Storytelling about Enboarder with Brent Pearson
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 132. This week we have storytelling about Enboarder with Brent Pearson. During this episode, Brent and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Enboarder.
Brent is the CEO of Enboarder and an expert in all things research and development, recruitment strategy and technology. His passion to allow HR practitioners to create a consistently amazing onboarding experience really comes through during the podcast.
He’s been involved in the talent acquisition space for over 20 years, including Monster and LiveCareer senior executive roles. Co-founding successful tech startups is no stranger to Brent; he helped launch HRX, which is now part of PeopleScout.
Enboarder’s history of becoming is quite an inspiration itself. Brent stated that he set out to “build a company properly, which is with a strong people layer or values layer.” He aimed to create a people-first workplace that aligned with his own ethics, and secondly, design the first experience-driven onboarding platform for new hire engagement.
In summary, Brent’s vision was to reinvent the onboarding process from the human experience, which is how Enboarder was officially founded in 2015.
Today, we discuss how Enboarder has helped transform the onboarding processes of many organizations, creating a fun and harmonious experience for candidates and employers. What has the company seen most successful for its clients, what practices stick and don’t stick, what does the process look like and more.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 24 minutes
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Research & Development, Recruitment Strategy and Recruitment technology are Brent's passions.
Specialties: Recruitment Strategy, Workforce Planning and Demand Forecasting, Direct Sourcing, Talent Pipelining, Talent Pooling, Recruitment Technology, Applicant Tracking Systems.Follow Follow
Welcome to Recruiting Daily’s Use Case podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens, or should happen, when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Brent on, from Enboarder, and we’re going to be talking about the use case for his software, and the business case, and why people are customers, and how they became customers, so we’re going to talk a lot about that journey. So why don’t we start with introductions, Brent, would you introduce yourself and Enboarder?
Hi William, thank you. Hello everyone, my name is Brent Pearson. I’m the founder and CEO of Enboarder, and most of my career, probably 20, 25 years, has been spent in the HR technology space, so I’m an HR tech treggie.
And that’s both good and bad. So. on one level, it’s like myself, on one level you’re like, you know what, I’ve been here long enough that I’ve seen these waves, many times, but also I’m constantly blindsided by really new, innovative things. So, when you’re in industry for that long, a length of time, you can get bored, but you can also be really, really dazzled by just the new things that people are doing, and crazy, like cool, innovative things. So I’m really, I’m excited to learn about where y’all started, and where you’re going. So tell us a little bit about Enboarder, what’s the problem? What do y’all solve?
Thanks. Probably the easiest way to understand what Enboarder is all about is to go back to why and how I started the company. It was interesting, it was 2015, and I really wanted to start my own company primarily to prove, I guess, that… well, let me back up. I’d worked in a couple of interesting companies before that, and while we had some great product and vision, I ended up leaving those companies because of differences around philosophy, and most of them were around how to actually build a company looking after your people. So I set out in 2015 to start my own company, and I really wanted to build a company properly, which is with a strong people layer or values layer.
So, that was my mission, and then the next step was, okay, I need a product or a service. What is it that I’m going to sell? And I had a couple of ideas, which I prototyped quickly and I took them out to my HR network, and I said, “Look, I’d like some feedback on these. What do you think?” Now, the initial ideas were wrong, as in, I got feedback which said, “Yeah, that’s nice, Brent, but…” And I kept getting these buts. But what was interesting, in one of the prototypes that I’d built, it had this onboarding component to it, and everyone that I showed it to seem to be drawn towards this onboarding component and they wanted to know a little bit more about how this worked and what it would do. And so it became clear to me that this was a pain point. Everyone was sort of struggling with how to do onboarding well.
So I took a step back and I decided to do some really deep research in the area of onboarding. And as part of that research, I came across an incredible white paper. It was an academic paper published by three professors. And in this white paper, they wanted to see whether or not the way you brought someone into a company had any direct correlation to key business metrics. So they ran an experiment in a call center where they actually set up three different methods for onboarding, and the results were quite staggering. In this experiment, they found that they could reduce first year staff turnover by 50%, and they increased the customer satisfaction that these people were delivering by 11%. And when I read that, I thought, wow, this is pretty amazing. Creating a more personalized approach to onboarding is not just a nice to have, it actually has a pretty compelling business benefit to it.
And then when I looked in the market, it was kind of interesting, I looked at the onboarding vendors that were in the market, and most of them were focused on improving the process for HR, automating the I9, and the W4, and the paperwork and the tasks, but no one was really looking at this through the lens of that new employee, and thinking about it from an employee experience perspective. So that was how Enboarder was born. And when we designed and built the platform, we designed and built a platform that would actually allow HR practitioners to create an amazing experience for their new employees when they bought them into their organization, and ensured that it was consistent no matter who the hiring manager was or what the department was. So that was the initial problem that we set out to solve with Enboarder.
So, I’ve said this on stage before, and please crush it as you see fit, but I’ve told people that, listen, when I came up, that onboarding was a binder, or it was an hour, or it was maybe a day or a week or something like that, but it was finite. And I’ve said, I think of onboarding now as more of nine months to 18 months, of a constant journey and validation, for both sides. We both made this decision. We made this decision from an employer perspective, an employee perspective, we made this decision to do stuff together.
And we need validation, and we want that validation that we made the right decision. So it isn’t onboarding in a sense of a binder, or an hour, or whatever that is. It’s this experience, as you said, it’s an experience that just goes further on and continues with the person, kind of like a concierge to make sure that they’re always validated, that you made the right decision to join the company, and you got the access to the things that you need access to, so the tools and resources to be successful. So all that being said, what did I get wrong? What did I get right?
I think you’re absolutely right, I think it’s interesting, especially in the US market. When I started traveling to the US and I started talking about Enboarder and really, it was all about experience driven onboarding, I would get a lot of quizzical looks. Because people were thinking up there, they have that same view, they sort of thought, well, onboarding is about doing my new startup paperwork, it’s about ensuring that I get the computer there for them on day one and they get set up on our system, and it’s about putting them in a conference room for a couple of days and then Power Pointing them to death. And that was kind of the perception of onboarding. But, that’s probably the least impactful element to onboarding.
When we look at onboarding, it’s really about how welcome does someone feel when they join your company? What sort of social connections do they build between their manager and their team? And how well do they actually fit in, get the tools that they need to actually spin up into their job and get productive? And I think you’re right, that’s not two or three days in a classroom, that’s not a binder, that is actually sort of a journey that they’re beginning with your organization. And typically, our onboarding journeys, they will go anywhere from three months to 12 months, and beyond.
So I think you’re absolutely right, it is a journey, and the journey has these very distinct phases too. So think about from the moment someone signs an offer to day one, you’ve got that pre-start period. Now they haven’t started yet, but you’ve got a highly engaged, motivated employee, and you have an opportunity to do some amazing things with them even before they start on day one, to start building those connections.
Then day one is its own unique day, and I think a lot of people get day one wrong. Day one is super stressful for most people, they’re very anxious, they’re very nervous, you’re coming into a new organization and meeting a whole bunch of new people, starting a new job and a new culture, et cetera, et cetera. And day one, I think, should be all about the experience, let’s just make day one an amazing experience and get them through that day, and give them just the information they need to get through day one. And then as they settle in for that next period, you’re still making them feel welcome during the first week, and then after they’ve got that initial connection with the team, et cetera, then it’s about enablement, and it’s about now, how do I ramp them up and get them going, and build longer term connections with the company? So we kind of see it as it’s almost like a multi-phase journey that does go over a long period of time. And it’s certainly not an onboarding task finder.
What’s interesting is there’s an element of ceremony and tradition, and things that you can do with people that you’ve been through this arduous recruiting process, which is usually the romance phase of a relationship. And now that we’ve both said yes, so fantastic, we’re now said yes, and man, there’s such a rush to work. A rush to productivity, which again, I think we all understand the importance of that, stated and covered. However, we’re still dealing with human beings, with emotions, on both sides, by the way, not just a new freshly minted employee. So, I love the idea of creating something special for them, something memorable, something that’s bespoke and fun, and it’s a celebration. Like we both made this decision, we’re going to celebrate this decision.
And what have you seen from some of your, again, no names of your customers, none of that stuff, but what have you seen where they’ve done this? They’ve actually taken this to heart, and gone, “Yeah, we’re not just going to say that we’re going to do this, we’re actually going to really make onboarding a really fun experience.”
Yeah. One of my favorite stories, it was actually not just one of our early customers, but this is someone who I really respected as an HR professional, and I actually consulted with her around the design and the development of the Enboarder platform. It’s kind of interesting, the first meeting with her, I was in a coffee shop and I remember it really clearly, and it’s across from her office. And I said, “Hey, I’ve got this business idea, and I want to validate to see what you think about it.” And so I described the concept for Enboarder, and she got all excited, and we finished coffee, and she said, “Come back to my office, I want to show you something.”And we walked back to her office, and she pulled out this sheet of paper where she had mapped out this vision of an amazing experience for employees. And she said, “I’ve had this designed for ages, and I can’t find any way of automating it. So I’m sitting here looking for a system, and what you described is the perfect match.”
So what was interesting is, so when we started launching Enboarder, she became one of our earliest customers, and she already had some of these incredible ceremonies, or sort of celebration moments, mapped out. And my favorite story is, she used to do this simple thing called the 3:00 PM munchie, and the way it worked was, before someone started, the system would push out a little questionnaire to them, and it would say things like, “Hey William, tell me about, what are you passionate about when you’re not working? And what allows you to be the best version of yourself”? Et cetera, et cetera. And one of the questions was, when the 3:00 PM slump hits, what’s your favorite munchie?
And what would happen is, the system would collect this information, it would send it to the hiring manager with instructions saying, look, when your new hire starts, this is their favorite munchie, why don’t you put it on their desk for day one, with a little post-it note? And this had a couple of really interesting benefits. But anyway, one day, one of her hiring managers came running down to her and said, her name is Alana, and said, “Alana, you’ve got to help me. I’ve got a real problem.” And Alana said, “Why, what’s the problem?” He said, “Look, my new hire starts on Monday, and the system has just told me her 3:00 PM munchie.” And Alana said, “Well, what’s the problem with that?” She goes, “Well, it’s tandoori lamb chops. What am I going to do?” And Alana turned around and said, “Well, you better go out there and get some tandoori lamb chops.”
So he went out, went to the supermarket, got some tandoori lamb chops, and they had an outdoor patio with a barbecue on it. And so at 3:00 PM on that new hire’s first day, he pulled the whole team out there and they actually cooked up a barbecue, and they took a photo of him standing there in an apron, next to the new hire, with the barbecue full of tandoori lamb chops. He sent this to Alana, and Alana was like, “Oh my God, this is fantastic.” So she gets the photo, takes it down to marketing and says, “Look, I’d like to do a post on our LinkedIn feed.” And marketing normally didn’t like HR doing this, they didn’t like them using it for talent acquisition purposes, et cetera. But she convinced them to actually recount the story on the LinkedIn feed.
And when they posted this story, it became the most viewed, most shared story on their LinkedIn feed, ever. And the comments and the feedback were fantastic. And the reason I like to tell that story is because it shows that that little things, and managers who actually really care about the employee’s experience, can actually have a pretty big and a profound impact. And you’re absolutely right, I think that it doesn’t take a lot of extra effort to turn these important sort of life transitions into two moments where people just get blown away, and talk to their partner and their family and their friends about the experience they’ve had starting their new job.
I absolutely love that story. I mean, that is just, I mean, it’s golden, and it shows that you have an audience, you have an employee, you respond to the audience, and you create this memorable moment. That will never be forgotten, by not just the employee, but everyone that participated in it. And again, I think that’s where we miss, with onboarding, is we think of it as tactics, and not as a strategy, not as a retention strategy. And if we were to think of onboarding from the very, very go, as this is a part of our retention strategy, so let’s create a celebration, let’s create a moment of engagement, let’s create a memorable moment, let’s do this stuff, and let’s then go and create a great experience. It gets me to ask the question about employee experience, because you started with onboarding, but you really kind of centralized around making sure that the experience for newly, freshly minted employees is just a wonderful experience. Where have your customers taken you?
Yeah. So what was interesting is, from the beginning, we made a conscious decision not to compartmentalize our product to only be about onboarding, even though our messaging historically has been, hey, we solve this problem. Often when customers actually look at the way our platform works, you see their eyes light up, and often, even in the sales process, they say, hey, is there any reason why we couldn’t use this for off-boarding? Or for parental leave? Or for other sort of moments that matter? And the answer is, you’re right, they can.
And when you talk about employee experience, what’s interesting is, what we’ve found is that there are moments in an employee’s journey that are really impactful, and if you get them right, you’re going to have an engaged employee, and if you get them wrong, then it’s has the potential to really derail that employee.
For example, think about parental leave. When a parent goes off to have a baby, whether it’s their first or subsequent babies, that’s an extremely emotional period. And the way an employer deals with that, again, it can be an amazing celebration, or it can actually just turn that new hire off the employee. So what we’re finding now is, in fact you’re going to see Enboarder is about to launch a new messaging to the market. And we were actually setting ourselves up, or calling ourselves, the people activation platform. And what we’re finding, and what our customers have told us, is that Enboarder really helps to create a vehicle for activating or engaging people around whatever the strategy is that they’re trying to drive through HR. Whether it’s around leadership development, or diversity, or return to the office, or whatever, often HR struggled with just, they just don’t get cut-through, people just don’t read HR emails, and they tend to use pretty boring communication methods, and then they wonder why their programs aren’t effective.
And our customers may have bought us for onboarding, but now they’re finding that the platform, because it pushes out through different channels, and it uses rich media, and it’s highly engaging, they’re finding that Enboarder is, it is a people activation platform.
I love it. I love it. So, two questions left. One is [inaudible 00:18:55] statement for the audience to make sure they understand, when we talk about employee experience, one of the reasons we talk about that is engagement, and obviously engagement can lead to retention. When we talk about engagement, it’s discretionary effort, so what we’re trying to unlock when we unlock engagement is we’re trying to unlock that discretionary effort that every employee has. So there’s a real reason to focus on this, and there’s a real reason to be talking about it. I want to ask, so two questions. One is, is ROI, do you still get asked ROI related questions or are we past that? And the second is, when people look at Enboarder, what do they fall in love with? What’s that “aha”? What’s the thing that they just fall in love with? You can handle them in either order.
Perfect. So, the answer is, yes, we do still get asked ROI questions, and often that’s more for the finance person that’s going to be signing off on the purchase. I think most HR people, especially now in this post-COVID world, they get it, they really understand that employee experience. It’s not a nice to have, it’s a must have, and people understand the payback and the benefits of engagement. But sometimes, the CFO or the COO may not, so we still need to actually point them out. And there are some good, hard ROI benefits around staff retention, around greater customer satisfaction. We’ve had productivity through the till, we’ve had time-savings in HR. So we can always show a pretty tangible ROI. So that’s the first thing.
And the second question was, what is it that they fall in love with? When I had the original concept for Enboarder, my very first hire was my Creative Director. And I said to him, I said, “Crystos, I’ve got an idea for a product. It’s an HR product.” And I said, “But if we get this wrong, we’re going to build yet another complicated HR product that they can’t use.”
Exactly. I said, “I want to create a product that can be implemented and owned by HR practitioners and not by technologists.” So, I want to create a user interface and a user experience which is all drag and drop so that when we demo it to HR, they look at it and they go, “Oh my God, this is a product that I can use, and I’m not going to be beholden to IT.” And that’s probably the single thing that HR practitioners love, we are now, all of a sudden, empowering them to now execute the strategies and the visions that they’ve got without having to get in the IT queue, because guess what? The IT queue is probably full with workday tickets and other tickets where their employee experience “soft stuff” is going to be down the queue, and I think that frustrates the hell out of HR.
Love it. I absolutely love it, and I love the product. I’ve loved you from afar, I’ve loved ya’lls go to market strategy and the way that you’ve evolved the discussion around onboarding, because, again, you’ve been in this game for a long time. At one point, I think SilkRoad’s Red Carpet was the best onboarding, quote, unquote, best onboarding tool, for a long time. And, no offense to SilkRoad, it wasn’t that great. But it was viewed as the best, which was kind of sad in a way.
Yeah. No, I remember seeing SilkRoad’s Red Carpet in the early days, and yeah, I thought, hey, this is pretty cool. But what was interesting is, they were very task-focused, so it was all of those automating tasks and things like that. I think they missed, that they were too slow, to miss the shift to employee experience. [crosstalk 00:23:08] that’s allowed us. We designed our product from the ground up around employee experience and engagement, because, let’s face it, no one comes home from work on their first day and goes, “Hey, honey, my I9 process was so slick, and my paperwork was just so great.” It’s about, how welcome did they feel? How did the team greet them? How prepared was my manager? Et cetera.
Love it. Listen, I absolutely appreciate you carving out some time to come onto Use Case podcast. Thank you so much, Brent.
My pleasure, William, and yeah, have a great HR tech conference.
Absolutely, and thanks to everyone listening to the Use Case podcast, until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.