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Winning Secrets: How Evonik's global onboarding department delivers virtual ‘moments of truth’ to new hires

Winning Secrets: How Evonik's global onboarding department delivers virtual ‘moments of truth’ to new hires

Evonik HR recognises that new-hire onboarding is not only critical, but also adds value to the business, says Melissa Jones, Global Team Lead, Process and Content Management, Onboarding, Evonik Industries AG.

At the Employee Experience Awards 2021, Singapore, Evonik Industries AG received the bronze award for Best Onboarding Experience.

In this interview, Melissa Jones, Global Team Lead, Process and Content Management, Onboarding, Evonik Industries AG shares the secrets behind this win - and how the onboarding team, alongisde HR, leverages various internal and external digital tools to create an unforgettable onboarding experience for Evonik's workforce, to support them in their work routines, and more.

Q Congratulations on bagging this award! What is your award-winning employee experience strategy that led to this win?

Our strategy was to seamlessly transfer new employee onboarding to a virtual programme on a global scale, maintain full integration with safety and health, and ensure employee engagement, while addressing Evonik’s digitalisation challenges and ensuring a good experience for the end user.

Using technology as catalyst, and an agile design thinking approach to development, the newly-created global onboarding team developed and launched several initiatives successfully in 2020:

  • 'Going Purple onboarding community,' an interactive platform containing resources, key information and support, and virtual networking opportunities for the new hires, hiring managers, newly-integrated employees from mergers and acquisitions, students and apprentices, and the HR community;
  • 'New hire virtual welcome events' with executives and business leaders;
  • 'New hire VLOGs';
  • 'Purple Whisper', micro-learning emails for new hires;
  • 'Virtual Mystery' lunches for new hires, and
  • 'Automatic enrolment to the Evonik Starting Kit', a digital learning journey.

Q How did you and your team conceptualise and adapt this strategy to suit evolving workforce needs in the past year?

The pandemic and lockdown pressed the need for virtual onboarding to provide support to new employees while the rest of the team members are in home offices.

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Evonik has defined the full onboarding experience and moments of truth for a newcomer as their first six months in the new role.

Guided by the principle of "employee-owned journey," the framework aims to empower new hires to shape and pace their own onboarding and progress. This is best illustrated with the interactive map-like visual to demonstrate the employee’s ownership of the journey, represented by the six 'Going Purple' elements (above).

The platform, highly interactive and user-friendly, aims to provide users what they need in less than five clicks. Any icon and highlighted links can be clicked to jump off to more information.

Q What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

Under the HR 4.0 transformation, Evonik HR recognised new-hire onboarding is not only critical, but also adds value to the business.

Upon ensuring effective support for new hires, they experience faster integration and accelerated productivity curves, plus it improves long-term employee retention rates.

The global onboarding department was created in October 2019, staffed in February 2020 with 1.5 full-time equivalents (FTEs), then officially started in December 2020 with the addition of the remaining six FTEs. (They continued performing their previous HR role until this time.)

The HR transformation is being launched at the same time that Evonik is moving to a Workday platform. Tremendous human and financial resources where invested in testing for the go-live in November 2021.

We began our work with the assumption of no additional budget for new tools beyond what Workday would bring to us, other than the wealth of digital resources Evonik has available.

Q What is the most exciting and valuable thing about being part of (and winning at!) the debut Employee Experience Awards?

As we wrote our responses for the article and were asked to submit a team photo, it became clear that beyond the challenges already listed, only a few team members had met face-to-face, in early February 2020.

We had to rely on virtual team building to create unity and comradery while planning and implementing a strategy. Our team members reside in three countries and across four time zones. We do not have a team photo to submit where we are all in one place.

What is most valuable about all of this? We proved you do not have to sit in the same office, travel, or have a big budget to create inspired work. Any team can choose to capitalise on the tools they currently have, and find new and creative ways to create a great experience.

Q Looking ahead, what else do you have planned as you continue to enhance the overall employee experience?

Our implementation of Workday will provide new hires a "landing page" with a well-organised index of resources we created using Connections, MS Teams, MS Stream, and other tools. We look at the work we have created so far as the books in our library, and Workday will provide the shelves to house and organise them.

The pandemic-induced innovations seen in the last year are extraordinary. We accomplished needs in just a few weeks that would otherwise have taken years.

In response, Evonik launched #SmartWork, a hybrid mobile-virtual working model for when pandemic restrictions are lifted, institutionalised in Q1 2021 by the executive board. Implementation depends on the #SmartWork toolbox development, region adaptations (with local boundary conditions defined), and use of shared desk concepts. 

#SmartWork includes a hybrid mobile working model, a new approach to travel, and adapted office space. The toolbox rolled out June 2021, and subsequent implementation will vary by country or site. The onboarding team will partner with the #SmartWork development team to help employees transition while remaining connected.

Q Lastly, to end on a fun note – if you could describe the employee experience at your organisation in one sentence, what would that be?

See for yourself!

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Images / Provided

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section!

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Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

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