Talent Acquisition

Digitizing the New Hire Experience, Part 1

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New hire experience is critical to the success of the talent acquisition function and to the business. Research supports the fact that the new hire experience is linked to new hire engagement, performance and retention, ultimately impacting team and business performance.

The question is, how do we further improve the new hire experience?


What has been tried?

At IBM, we have been through a couple of major onboarding transformation projects over the past few years. We have had a 24-month learning program and a 100-day learning program affecting, on average, 50,000 hires a year. We’ve gone back and forth between a traditional in-person, day-one event and a virtual event on day one.

Learning from what we had tried, the onboarding team made some significant changes in 2016 and 2017, including:

  • Moving from a 24-month learning program to a 100-day learning plan based on feedback from our new hires and hiring managers
  • Developing a cognitive onboarding assistant called Quinn to help answer FAQs from new hires that our teams were spending too much time on
  • Developing a basic onboarding app called New IBMers
  • Creating a pre-hire website to help address questions from those who had accepted an offer with us but not yet started with IBM

This was just the start of something bigger.


What’s new?

Keeping candidates “warm” after accepting an offer can make the difference in new hires showing up on day one and in their engagement levels. That’s why our onboarding team now focuses more on the earlier stages of onboarding (from the moment they accept an offer).

Digital onboarding is the way to go because it’s associated with:

  • Keeping new hires warm and engaged before they join
  • Consistency of messaging and values
  • Giving new hires opportunities for networking via social platforms before they begin work
  • Encouraging continuous learning from before they even step foot in the company, embedding this culture and behavior at an early stage
  • Engagement in the company’s business strategy and structure

With the above in mind, IBM is on a significant onboarding transformation roadmap during 2018–2020. We are developing:

  1. A fully digital experience from the moment an offer is accepted to the new hire’s first working day via a virtual platform
  2. Personalized and customizable learning modules available to complete before arriving on the first day, cognitively adapting to the individual’s interests and business area
  3. Cognitive support accessible globally for any FAQs
  4. A new hire lounge to meet the new hire cohort before arriving on the first day, to access video tours from different IBM locations and to find out local information if the hire is relocating for work
  5. A team lounge to meet the manager and team before arriving on the first day
  6. The opportunity to choose IBM swag/merchandise or donate to charity instead
  7. The advanced opportunity to sign up for volunteering at community events organized by IBMers
  8. The chance to proactively join online minority communities available at IBM

These are just some of the “wow” moments we want to bring to our new IBMers, available in advance of them starting at our company. We believe these innovations will make a significant impact on new hires’ onboarding experiences.


“Digitizing the New Hire Experience” is a three-part blog series on the impact of onboarding on the talent acquisition function and organizational success. In part 2 we’ll look at the short-term benefits realized with a more digitized new hire experience.

Talent Acquisition - Global Onboarding Manager

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In the Spotlight: Damian Brown

What is your current role for IBM Talent Acquisition Optimization? I am leading go-to-market sales efforts across Middle East and Africa for TAO, a role which has broadened across our Talent and Engagement (T&E) offering over the last six months.

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