Podcast: How to Build Successful Onboarding Processes (That Just Work)

Welcome to the Employee Onboarding Podcast, where we dive into cutting-edge onboarding strategies and gain insights from HR leaders.

Today, we’re thrilled to be joined by Keisha Toussaint who is a seasoned HR professional crafting exceptional onboarding experiences.

With eight years of HR expertise and a master’s degree in human resource management, Keisha leads initiatives in learning and development, employee engagement, and relations at Betches.

She prioritizes honesty and transparency in onboarding and highlights the crucial role of managers in tailoring experiences to individual needs and preferences.

Here’s everything we’re going to cover in this episode:

You can also listen to the podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google, Podchaser, Podcast Addict, Deezer, & all your favorite podcast platforms!

Introduction & an icebreaker question

Erin Rice: Welcome to the Employee Onboarding Podcast, where we’re unpacking great onboarding ideas and best practices from the world’s top HR practitioners and thought leaders.

At Process Street, that starts with our mission to make recurring work fun, fast, and faultless for teams everywhere.  My name is Erin Rice, and I’m the People and Operations Coordinator here at Process Street. 

Today, I’m joined by Keisha Toussaint. Keisha is the Senior Manager of People Culture at Betches! 

Betches is a female-founded and led media and entertainment brand that provides a space for all women to get real about life in a funny, honest, and unfiltered way. 

If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do. It’s got hilarious content. Keisha oversees learning and development, employee engagement, relations, onboarding, and offboarding. 

She has been an HR professional for about eight years and holds a master’s in human resource management. She always takes a human approach when interacting with her colleagues and team. 

It is so nice to have you today. Thanks for joining us.

Keisha Toussaint: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited for our conversation.

Erin: Before we dive in, I’d like to start with an icebreaker question. What is the craziest fashion trend that you’ve ever worn?

Keisha:  I want to say low-rise jeans, but I don’t know because now I’m a mom of two. I have an almost four-year-old in May, and I have a four-month-old. 

Low-rise jeans started to make their way back, but I’m gonna need them to circle back to where they came from because I am with the high-waisted fashion girls!

But the low-rise jeans—never again, not buying them. I don’t know who told me to go back and purchase a pair, but I returned them. I was like, no, low-rise jeans are not for me. It was definitely pre-high school. But now, high-waist jeans—all day. Yes, they’re so comfortable.

Erin: All day. I’m with you. I’m a high-waist jeans girl as well. I think it is so comfortable and great for the mom-bod. 

Awesome. Thank you for sharing that. I’m sure other people can totally relate to that coming back around again. Now, what we really came here for is employee onboarding.

Crafting exceptional onboarding experiences with Keisha Toussaint

Erin: I’d love it if we could start by hearing a little bit about what a great employee onboarding experience looks like from your perspective.

Keisha: Well, first and foremost, it’s really about being honest and being human with your employees. 

Making them feel like it’s their second home because, think about it, we’re spending literally 40 hours plus in a workplace! And we have 24 hours in a day. So it’s eight hours a day, give or take. 

You want to make sure that the individual coming into your company feels welcome, has everything they need to be set up for success, and can be with you long term. 

Again, we want to ensure that we’re retaining employees. So, a good onboarding process involves transparency and being quick and responsive to employees, especially within the first 90 days.

Statistics show that within the first 90 days of employment, employees either love or hate it. So you really, really want to set the bar high for employees coming into your organization, making sure that they feel valued and appreciated and that you truly want them there.

Erin: I was reading a little bit about your background on your LinkedIn page, and you mentioned believing in a customized HR approach. How do you apply that to onboarding? 

Keisha: I mean, everyone’s different. And I feel like working in HR is never black and white. It’s colorful. In any organization that you work in, any employee that you interact with, every individual has a particular style. So, of course, you want to make sure that we’re being consistent with our processes.

When bringing someone in, we might say, “It’s our tradition to go on a coffee date,” or whatever. And everybody likes coffee. 

Or maybe we might want to take them to lunch. Maybe they’re joining on their birthday, and we have some balloons handed out for them. Maybe this person is starting remotely. 

I feel like having a customized approach to onboarding your employees is very, very important.  

And also keep in mind the departments that you work in. Some people could work in sales, some in content, and some in marketing. Everybody’s different. So, it’s really important to have that customizable approach because it makes them feel special rather than just checking off the boxes.

Erin: Yeah, for sure. Do you have any tips that you can share about how to manage that? Because a lot of companies are hiring 20 people a month. How do you still keep that customization within onboarding?

Keisha: That’s a great question. If I’m onboarding, let’s say, three to five employees, I’m making sure that I have all of the basics down. So that’d be connecting with IT, making sure we’re set up in the HRR system, etc. Basically, going through a checklist. 

The role of managers in shaping a welcoming environment

Keisha: The piece that really helps is the managers having that one-on-one conversation with us. People think it’s only HR, and that’s not true. 

It’s also the managers because you’re managing this individual, they’re coming into your team, and you want to make them feel welcome as well. And then, on top of that, managers interact with those employees on a day-to-day basis. HR, not so much. 

We have managers create an agenda for their new hires for the first three days. Then, we have one-on-one conversations with managers – “Okay, what is it going to look like? What is the end game? What are we trying to accomplish within the first three days? Are they going to be starting remotely? When do they have the opportunity to come into the office? Who are they going to meet? What does that look like?”

Then I give my suggestions, and we talk to them. We do that with every single hire. We make the managers a part of the onboarding process; it’s not just HR. 

In the beginning, it’s just like onboarding them and off to the friends you go. But managers do play a significant piece in the onboarding factor. I’m very diligent in working with our managers, ensuring they have the tools they need to succeed and creating a very fun and robust experience for their new hires as well.  

Erin: And equipping them with everything that they need.

Keisha: Exactly. It’s like going on a first date. You have to set the bar high to make them not want to leave you, to feel like they’re being appreciated, and that they made the right decision.

It’s really competitive out there. We want to ensure that we’re securing our top talent and making them feel appreciated and welcome because it’s not a one-way street when extending office to people.

Erin: So they’ll come back for the second date. Yeah, that’s amazing.

With different generations entering the workforce, things are getting different. We still have some baby boomers in the workforce, and then we have this newer generation entering it, too. How does that play into onboarding customization?

Keisha: So, currently, at Betches, we have a nice mixture of millennials and Gen Xs in our workforce. But we now also have some Gen Zs trickling in.

What I’ve noticed is that, prior to my years in HR, it was a very streamlined process, flexibility was not even a thing. Now that Gen Z is in the workforce, they’re very vocal. They set boundaries. 

When we talk about work-life balance, Gen Z actually means that. Then, I had conversations with my mom. She’s like a super Baby Boomer—definitely not an alien—but she says, “You have to go to work every day. You have to be there on time. You have to work whenever they need you to work!”

Baby Boomers are more about royalty for their companies, and millennials are in between. Gen Z is just like – work and life, that’s it. I’m not loyal to you, I’m going to up and go as I please. And if it’s not true to me, I’m on to the next one. 

Hands down, Gen Z is a different breed of workers. But I feel like it’s a good thing because we need accessibility. So I love it. 

Erin: Yeah, and back to your point about really making a good first impression on that first date, that makes it even more important. It’s almost like they’re raising that bar for us.

Keisha: That’s why we need flexibility. We’re in a different work climate now, so it’s like we gotta live to adapt. So I love them.

Erin: We stay on our toes. I love that.

Keisha: Exactly. When you’re going through the interview process, you’re courting and making them want to love you, and then you extend the offer, making sure that’s all good. 

But it really goes down to making that first impression when you’re starting on their first day, making sure they set up for success because it really transitions through the weeks and the months and then eventually the years. So keeping that up is truly, truly important. 

I think that for people not in the employee-focused industry, I feel like they say, “Oh, onboarding! We have all they need, so they’re good to go.” No, it’s beyond that.

Erin: Yeah, and that brings up your point about transparency. One of the first things you said is so important is being transparent. And I think having that lens on ourselves helps us hold ourselves accountable in those moments.

Keisha: Exactly. We should take a customizable approach to onboarding employees and the things that they need. For example, if someone says, “I really am not good at Excel, and I would need some training on it,” we should incorporate that within the onboarding agenda. It is important to ensure that they have the tools to feel successful in their role.

Erin: And I bet that makes them feel seen. 

Keisha: For sure. Oh, for sure!

Erin: So what would be your advice to a new person joining the team in terms of helping them ramp up as quickly as they can and start becoming a contributor? 

Keisha: What’s important is asking a lot of questions. Again, you could be in this space for ten years, and you’re always learning something new. 

So, I learned something from my colleagues, my manager, and my direct support. It’s important to have an open mind and to ask questions because it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Going back to the point of having a customizable approach, that’s important. What’s important, too, is understanding that if they were coming into a new company, how would they want to be treated? What would they want to see having that insight? 

And I feel like, if you’re already working in the HR space, you must love it, or you must like it to have to be having to do with people on a day-to-day basis. And what’s so special about my role is that overseeing people and culture, it’s really what it is, people and culture.

Onboarding plays a factor in that and creates that experience. 

So, you know, anyone joining our team or coming on board, especially working at Betches, is learning to be approachable, fun, and, most importantly, helpful. That’s the environment that we want to create for our employees—knowing that they have someone to come to if they have any questions.

Erin: Yeah, that’s amazing. You mentioned that this newer generation is pretty vocal. Is there a formal opportunity for a feedback loop so that they can improve the process as they go through it?

Keisha: Oh yeah, absolutely! This is something I had implemented when I came to Batches was having a new hire survey. So that’s typically sent after their first month. 

What I want to do this year is incorporate this every 90 days so we can have a touch-based conversation with our new hires, like checking in to see how things are going. 

Because in the first 30 days, it’s like, “Oh my god, this is great! This is fun, I’m excited!” I want to know if you’ve kept that same energy for the past three months.

But we really utilize our surveys and just ask questions. That’s really intentional. And, you know, we want them to be honest because the more honest they are, it helps us improve our process. 

We take feedback seriously. So, if you felt that the new hire orientation was really long and boring, we would like to see you explain the benefits a little bit more. Or can we talk a little bit more about the company? Things like that could potentially pop up, but we’re just ensuring that we’re getting the feedback and implementing it for the future.

Erin: That’s awesome. Sort of managing the post-honeymoon phase. Not to keep bringing it back to dating, but that’s what it is, right?

Keisha: Absolutely. Yeah.

The role of AI in onboarding

Erin: So, AI is all the buzz. We can’t have a conversation about automation, personalization, and customization without bringing it up. I’m curious: Have you sort of dipped your toe into AI? How are you using tools? Are you apprehensive? How are you feeling about it?

Keisha: Personally, I love AI. ChatGPT is my new bestie. AI has changed the game in some sense, but it’s important too.

We don’t use AI to automate everything in our processes. It’s very much person-to-person. But it does help improve processes, learn, or maybe just get suggestions. That’s how I use AI, in terms of—this is what we currently have. How can we revamp it to what’s trending?

Of course, doing research as well. But I am a huge advocate for AI. I’m all for it.

Erin: I noticed in your company’s swags that they have a “Karma is my boyfriend” sweatshirt; we need a “ChatGPT is my bestie.” Can we make that happen?

Keisha: Right! Listen, I’m gonna talk to our team because it needs to happen! 

I am so in love with AI. I feel like I use it more as an enhancement tool, and I don’t solely rely on it because, again, I always want to think with my brain and keep myself sharp. But it’s a little help from my little robot.

Erin: Yeah, it’s definitely about saving that bandwidth so that you can be more present with the humans. 

I did a training recently through Greenhouse and they were saying only 62% of HR professionals are using any type of AI to assist in their world. And I’m like, what? I want to talk to the other percentage and be like, “You’re missing out!”

Keisha: We need to up that number. Yes.

Customizing onboarding experiences to individual needs

Erin: The last question I’d like to end with is, what is the one thing companies can do to create a wow moment for their new hires?

Keisha: I would say invest in your employees. Invest in them, and make them feel appreciated. 

Something that I see companies do, but I would love to see more of, is putting more thought into free stuff, free swag, and making it customizable. Like I said, connecting it back to managers, maybe writing them a cool note, like, “We’re so excited to have you on the team!” and having everyone on the team sign it. 

And something that I would love to incorporate soon is having a buddy program. I think having a buddy or a mentorship program for every new hire is so important. For them to have that go-to person to maneuver the day-to-day.

Having that is important. So, I think companies that don’t have a buddy program should implement one across the board. 

It is so helpful to say, “Hey, I have a question about this,” instead of being afraid. After all, they don’t know that individual. It’s like building a work bestie from the beginning instead of having to network and meet everybody. I feel like that could be a really big moment for companies in their new hire process.

Erin: Yeah, having somebody that’s not your boss to ask a question.

Keisha: Exactly. You never know; your boss might think, “You’re the person asking too many questions.” But I love it when people ask me tons of questions. I feel like no question is stupid because I probably could be thinking about it or may not have the answer to it. So questions are always, always good.

Erin: We have a FAQ page. Everything that we get asked in the onboarding process, we put in there because chances are somebody else missed that information

Keisha: I love that! It’s really helpful.

Erin: Well, this has been so amazing. I definitely have some ideas of what I want to do in my department, but I’ve loved connecting with you and hearing your thoughts. Thank you so much for joining us.

Keisha: Yes, thank you so much. It’s been my pleasure, and such a great conversation. Thank you so much for having me on the podcast!

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Anna Hase

Anna is a coffee-obsessed content writer with a master's degree in psychology. Her main area of interest is employee psychology. When she's not writing, she's either reading or lifting weights at the gym.

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