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10.02.2021 | How Axpo eases new employees into their jobs

A warm yet digital welcome

Axpo is exploring new paths for welcoming and onboarding new employees. The digital collaboration platform plays an important role in this, as Simone Ontyd, Head of Learning & Development, explains. Emil Roydev, who joined Axpo in Bulgaria in September 2020, found the digital onboarding very helpful. But he is also looking forward to the post-COVID time, when he can interact with people in person again.

The measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic are forcing most of us to work from home. How has this changed onboarding of new employees, Simone?

Even before the pandemic, a well-organised onboarding programme and close support for new employees was key for Axpo. Now, with many starting their new jobs from home, it is even more important that we integrate new colleagues into existing team structures and share the values and culture of Axpo with them. Through specialist training sessions in the first few weeks, new employees learn the key facts about electricity production and distribution, trading and sales. We now hold these training sessions virtually. In the first week of work, there is also a live stream of our Welcome Day with a virtual tour of the Axpo headquarters in Baden. What’s more, we have put together a digital package with all the important information on our working routines and other interesting reads on Axpo and the energy sector, along with additional webinars. This helps us greatly improve the functional integration of new employees.

In addition to Switzerland, Axpo has sites in more than 30 countries in Europe, Asia and the US. How does Axpo ensure the successful international onboarding of new colleagues there?

Good international cooperation that reaches across specialist boundaries is key to our success. We are working on a digital collaboration platform where everyone can create their own personal profile containing professional and private information. This will then serve as a point of reference for initial contact. Once a month, new colleagues get together for a virtual coffee chat. Of course, these online meetings are no substitute for personal contact, but they can still facilitate networking and knowledge development. People learn from each other, and if you can see your colleague at home in a video chat, it automatically leads to discussion of more personal matters. We also hold regular webinars in which employees talk about their ongoing projects or current specialist topics. On top of that, there are reading recommendations and video tutorials. This close exchange and collaboration across borders leads to innovative ideas and solutions at Axpo which benefit our customers.

When educating and training employees, Axpo focuses on personalised learning. What does that mean exactly?

We strongly believe that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Everyone learns differently, which is why we offer a range of teaching formats. That includes video tutorials, LinkedIn Learning, virtual live webinars, the online library and classroom trainings. We feel that you should be able to learn at any time, in any place, and using any technological device. But personalised learning also means that everyone can explore the issues and training modules that are relevant or interesting to them. Autonomy and a thirst for knowledge are essential. A very important credo of ours is the principle of ‘employees for employees’ – meaning that we learn from each other, in both directions. We are a diverse group of people at Axpo, with different professional backgrounds, experience and knowledge. By sharing knowledge and experience, we take steps forward together.

What are the key trends in onboarding of new employees?

Even without COVID-19, there is a trend for virtual, personalised onboarding. It is important to note here that the process of bringing a new employee on board begins the moment they’re hired. That’s because it’s not just about knowledge-building and networking within the company, but also about understanding the company, its strategy and its culture as a whole. Even before that, we share a lot about our values and our culture with the candidates during the recruitment process. They then learn more about the strategy in their first weeks at Axpo. ‘Preboarding’, the phase before the first day of work, is becoming more important. At a time like this, we feel it is particularly important that new employees have already heard from their supervisors before they start, that they are informed about the onboarding programme and their first weeks in the new role, and that this virtual process is as personal as possible.

Emil, you joined Axpo Bulgaria in September 2020. What was your experience of onboarding at Axpo?

I started at Axpo just before the second wave of COVID-19, so I was lucky enough to meet most of my colleagues in person at the office. Naturally, that helps with the onboarding process. But the Welcome Day was virtual, like the training sessions. The monthly coffee chats on our collaboration platform teach me more about the culture at Axpo and serve as a source of information about Axpo and the energy industry. From my first day, I have found Axpo to be a well-organised community of experts in their fields, who welcomed me with open arms and did everything to make me feel comfortable. I am very grateful for that.

Was there anything you think was missing from your onboarding at Axpo?

It is difficult to say that you miss something you haven’t had from the beginning. I have heard from my colleagues that new employees normally travel to Switzerland or one of the other 30 Axpo sites for certain introductory courses and training. I would, of course, be keen to make up for this with a visit to the headquarters in Baden once we can travel again.

Do you think digital contact can replace personal contact?

Completely replacing personal contact with digital contact is, in my opinion, not only impossible, but also bad for mental well-being. Personal exchange strengthens team spirit and it’s much more motivational. But the numerous digital options for communication, collaboration and training that we have at Axpo make it much easier to work and learn, especially now. It makes learning in particular much more personalised and autonomous. I feel that digital contact can supplement personal contact, but it can’t replace it.

Simone Ontyd, Head of Learning & Development and Emil Roydev, Axpo Bulgaria

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