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Name of Organization/Company: IBM, Armonk, NY USA
Category: Onboarding Team of the Year

Entry Title: Empathy-Based Virtual Onboarding


The pandemic made virtual onboarding a necessity, with many organizations taking their onboarding programs online in a matter of weeks. However, these onboarding programs often fail to recognize that the new-hire experience is vastly different in a virtual environment. New hires struggle to navigate the virtual workplace and form connections with the organization and their co-workers.

Instead of virtualizing its existing onboarding program, HR leaders at IBM redesign the onboarding journey to address three key risks of virtualization and develop principles to solve for these. By driving a people-centric redesign of its journey, prioritizing new-hire engagement and driving personalization throughout the process, IBM creates a compelling experience for its remote new hires.

IBM onboarded 70% of its new hires virtually in 2020. Through surveys, the IBM onboarding team has gauged the experience and effectiveness of its virtual onboarding experience. As of November 2020, IBM has achieved an excellent virtual onboarding Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 71.

• 92% of new hires reported feeling welcomed by IBM despite the virtual onboarding format
• 96% of new hires felt the level of training and resources were easy to use and prepared them for their new roles
• 98% of new hires felt their hiring manager has been supportive and responsive to their needs
• 96% of hiring managers felt they received the necessary level of support in onboarding their new hire

Some of the feedback from the newly onboarded new hires:

"I recently joined IBM, and Yes, I had an onboarding from Home or, can I better say virtual onboarding. But I have to admit that was an extremely smooth and easy process how they managed it. Kudos to IBM and its HR Team for making it possible."

"Especially with it being the first virtual experience, everything was amazing. Couldn't have asked for anything better."

"The entire process exceeded all of my expectations. I felt welcomed and supported all the time. Thank you for the great effort."

I would like to congratulate the entire onboarding team that did the entire process online without the need to move around during this pandemic period."

As the global pandemic made majority of IBM’s workforce remote, we understood new hires in particular were facing challenges with a virtual onboarding experience. Common critical onboarding feedback from new hires focused on the process feeling burdensome, isolating or lacking in enablement.

A cross function team was set up to solve for this challenge – develop a strategy that ensured a remote location would not mean a remote experience for a new hire.

Our key tenets were:

• People-centric not business-centric redesign of the onboarding experience
• Focus on new-hire engagement - not just work readiness, in networking, communication and onboarding measurement
• Prioritizing personalization, not just virtualization, of the new-hire experience

With these key tenets on mind we applied three lenses to the user point of view:

• Experience - In the absence of live interaction, does the new hire feel integrated in the community?
• Process - Are process steps easy and relatively quick to move through?
• Technology - Does the technology enable the new hire to move through the journey seamlessly?




Please see IBM Onboarding Program Features chart attached:

IBM’s Onboarding Experience has been featured as a Gartner case profile and shared with clients as well as being featured in the Q1 Gartner Business Quarterly journal, which is widely distributed to business leaders across the C-suite.

Virtual onboarding changes and outcome: See attached: https://ibm.box.com/s/5s9s6ccj3pf72tqb0ig1odkbxryqo4ed

Onboarding Program Features: https://vo-general.s3.amazonaws.com/a1ab4161-9c30-4e28-88fc-d6ad384e3fe2/1ef82797-2e8e-42c5-ba88-a87382302c4e?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ4PRWO26HAX3IOCA&Expires=1720393333&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3D%22Onboarding%20Program%20Features.docx%22&response-content-type=application%2Fvnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.document&Signature=T3q7qha7hAIrWjvOhMd8lsUVQTw%3D

Empathy Based Virtual Onboarding: https://vo-general.s3.amazonaws.com/a1ab4161-9c30-4e28-88fc-d6ad384e3fe2/92ac2ee1-d4d3-4ced-b5e5-bcc820f968ad?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ4PRWO26HAX3IOCA&Expires=1720393333&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3D%22E08%20Onboarding%20Team%20of%20the%20year%20-%20IBM_s%20Empathy-Based%20Virtual%20Onboarding.pptx%22&response-content-type=application%2Fvnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation&Signature=aac3rOhJl31SAiN4%2FnVkpkteD8c%3D