A warm welcome: Why onboarding matters

Written By Laura Banks

The value of onboarding all new starters should never be underestimated, it ensures a positive experience for your new employee from day one.

Research suggests a poor induction or weak onboarding experience leads to 50% employee turnover within 18 months of joining your business (Gallup). This retention figure impacts everyone: that individual, your hiring managers, your team, the business and ultimately the bottom line. This means that the energy and attention that we as leaders dedicate to all new employees truly matters.

Excellent customer experience

What does a poor onboarding experience say about your business, your culture, and your values? What are other firms doing, or rather, not doing? Ask yourself about a time you started a job and were told that there was no handover or induction as the previous incumbent never had one “so why should you”? I would suggest that my role in HR is to offer excellent service to my clients, and my clients are the employees of a firm where I work, whether they have been in post for 14 years, 14 months or are yet to start. Leaders – and especially those in HR – have a responsibility to really empathise with new starters and provide an excellent experience that is engaging and welcoming.

How can we achieve this
Onboarding goes much deeper than a sparkly pen on day one and a buddy you never see. It starts when business leaders are designing the job, whether it is a direct ‘like-for-like’ or a new role, go back to the drawing board and imagine what skills and behavioural traits your firm needs. Ask yourself what the expectations are, put some thought into the role; after all, you want the candidate to spend time researching us, so we owe them this. The new hire knows what is expected and understands what their purpose is; these can then be evidently reviewed by both parties throughout month one, and the rest of the trial period. It also makes clear to others in the team and the rest of the business on what they have been hired to deliver.

Onboarding continues with ensuring your new employee remains in contact with you in that gap between final interview and them working their notice period (it can sometimes be three months!), send a few emails, call them the week prior to them starting, maybe even invite them to an informal coffee (in person, or virtually). If you have a team event coming up and they have not yet started invite your new employee. The level of engagement and the sense of belonging they will affiliate with your business before they officially start will be reciprocated in the longer term in terms of productivity and loyalty.

Tangible tools
The onboarding journey never ends, though special attention should obviously be made in the first few weeks. Remember the supremely obvious – involve the whole team in their induction, advising all employees the business has a new starter is always a good start! I have hung my head in shame when I have overhead things such as “who are you? I didn’t know we had a new staff member”. What message does that give your new employee? Does the new employee know what time and who will meet them on their first day?

Provide them again with the Role Profile and your organisation’s values and vision, once again simply reiterating expectations. Next, think about the actual onboarding material (online or a hard document), there should be a generic firm-wide induction that is then tailored to the individual depending on the team in which they work and the role they hold. Schedule things such as small coffee break outs, time for them to simply read emails and catch up on the latest Teams/ online chat in their first weeks, everyone should make time in their diaries for a quick introduction and explanation of their job (this is all relative to size of business). Subsequently moving on to the 1-1 reviews, formal reviews, and when training/ CPD will be considered at the end of month one leading into their second and third months. Do assign them a buddy – one who wants to do the job and one who will take the role seriously, somebody within your business who can demonstrate empathy and will really thrive in sharing their experience with another person.

I would argue that the above should also be used for re-integrating employees back into the office after enforced remote working, as well as when employees gain an internal promotion, or move departments/ teams within an organisation. This is especially the case with internal communications coming from leaders, making people feel welcome and setting clear expectations on both sides. This is so we are demonstrating empathy as leaders, we learn to acknowledge when the great work occurs and feed back to one another in a grown-up and kind way when we need to improve in our job delivery.

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