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Ep 453: Onboarding Evolved


The pandemic changed many aspects of talent acquisition and perhaps none more so than onboarding. With many people spending less time in their employer’s physical offices, how have TA and HR teams evolved their onboarding processes to forge a sense of belonging, develop relationships and ultimately increase productivity and retention?

My guest this week is Sharawn Tipton, Chief People Officer at LiveRamp. Over the last few years, LiveRamp has developed a strategic and very intentional approach to onboarding, and Sharawn has a lot of insight and advice to share.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Shifting from a transactional approach to one that focuses on building relationships

• Providing an immediate sense of belonging

• The impact of the pandemic on onboarding and retention

• Employee Resource Groups

• Wellness and mental health

• Starting onboarding before the hiring process even starts

• Culture

• Moments that matter

• How important are the first 30 days

• Personalization of experience

• EVP & expectations

• Lesson learned and having a growth mindset.

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Matt Alder (48s):
Hi, everyone. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to episode 453 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. The pandemic changed many aspects of talent acquisition, and perhaps none more so than onboarding. With many people spending less time in their employer’s physical offices, how have TA and HR teams evolved their onboarding processes to forge a sense of belonging, develop relationships, and ultimately, increase productivity and retention? My guest this week is Sharawn Tipton, Chief People Officer at LiveRamp.

Matt Alder (1m 28s):
Over the last few years, LiveRamp has developed a strategic and very intentional approach to onboarding. And Sharawn has lots of insights and advice to share. Hi, Sharawn, and welcome to the podcast.

Sharawn Tipton (1m 40s):
Thank you, Matt. Thank you for having me today. I’m really excited to jump into this topic.

Matt Alder (1m 46s):
Well, it’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Before we get started, could you just introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?

Sharawn Tipton (1m 54s):
Absolutely. So my name is Sharawn Tipton. I am a Chief People Officer currently at LiveRamp, which is a SAS company. We are publicly traded about 1400 team members global. Prior to that, I was a Chief Diversity Officer and going way, way back. Matt, I started my career in compensation and benefits.

Matt Alder (2m 17s):
Fantastic stuff. Now I know that a key topic for you is onboarding and onboarding is something that’s of great interest I know to lots of people who are listening. So it’s great to kind of explore that topic today with you. First and foremost, tell us what the onboarding process at LiveRamp looks like.

Sharawn Tipton (2m 37s):
Yeah. So what I really want for our team members is to not have the traditional onboarding process where it’s very transactional, Matt, and you’re filling out paperwork and you’re watching videos. I think we’ve all been there. We have really shifted to more of a relationship-driven onboarding. And what I want is for each team member to come in and really think about with their manager, you know, what do I need to be successful in this company? How do I make a true impact and who do I need to collaborate with to do that? And so we are all about– We are hyper-focused on accelerating those relationships, Matt.

Sharawn Tipton (3m 19s):
So thinking through, okay, I come in, I’m in people and culture, I’m gonna work with finance. I’m gonna support, let’s say, the product organization. How do we start building those relationships? And what we found through the pandemic is it’s even harder to do that with 33 percent of our workforce being remote. And so I think of our onboarding program almost as an accelerator program. It’s like, how do we, in the first 90 days, get our team members connected to the people that they’re gonna work with on a daily basis? How do we integrate them into our culture? Do they understand our north star and where we’re going as a company and how do we make sure, most importantly, Matt, and this is something as a black woman that I’m very sensitive about, do they belong?

Sharawn Tipton (4m 8s):
Do they have that sense of belonging? And how do we make sure that they feel that immediately on day one?

Matt Alder (4m 15s):
And I guess it’s interesting what you say about the pandemic, because, you know, I don’t know about you, but my sort of LinkedIn feed has been full of people starting new jobs. And then, you know, literally, they leave their company one day, they start the next job and they’re sitting at the same desk with the same computer at home and it must have made onboarding very difficult. Has it sort of rechanged your approach?

Sharawn Tipton (4m 39s):
Absolutely, it has. So not only has it made, I would say onboarding more difficult, it’s made retention more difficult, Matt. We all know we can’t hire our way out of bad retention. And we know that new team members they’re instantly gonna make a decision if this is the place for them or not. And that is the challenge, right? A lot of organizations have seen ghosting in the last two years, which is something normally, you know, was pretty rare, I would say, pre-pandemic. So we have to be very intentional, right? Those relationships that would just organically form, we now have to invest in, right?

Sharawn Tipton (5m 19s):
And to help foster and nurture. And so it’s very different. And I think a great thing that we can do, talent acquisition professionals, HR professionals, is really connect team members with not only the right people, but the right resources as well. So most companies have Employee Resource Groups where you can connect team members. You know, wellness is a big thing right now, you know, going through the pandemic with mental health. So, what do you have that supports team members and allows them to be their full self? And I think introducing those resources early on is a great strategy, but I would say absolutely, it’s changed, Matt.

Sharawn Tipton (6m 1s):
You have to be intentional. There needs to be a plan in place and you need to drive that connection that you don’t get just by, you know, when you join a company, like you said, you’re sitting at your desk at home. How do you make the experience more than that, right? How do you–? When Sharawn Connor stepped in, when I walk into LiveRamp and I’m sitting at home at my desk, how do you make it real for me and meaningful? And I don’t think that is a one-pillar approach. Like there’s many leverage you can pull there, Matt, and again, it’s connecting with the right people, right? Your peers, your stakeholders, leveraging your ERGs, that sense of community, right?

Sharawn Tipton (6m 46s):
Do you have a giving foundation or an opportunity for your employees to volunteer and to connect outside of this virtual world, even connecting them to their community, but it should look very different, Matt.

Matt Alder (6m 59s):
You mentioned there about starting onboarding as early as possible. I know that in your organization, you actually start onboarding very early while you are still interviewing people. Why is that? And how does that work?

Sharawn Tipton (7m 12s):
Yeah, I would– So, Matt, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and I actually would encourage people to start a step before and actually think about, you know, ideally at LiveRamp, we’d love to touch a candidate five times before they ever come interview with us, whether that’s them seeing a post on LinkedIn about our culture company or seeing us at a career fair. To me, that’s where the onboarding starts because that’s when potential candidates are making an assessment about your company and your culture, and you wanna show up for them. And I think that’s really, really important because everyone is looking again for that sense of belonging.

Sharawn Tipton (7m 53s):
And they wanna know when I step into your company, will I be supported? Will I be able to be successful here and do meaningful work? And I think that’s something that you can show prior to them signing the offer letter, right? You wanna start building and creating those connections and relationships, right? If someone reaches out asking about your company on LinkedIn, when you start to dialogue with them, or if you never respond to them, to me, that’s part of onboarding. You’re just not getting to that end result of them being an actual employee. But it’s kind of like dating, Matt, right? Like it starts early.

Sharawn Tipton (8m 34s):
You wanna get to marriage, but that dating process, that is the onboarding, right? You’re setting the expectations with that candidate. You’re showing them your employee value proposition. What are you gonna give them as a company? And what are you expecting in return? Are they clear on your values when you show up at the career fair? Do they know what your product is? Are you committed to diversity and inclusion? And if so, how does that show up? Do they see themselves in the people that you’re sending out? All of that to me is onboarding.

Matt Alder (9m 7s):
And what do you sort of find the most important aspects of that are in terms of what you discuss with potential employees about the company or about the employee culture?

Sharawn Tipton (9m 18s):
So for us, if our potential candidates walk away with anything it’s that people matter most. And so we want you to be clear that when you join our company, we aren’t looking at you solely as just a resource, right, for output. We are looking at you as a whole person. And I think having that connection with a potential candidate or with someone joining your company is really important. We talk a lot Matt about in HR moments that matter. And that’s really what creates the stickiness of can of employees with companies. It’s when companies show up when team members need them, whether it’s a marriage or a death or a illness, but one of those Moments that matter is actually the Onboarding.

Sharawn Tipton (10m 5s):
It’s day one. It’s those first 30 days. It’s, you know, when we say people matter most, when I show up on day one, is there someone there to greet me or am I just trying to find a parking space and navigate my way and going to the receptionist? And there’s no badge for me and no one knows I’m here. you know, if I matter, right, that shouldn’t be my experience. And so that’s what I would want any potential candidate or employee to fell at LiveRamp is that they matter and we’re thinking about them and we’re putting them first.

Matt Alder (10m 43s):
You mentioned there about the first 30 days that someone’s with you. And I’d imagine that they’re sort of quite critical in terms of retention. How does that work? How important are they and how does it help the amount of time that people stay with the business?

Sharawn Tipton (11m 0s):
Yeah, I think it’s very critical. And so I would encourage, and particularly talent acquisition professionals again, you can’t hire your way out of bad attrition. So every TA team should be looking at what is your retention in the first 30, 90, 120 days? Like we need to get really clear on those metrics and those first 30 days matter. And again, it’s being intentional. And, Matt, I was thinking back like through my onboarding experiences and I can recall I joined a company and they had this great concept of having a buddy system. So they connected me with one person in the organization outside of my team, who was my buddy.

Sharawn Tipton (11m 43s):
And I went to lunch with my buddy. We, Matt, had nothing in common. We did not have good chemistry kind of going back to the dating thing, right? And I felt like he really did not want to invest that time in me. And so to me, that was a really bad first 30 days onboarding experience. And so where I’m going with this, Matt, is those first 30 days need to be personalized. Like you need to be looking at every team member that comes in, you know, what is top of mind for them? What are their career objectives? What are their personal ambitions and how do you tailor an onboarding plan around that?

Sharawn Tipton (12m 24s):
So it’s not just, hey, pull somebody and make them their buddy. It’s, hey, you know, Sharawn loves to ski. You know, is there someone in our organization that also has that passion that Sharawn can connect with not only on a work level, but on a personal level, right? And so the 30 days, of course, you have your paperwork and your compliance videos. But really, I think if organizations think about to maximize the effectiveness of this employee, let’s have them meet as many people as they can in our organization. I think you’re off to a terrific start. I think the other thing, Matt, again, going back to the employee value proposition and expectations, you know, what are all the resources available to these team members?

Sharawn Tipton (13m 12s):
What’s the secret sauce in your organization for success? Every organization has a love language. At some companies, it’s data. For us, it actually is relationships, right? So it’s very difficult to be successful in our organization if you aren’t taking time to build those relationships. New hires need to know that. And so it’s all about this, for me, for our organization, making a customized experience where we really are utilizing our network. So as a manager, I’m utilizing my network to help this person be successful and connecting them with all of my network as well.

Matt Alder (13m 52s):
Just to dig a bit deeper into that. So relationships obviously very important part of the culture of your business. You sort of mentioned ERGs, you mentioned personalizing the onboarding process. What do you do to make sure that, you know, people understand that, but also are able to build great relationships within the business as early as possible?

Sharawn Tipton (14m 15s):
Beautiful question. So we have a training empowering leadership at LiveRamp. And so within that training, we give our managers information on how they do that, right? So we’re setting that expectation with them. So I think it’s important for managers to understand their role in the onboarding process because they are that employee’s first point of contact, right. And they’re gonna multiply their network for them is what we’re hoping. The other thing that we do, Matt, is we bring in ERGs into our onboarding session. So we bring all of our new hires together. We have the ERGs come in and speak to them.

Sharawn Tipton (14m 57s):
I speak to our new hires. So we have them meet with some of our executive team as well. And it’s an open forum Q&A really. And what we’re trying to demonstrate, Matt, is that you can connect with anyone here. It’s not about hierarchy. We have an open door policy. Anyone can talk to anybody at any time, whether that’s Slack, whether that’s text, whether that’s email. We know that great ideas come from everywhere in our organization. And we want our team members to know that they all have a voice and that we value relationships. So I think introducing that into your onboarding framework, giving access to the ERGs, explaining your wellness benefits, sh having your executive team come in and share your values, right.

Sharawn Tipton (15m 44s):
And demonstrate to the team how that shows up, what that looks like, how we live them is very powerful. And then I would say, Matt, again, having a plan. So when I come in on day one, please have thought about what day one looks like for me, day one to day 30, right? Chart out who I’m gonna meet with and why that’s important and what the expectations are. And have that– I would say, have that on paper. Let the new employee know that you’ve been thoughtful about this and it’s personalized for them, and that they matter.

Matt Alder (16m 20s):
As an organization, you obviously think about onboarding in a very considered and strategic way. What have you seen in terms of sort of results within the organization, you know, the length of time that people stay or how they feel about starting their new role?

Sharawn Tipton (16m 34s):
We have a question on our glance survey that says, you know, would you recommend your manager to someone? Do you feel that your manager supports you? So we know when we see higher scores there, we have higher retention. Now I think the work for us to do being quite candid is to put in some metrics in that survey around our onboarding process and that we have not done.

Matt Alder (16m 60s):
And as a final question, obviously you spent a large part of your career in the HR and the people industry. What are the three biggest lessons you’ve learned about the hiring process in that time?

Sharawn Tipton (17m 15s):
I think, Matt, there’s one big lesson that I’ve learned, and that is to have a growth mindset. I think no one could have predicted what the last two years would look like. So as an HR professional, you would think, you know, prior to the last two years, oh, I know how to onboard people. I know how to hire people, right? And then we had the pandemic and we’ve had a lot of issues. For example, George Floyd, right? And employees really becoming more vocal around expectations of companies. And then we’ve had the great resignation. And so I don’t think anyone could have prepared for any of those.

Sharawn Tipton (17m 55s):
And so as an HR professional, what it taught me is that I need to be tuned in into what’s going on externally and thinking about how what’s going on externally is going to impact my ability to hire and retain top talent. And that is ever changing, Matt. And so I would encourage HR professionals, you know, stay on your toes, think of, you know, innovative ways to onboard your employees and try it, you know, pilot it because none of us have it all figured out. And I think the other thing that I learned, Matt, is we are greater together. And so I really leverage my external network to poke around and see what others are doing in their onboarding processes.

Sharawn Tipton (18m 42s):
What are they doing to hire talent? And can I leverage some of their practices in my organization? But I am– I will tell you, after the last two years, nothing would surprise me. And again, it’s very clear that we all still have a lot to learn.

Matt Alder (18m 59s):
Absolutely. Sharawn, thank you very much for talking to me.

Sharawn Tipton (19m 2s):
You’re welcome, Matt. Thank you so much for having me.

Matt Alder (19m 6s):
My thanks to Sharawn. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

Chad and Cheese Podcast (20m 6s):
Do you love news about LinkedIn, Indeed, Google and just about every other recruitment tech company out there? Hell, yeah. I’m Chad. I’m Cheese. We’re The Chad and Cheese Podcast. All the latest recruiting news and insights are on our show, dripping in snark and attitude. Subscribe today, wherever you listen to your podcasts. We out.

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