticking to it is as critical as creating the content itself.

4. Personalize employee onboarding

Onboarding is one of those moments when a person has the most number of doubts, queries, and questions. It is the time when everyone tries to constantly assess if they have made the right decision.

So how can you wow them and boost their excitement and enthusiasm during this phase?

By personalizing their onboarding experience in ways that their doubts, questions and queries are answered. This can either be done by HRs in one-on-one conversations with candidates. But answering every new hire’s queries can get exhausting. Alternatively, Unilever engages Tydy to automate and personalize their employee onboarding experience with considerably less manual intervention.

>>> Bonus: Check out how Tydy helped Unilever unify, automate and personalize their employee onboarding.

5. Pilot any technology first

Build a proof of concept. See if the new tool works well for your organization using a smaller group of employees and then emulate it for the rest of the organization. Else, after a global roll out if you realize that the tool isn’t a good fit, it is going to lie on the wayside with lots lost in terms of time, money and efforts.

That’s exactly the approach that Unilever took with Tydy too. Unilever piloted Tydy in India and other South-east Asian countries before rolling out the tool globally.

The other thing is, collecting feedback about the tool from its users during the pilot. Are employees using the tool as planned? Is it making the process easier, simpler and more efficient? The users’ feedback will inform the global adoption strategy.

That’s a quick snapshot of Sandeep Abraham’s conversation with Kiran Menon during our first Digital Onboarding Summit. You can watch the full conversation on our YouTube channel.

Webinar: How onboarding impacts 1st year attrition at Unilever

Like this article? Share it!