How does a risk-averse, industry-regulated organisation like Powerco find their unique employee journey during a global pandemic?

Powerco attributes their drive to transform their onboarding to being blown away by Vodafone’s employee experience (EX), which they heard about at an industry event. Mesmerised by a new modern and innovative experience, their HR team felt energised to explore.

Powerco’s Group Human Resources Manager, Emma Bennett, shares her team’s onboarding learnings, from beginning to end.

1.  Decision Tree

Seeing Vodafone’s experience was a turning point for the HR team. Spurred on to find more purpose to their function, they quickly started reprioritising, asking themselves what they were willing to give up in order to pursue a dedicated onboarding strategy.

No business case, no additional funding requests.

They decided as a collective to redirect funds from their HR budget away from leadership development contractors. They knew once they implemented onboarding software that it would free them of manual processes, leaving them able to pursue the fun stuff. To be their own experts.

Burdened by the ongoing manual onboarding processes meant that work wasn’t that much fun for Powerco’s HR team. They craved a realignment of passion to be their own drivers of change for the EX. A reminder of why they got into the HR game in the first place – to make a difference.

2. Impact of Onboarding

The complete return on investment (ROI) from using onboarding software can be hard to articulate, with many intangibles being a part of the equation. You might see significant change immediately or make its mark over time in your people analytics – it depends on the existing health of your onboarding experience.

Previously consumed by manual processes, Bennett reveals the two main areas that have changed for her team:

● The Job Offer. Previously, contract packs would go out and be returned in 2-3 weeks. Now Powerco are experiencing turnaround times as fast as under 24 hours. The best bit – no more embarrassing conversations with new starters who were unable to be paid on time because payroll information from returned contracts hadn’t been processed before pay runs.

‘We used to spend time chasing documents between hiring managers and new starters. Now we don’t do any of that.’ Emma Bennett.

● Induction Experience. Starting at a new company means new employees are thirsty for knowledge. What is the vision? What is the culture like? What do they value? What am I supposed to do on my first day?
Now through HROnboard, Powerco has the functionality to build a communications plan for new starters, all before day one. Powerco can convey company culture authentically through a handy menu of options to create a personalised experience using images, video, and drip-fed information.

‘Their manager records a selfie video just for them. It tells the employee that they are valued and we’ll take good care of them.’ Emma Bennett.

3. Low-value vs high-value HR function

While the team is thrilled with the boost to EX, Powerco’s HR team have shifted the perception of their function from low-value to high-value.

● Transactional-focused
● Administrative-focused
● Manual process driven
● Time-poor & reactive business support
● Minimal headspace for change

● Candidate-focused
● Internal experience-focused
● Enabled with real-time employee feedback
● Empowered about what they are doing
● Impact on organisation through development

HR is a function that can vary dramatically between organisations. Being time-poor can leave teams with little bandwidth to venture into long-term development. Powerco accredits their transformation to freedom from low-value tasks. With the time and resources to focus on the strategic and analytic aspects of HR they have increased their value as a function. And it has not gone unnoticed. Now other departments including the executive team are appreciating the full potential of the HR department.

‘We love what other managers are saying about us. We are freeing up their thinking so they can trust the process. We end up with happy candidates.’ Emma Bennett.

4. Change management

Emma and her team were mindful not to overwhelm their team with change while going live during COVID-19 level 4 lockdown in New Zealand. Because life wasn’t stressful enough!

Their strategy was to give team leaders a little dose at a time, starting with something small like a new contract to review, then a personalised message to record. Just like the induction strategy, they drip-fed them new ways of working.

Before they knew it, hiring managers were making variations in their dashboards and personalising journeys. This staggered process focused stakeholder buy-in around the time saved on single tasks, rather than about learning a new system.

5. Ask the right questions

One vital thing that Bennett has learnt from scoping cloud-based technology is what questions to ask. They decided early on that an all-in-one solution was not for them. A preference for best-in-breed solutions meant they could utilise the depth of features that each platform provided. The key to best-in-breed solutions is harmonising them together.

‘We are always checking if systems can integrate with one another as we select more cloud-based tech to use for different parts of our HR function. You just want info to flow.’ Emma Bennett.

Another piece of their tech puzzle was ensuring their solutions are customisable. The more customisable, the deeper they could go into their potential.

One thing we are learning as we go down the cloud-based route, is a lot of tech is sold as fully customisable. What I’d encourage you to follow up is ask, “who can customise it?”.’ Emma Bennett.

Some solutions claim to be fully customisable when only the provider can do all of it – slowing down the process and in some cases charging for it. They wanted the autonomy of a self-reliant platform to ensure they could scale their onboarding efficiently.

6. Rethinking what is possible

‘It brought home to me that what I thought was OK was far off the mark of what was possible.’ Emma Bennett.

Powerco was receiving a rating of 4 out 5 from their new employees before introducing a dedicated onboarding strategy. Not bad right?

What they didn’t consider was that new hires are still in that polite phase so they’re going to say it was great – especially when they are asked directly.

New hires can now submit feedback anonymously through the onboarding process with feedback cards. This gives new employees the ability to give constructive feedback without fear of repercussion for being honest.

Now with roadblocks removed, Bennet and her team are ecstatic to have consistent feedback such as ‘Perfect!’ and ‘Slick’. It has not only changed the way they work but the way they think about their entire onboarding process.

Powerco’s top hacks

Conditional formatting: Set up conditions that run off the answers to questions. The logic that you set up can make personalised contracts and journeys easier to prepopulate. What a time saver!

Integrations: Do your research. Make sure your cloud-based technology talks to one another. You will eliminate repetitive administrative tasks – and in some cases your information will just flow with no intervention from HR at all.

Notifications: Pre-set workflows with triggers will make provisioning effortless. No more apologising to new hires on day one because you’re not ready for them. Free yourself of the mental load.

Beyond onboarding: The possibilities of the tech are endless. We are currently designing and pre-planning parental leave workflows and new manager journeys. It means that nothing is going to fall through the gaps.

In a post-COVID-19 world, most of us have had to adapt to new ways of working that we previously may have thought too difficult. There is never a good time to implement change but we can take the lead from companies that have dedicated themselves to constantly reviewing and improving their processes.

This is the mindset that Powerco’s HR team takes in all their discussions involving change. However, it is the shift in their perspectives about their own value to the business that has been the most enlightening – seeing them inspired to love what they do and feel the joy of making a difference.

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