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Want to Foster an Inclusive Workplace? Prioritize Empathy During the Onboarding Process

The onboarding process is a critical step in integrating new employees into a company. Both human resources and team leaders diligently check off items from a predefined list, ensuring comprehensive discussions on the role, daily tasks, and the company itself.

However, amid this structured approach, it's imperative not to overlook the emotional journey of the new hire. From joy and anticipation to nervousness and stress, every employee experiences a spectrum of emotions as they embark on their new role.

In my role as a matchmaker of great candidates and great roles, I often observe a critical oversight in the onboarding process that leads to unnecessary turnover--a lack of emphasis on empathy during onboarding.

Prioritizing empathy in this process is paramount for fostering inclusivity from the outset. It sets the tone for a welcoming environment, facilitating smoother transitions for new team members and ultimately contributing to the company's long-term success. Below are a few ways I have seen successful companies lean into empathy during the first few weeks with a new employee.

Recognize and validate emotions

Empathy involves genuinely acknowledging the myriad emotions experienced by each new hire. Sincerity is key, as insincerity is easily detected (yes, your team can tell when you're faking it). New employees tend to take on a "first date" mentality, which means they are keen to put their best foot forward and shine during onboarding. Think back to the last time you were on a first date, and how mentally and emotionally exhausting the lead-up was-- not to mention the date itself!

One effective strategy to ease the stress of new hires is by acknowledging and empathizing with their feelings. Sharing personal anecdotes about your job beginnings can establish rapport and demonstrate understanding. Research indicates that an overwhelming 87 percent of employees view empathetic leadership as crucial for fostering inclusivity and boosting morale.

Offer abundant resources to new hires

Because new hires often feel overwhelmed, it's prudent to equip them with ample resources. Simply inundating them with tasks and expecting immediate absorption and recall is not empathetic. It's akin to tossing a non-swimmer into deep waters and expecting them to navigate alone--a harsh and unfair approach.

Providing a comprehensive manual or handout for reference is a great starting point, but you can't stop there. It is imperative to implement regular check-ins, either daily or weekly, throughout the training phase. Pairing them with a mentor within the company is another beneficial step toward their integration and development.

Build a strong rapport, with an open-door policy

Because empathy is so important, new hires need to know they can come to you with any concerns, questions, and help during the onboarding and training process. HR is there to help solve problems, and new hires need to know that you are ready to listen and help them work through any issues they may be having.

Building a strong rapport will ensure they come to you with any issues they have; it also helps build trust, which is an important ingredient to inclusivity in the workplace.

Ensure full team alignment

Prioritizing empathy during the onboarding process requires collective effort beyond just the HR department. Engaging the entire team in fostering a supportive environment is essential. Before the new hire joins, it's imperative to brief their prospective colleagues or team members.

By proactively involving existing staff in the onboarding process, you cultivate a culture of inclusivity from day one. Encourage team members to reflect on their own onboarding experiences and share what made them feel welcomed and at ease. This not only enhances empathy, but also strengthens bonds within the team.

Effective communication regarding the new hire's role, expectations, and any specific needs they may have helps to set the stage for a smoother transition. Additionally, fostering an atmosphere of openness and approachability encourages new employees to seek assistance and support from their colleagues when needed. This collaborative approach not only benefits the new hire but also reinforces the team's sense of unity and shared purpose.


This article was written by Mandy Gilbert from Inc. and was legally licensed through the DiveMarketplace by Industry Dive. Please direct all licensing questions to

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