Using social media for onboarding

Last year, I looked at new hire practices and found some interesting methods:

Ensuring new hires understand the shadow or informal part of the organization through the use of tools such as network maps (Jon Katzenbach, Senior Partner of Booz & Company, author of The Wisdom of Teams).

Pairing with another worker or even tripling with two experienced workers and getting to work immediately, in order to reduce formal training (Menlo Innovations)

Two actions that can begin even before a formal offer is made:

  1. Providing access to an online knowledge base.
  2. Connecting to an internal social network to connect online & ask questions.

Embedding collaboration from the start by co-developing an individualized new hire program.

Giving time for new hires to just look around and talk to people (Semco SA; New Seasons Market).

Good practices can be summed up with three key lessons, I later wrote in new hire emergent practices:

  1. Connect People
  2. Connect with Social Media (less hierarchical than other forms of communication).
  3. Start the process as early as possible

I collected several online resources and bookmarked “onboarding” on Diigo & Delicious.

Yesterday, Jane Hart had Mark Britz in conversation on the uses of social media for onboarding at Aspen Dental. The conversation was recorded and will be available at the Social Learning Centre shortly. Here are some of the highlights of what Mark had to say, via the Twitter stream that accompanied yesterday’s conversation:

  • Getting new hires to narrate their work, through blogs and other social media, is a good practice.
  • Allow Community to be the cornerstone of the onboarding process.
  • Use the tools you have already for social learning. Focus on building community for onboarding.
  • As new hires come across work “exceptions”, they will need to leverage a community of peers to deal with these types of problems for which training does not prepare them.
  • Mark used a wiki to capture 85 questions Senior Recruiters were being asked by Dentists in an FAQ for new-hire managers & recruiters. Any initial mistakes were corrected and now these FAQ are on a Yammer page for easy access.
  • You should get new hires to share their learning and narrate their work via blogs (one blog, multi-user) by just making it a part of the work process.
  • When the organization didn’t support networking after training, the employees created their own Facebook group.
  • Social media can be used as tools for 1) collaboration, 2) community, 3) sharing – about equal use for each was observed.
  • Using social media (Yammer) for peer to peer learning, completely eliminated the need for any formal training of the remote recruitment team [though the organization is not opposed to formal training].

10 Responses to “Using social media for onboarding”

  1. Mark Britz

    Thanks for a great recap and helping share the conversation yesterday. I do work for an incredible organization, one that embraces innovative thinking and approaches – many organizations don’t, so I am blessed to be able to help bring these ideas to light to meet our mission of care.

    I do want to clarify a few things noted in the tweet stream you captured here though. The two groups impacted by the use of social media in onboarding have been our Office Managers and Recruitment team …not Dentists at this time. The wiki exercise was the capturing of questions Senior Recruiters were being asked by Dentists so as to educate the the newest in their work group. And it should also be corrected that it wasn’t a sales force that didn’t need formal training, it was this remote recruitment team members newly onboarded.

    Thanks again for attending and sharing. It was a lot of fun

  2. Bonnie Zink

    Thank you for the recap of this important message. Mark is indeed blessed to be a part of an innovative and forward thining organization. He is right in that many organizations (and individuals) are not here yet.

    Social media is a useful tool in accomplishing many goals. It is all about connecting and forming relationships that matter. These relationships can help new people become part of the culture and community of an organization. It can also help strengthen the bonds and relationships between professionals and colleagues already a part of the organization. This, in my opinion, is the true value of social media.

    In an increasingly networked environment, social media has become an important tool in collaboration, building community, and sharing. These, again in my opinion, are the cornerstones of success, which is build upon continual learning and connectivity.

  3. Kelly Meeker

    Mark, I look forward to reading more of your lessons learned and recommendations – I work with a lot of clients trying to achieve the same kinds of successes you’re implementing here and I know we have a lot to learn from you!

  4. Maritza van den Heuvel

    Great ideas for using community and collaboration as the cornerstone of onboarding. I recently joined a new company in the education space, and I’ve been impressed by their use of social networking in particular. They have an active social network, and it’s helping me to find people and connect with colleagues I need to get to know in other divisions both locally and abroad. And thanks to active groups and discussions in the network, I’m already gravitating towards people who are passionate about green issues and social involvement wherever they may be in the business. It’s all helping me to feel home and wired into the existing knowledge a lot sooner than would otherwise have been the case.

  5. Cheryl Lucia

    Social media is all about connecting and forming relationships. At their best, these relationships do help new people become part of the culture and community of an organization and strengthen bonds between professionals already a part of the organization. It encourages and enables people to develop more connections and to enter into effective and productive conversations, meeting people’s need to bond. I agree; this is the true value of social media. On the other hand – groups are by nature cliquish. In large groups, sub-groups naturally form. Do you remember how good it felt to “fit in”, to feel connected to a shared belief, purpose, or enemy (or how alienating and lonely it felt to not fit in)? Do you also remember the prejudice and close-mindedness of belonging to a group? The term for this is groupthink. Groupthink is when individual creativity, uniqueness, differences, and independent thinking is secondary to the group’s cohesiveness and mission. The stronger and tighter the group, the easier it is for groupthink to rear its ugly head. In other words, groupthink is what happens when its members check their individuality and ideas at the door and succumb to the will of the group. If the will of the group is functioning in an environment conducive to the company’s growth and purpose, everyone thrives. If that’s not the case, there are many seriously negative scenarios that may result. Finally, at no other time is an individual more vulnerable than at the onset of joining a company or organization. Throwing them into the company sea via social media at onboarding is a risky proposition with too many variables.

  6. Regi Adams

    Great insights. Thank you for sharing. Social media is a tremendous tool for helping people connect with the informal or shadow side of the organization. Knowledge is formed in the context of relationships and your post articulates strategies to make this happen.



  7. Mohit Garg

    The biggest advantage of using social tools for onboarding is that they can scale with the journey of the new employee in the organization. Another aspect is the potential of utilizing the pre-onboarding time


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