9 things we learned at Onboard Amsterdam 2022

Do you struggle with attracting and retaining employees? You’re not the only one! Retaining talent is a hot topic. And this is exactly what Onboard Amsterdam 2022 was all about. In this blog, you'll see how various organizations have different approaches to attracting, onboarding, and retaining employees. 

Let’s dive into 9 learnings from Onboard Amsterdam 2022. Here are our key takeaways for HR professionals, recruiters, and managers:

1. People follow leaders, not companies

What was the most exciting thing you learned at Onboard Amsterdam 2022? The number 1 answer from our attendees was: the importance of good leaders at work. Merete Hverven, CEO of Visma, shared her experiences on what it means to be a successful leader.

These are Merete's five pillars of being a successful leader:

  1. Create trust
  2. Decide with speed and conviction
  3. Engage for impact
  4. Adapt proactively
  5. Walk the talk

One of the messages that stood out to us was: People do not hear what you say, they see what you do. So make sure you lead by example. For example: if you feel frustrated,  take a walk outside before you enter the office to avoid a negative atmosphere.

2. Create a foundation of trust

Do you know what your employees want? As in, what do they really, really want? A pingpong table? A smoothie bar? Pizza nights? If we think about what it means to work at a great place, these aren’t the examples that spring to mind. So why are our Linkedin feeds full of this kind of ‘advertising’ when it comes to hiring people?

For Wencke Ester-Lorber, Commercial Director of Great Place To Work, working at a great place to work means: “Working in a culture that’s based on trust. We do that by ensuring that every single employee, no matter who they are or what they do for their company, is having a consistently positive experience at work.” 

This happens when the workplace is able to maximize employees' human potential through effective leadership, meaningful values, and a deep foundation of trust with all employees. If you manage to do that, you don’t need the crazy incentives. So long, ping pong!

> Thirsty for more learnings? Check out our ultimate onboarding lessons.

3. Connect on a personal level

We are a big fan of automating the onboarding journey. But that strategy falls short if there is no focus on the individual. Who is the real person that starts at your company?

Do not make your organization the center of the onboarding universe, focus your onboarding on the new joiner. Who is this person? And what contribution do they want to make?

Take more time and attention to onboard new colleagues. A helpful way to pay attention to the individual is by adding more hospitality to your onboarding process, like Four Seasons does. “Beyond the tools, we invest in the physical welcome. We understand that our employees are our guests, and we are the hosts.” Or go all out with a ‘Beinspired’ talk show, like Capgemini does.

Also, make it a habit to tell people thank you. For example: write a welcome card by hand, not through standard emails. And surprise your new hires with random acts of kindness.

4. Stay focused on your goals

At first glance, sports and business don't seem to have much in common. But after Rico Verhoeven's talk on "focus", we see a lot of overlap. Our main takeaway: focus on your goals, no matter what other distractions come your way. Because focus is what got Rico Verhoeven where he is today: the world heayweight kickboxing champion. 

A clear example of this is a photo in which a spectator raises his middle finger to Rico. His response: "Not everyone is a fan of you. But I don't care. I'm focused. I don't even see it." The focus is winning and that's what Rico is going for.

5. Blend your onboarding (journey): combine a digital & physical experience 

KPMG, Appical and Yes! We Connect created a truly blended onboarding program for new hires. Meaning: a combination of digital onboarding and onboarding on location. They built the journey by looking at the needs and wants of a persona (Kim) and set goals in the different stages of her preboarding and onboarding. What would satisfy Kim’s needs? This question resulted in different storylines, and eventually online and offline events.

But creating a truly blended approach is not easy. A couple of learnings from KPMG and Yes! We Connect:

  • Think about the message you want to get across and then build the storyline.
  • Start with the new joiner in mind and check periodically if that is still the case.
  • Don’t overwhelm your new hire. Send the right information at the right time so the information sticks.

> Find out how other companies do this in our case studies

6. Gain insights into the current job market 

Even though the growth in job postings has stalled, it’s still a job seeker’s market. And that means you need to adapt to the wants and needs of the workforce. A couple of points to pay attention to, according to research by Indeed:

  • Jobs with salary mentioned receive more applies, be transparent about salaries.
  • Flexible work is one of the most popular search terms.
  • DI&B (Diversity & Inclusion, Culture & Belonging) is an important consideration for job seekers.
  • Part-time workers are a new labor potential (in NL an untapped potential of 1.1m people).
  • Majority of Dutch think a 5 day work week is not of this time and age (work-life balance).

Concluding: make your teams more flexible, more diverse, and more focused on well-being. Show your success in all these areas in your employer branding and candidate experience.

7. Focus on young talent

In times of hardship, would you invest more or less in interns? While a lot of companies chose the latter, Rijkswaterstaat doubled its number of interns during covid. And they are still reaping the benefits. Some lessons we learned from Luca van Melick (Trainee Coordinator):

  • Create a green lane: by allowing interns to progress to starter positions or trainee programs
  • Job coaching: hire independent/external job coaches that focus on the career and learning opportunities for individuals
  • End of traineeship conversation: arrange a meeting between trainee, mentor and trainee manager
  • Write a letter of recommendation for your trainee

8. Take employee preboarding & onboarding seriously

Whether you hire 10 or 1.000 employees a year, always have a good preboarding and onboarding journey in place. It really makes a difference. Even more, when you have a flood of new employees joining. 

Visma grew from 1 company with 200 employees to a family of over 40 companies with approx 4.000 employees. How do you engage that many new joiners? John Reynders (CEO of Visma Benelux) shared his learnings:

  1. Recruit - The journey of retaining talent starts with the recruitment of the right talents (in John's words: swipe left and right).
  2. Preboard - Connect head and heart. When engaging with new companies and people, never limit the discovery to the hard/intellectual side. Connect heart-to-heart.
  3. Celebrate Day 0 - Make the first day special, reconnect, show up in person and make sure the basics are more than taken care of.
  4. Onboard - Empower to land and fly. Give people the room to land in a new context, explore and give feedback with fresh eyes.
  5. Engage - Check in continuously. This is where the endless loop of checking in on a continuous basis starts. 

9. Build long-lasting relationships with employees 

Attracting new hires is one thing, but retaining them is a totally different challenge. CHRO Susan Wilson shared Mollie’s journey from primarily focusing on talent attraction to retaining talent. 

Mollie decided to build on what had made their culture so strong. And pulled this together into a clear Employer Value Proposition (EVP) that would help attract and retain talent: Driven by love.

They came up with 4 pillars to underpin their EVP:

  • We grow what we know and learn what we don’t
  • We bring open hearts and open minds
  • We are driven by customer love
  • We celebrate the journey together

One of the ways how Mollie brought these pillars to life, is by creating the ‘Mollieversity’ portal containing online onboarding and training material. They also regularly track the success of their strategies to ensure they are doing the right things. Fail fast, reflect, learn from the experience and continue to innovate.

As you can see, we learned a lot during Onboard Amsterdam about attracting talent, onboarding, and retaining employees. What was your biggest learning at Onboard Amsterdam 2022? 

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