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The ability to access information and services on the go becomes more and more ubiquitous. In this conversation with Paul Hopkins, product owner of SuccessFactors Onboarding, find out how this expectation applies to new hire onboarding and how SuccessFactors responds to new hire needs in our SuccessFactors Onboarding 1311 release.

Anke: For our newest addition to the SuccessFactors talent suite, SuccessFactors Onboarding, launched in May 2013, we did extensive research on the needs of new hires and hiring managers. In over 90 detailed interviews we gained a lot of insight on expectations, experiences, and challenges of new hires and the managers who hire them. In late October I did a Webcast called “Onboarding Success: Solving the Human Equation” where I talk about our findings, the new hire needs pyramid, and how we address these needs in our product. One of the things we found was that people today really want relevant information on their mobile devices. We heard statements like “My mobile is my command center” and “I have everything on my smart phone I need to manage my day.” And in addition, it seemed that new hires especially crave information in the time leading up to the first day on the job because that is when they have the most anxiety. How did the product team at SuccessFactors Onboarding respond to this need in the November release?

Paul: I think we did a very good job in striking the right balance between not enough information and too much information. Of course there is always more information that you can push to the mobile device, but you have to make sure the app remains usable and useful. Otherwise you might even end up adding to “day one anxiety,” which is exactly what we do not want to do.

So the November release, our first release of the app on iPhone, includes information that we think every new hire will be asking him- or herself in the run-up to starting with a new company: How do I get to the office? Who are some of the key people I will be interacting with during the first days and weeks? What kinds of activities are planned to help me get on board, whether that’s “official” corporate orientation meetings from HR, first-week recaps with the team, lunch with the hiring manager, or initial goal-setting discussions?

Anke: I can imagine that especially the “People to meet” feature is very well received by new hires.

Paul: Very much so – we know from the research you mentioned earlier that the hiring manager and the buddy or mentor of the new hire both play
key roles in helping a new hire get on board. Or to put it another way: the hiring manager is the hero of the onboarding process and the buddy is the

So the “People to meet” feature simply shows the profile photos of these two people and gives the new hire quick, easy, familiar ways of getting in touch: make a phone call, send a text message, send an e-mail. All of which can be done from the device itself.

Whether the new hire actually does get in touch with the hiring manager or the buddy before day one is of course another matter that depends on so many things, including the personality of the new hire, previous experiences, expectations, and so on. But if you can see a picture of your new hire buddy smiling at you on your iPhone, you’re more likely to give him a quick call or send him an e-mail to ask a “simple question” like “What’s the dress code?” Or “Where do people go for lunch?” Or even “Hey, I start next Monday and wonder if you’d have time to meet up for coffee and a chat over the weekend?”

Anke: Can you give us a little preview of what you are planning down the road in terms of mobile functionality for new hire onboarding?

Paul: Well, this topic of “making it easy for people to connect” is a theme that will continue to drive what we do, without overwhelming the new hire. For example, if the new hire gets a chance to look at the company org chart, with photos of her peers, she’s going to feel much more comfortable on day one: she can walk through the door and already see a few familiar faces. It’s amazing how much easier seeing a photo of someone makes the business of making first contact with that person: “Hi, I’m Alison, I start here today. Good to meet you, Richard.” Alison and Richard have made contact, the ice is broken. Much easier than having to wait until the new hire is formally introduced to his or her peers.

I think back to my own personal onboarding experiences. I started with SAP 14 years ago but still can remember suffering from “day one anxiety,” even though SAP was not the first company I worked for…why is that? Well, starting anywhere new is a very emotional experience and therefore one that just about everyone can remember for a very long time. I remember making notes of things I had learned from people, or capturing topics I wanted to talk
about with someone  and having tons and tons of pieces of paper and colored sticky notes to help me organize everything.
We plan to make use of the SuccessFactors mobile “Touchbase” feature to help the new hire with exactly that kind of thing. So connecting with someone is as easy as clicking on their photo, making a little note of something to ask that person, and having those notes at my fingertips (literally!) next time we meet.

Follow SuccessFactors on Twitter: @successfactors