We spoke with Carolene Méli who is an Experience Strategist and Westco Academy trainer on the importance of a great onboarding experience for teams.
Q: Why is onboarding so important in a company?
Onboarding is often one of the very first touch points a new employee will have within an organisation. It sets the stage for what is to come and the environment a new employee is about to step into. First impressions matter and a powerful and memorable onboarding experience can really provide a solid foundation for retaining talent and watching them thrive.
Q: What do companies get wrong in an onboarding experience?
It is an underutilised tool in a lot of cases. Teams and leaders are busy. Although great intentions are usually there, the day-to-day reality of work often results in onboarding experiences being scrappy and half-hearted. Unfortunately, that is felt by a new employee straight away and doesn’t leave a great first impression.
Q: What can we do to improve an onboarding experience?
When designing experiences, the first two elements to consider are creating connection along with a sense of belonging. That is what a new employee needs from this new world they are entering. So with every idea you have, ask yourself ‘does this allow my new employee to connect with others’ and ‘will this idea help them to feel like they belong to our team and company?’ If you let those two questions guide you, you are one step closer to offering a memorable onboarding experience.
Q: What has been your own experience with onboarding?
I have had absolutely terrible onboarding experiences as well as pretty good ones too. I’m sure most of us can say this. That is the nature of work within companies over years. When it came time for me to create my own onboarding experiences as a leader I used those memories to fuel my own ambitions in developing experiences that were really impactful for my teams.
I worked at Cirque du Soleil for 10 years and over that time onboarded over 50 teams in 17 different countries. It was a constant challenge and I didn’t always get it right, but offering the same experience in different cultures and languages and locations really helped me to see what strategies consistently worked no matter who it was for, and what strategies needed to be adjusted in each new setting. It gave a unique perspective.
No matter where I was the thing that shone through was creating connection and a sense of belonging. That is why I am so focused on it now when I am advising companies and leaders.
Q: How can we learn more about these strategies for creating better onboarding experiences?
I have developed a 3hr course specifically for Westco Academy coming up on March 9th. This will be a journey into the world of onboarding and really inspired by my time at Cirque du Soleil as well as in other roles I have held in the cruise, retail and hospitality industries. I will be sharing real examples and by the end of our time together, you will walk away with a whole new approach to how you want to create a memorable experience for your new team members.
Carolene’s course ‘Creating a Memorable Onboarding Experience for Teams’ is on March 9th. If you would like to secure a spot, head here to enrol.
Carolene Méli is an Experience Strategist working with companies globally to create, develop and roll out in-person experiences. She comes from 15 years in the entertainment and events industries, 10 of which were spent on tour with the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil, where she specialised in running VIP events for them across 17 different countries.
She also shares her passion for experience design through her podcast, Leveraged Event, where each week she shares tips and strategies from expert guests, her own work with clients as well as topics she covered in her group coaching experiences for event design.