I think we have all experienced starting a new job and being pushed into the deep end. As we all know, that kind of sink or swim experience is rarely effective. But does the opposite, i.e., having a great onboarding process, actually have value?
WHY ONBOARD AT ALL?
From a purely financial perspective, the onboarding process has a definite, immediate cost. It ties up HR staff, there is an administration requirement, on-site training often affects productivity, and so on. So, what drives this notion that a process should be in place to ensure new employees come into the business effectively? Does it really matter if you onboard efficiently? It’s an interesting question, and it’s worth going back to basics to renew our perspective.
Onboarding is about taking the opportunity to make an employee feel as if they are part of the business, that they know what is expected of them, and that they are being welcomed as a valuable member of the team. The faster that happens, the sooner the new employee is fully productive. That alone makes it a valuable exercise from a business point of view. There is also a very human, empathic element to onboarding, though. The candidate is experiencing a big change in life and is going through a very stressful time. While all businesses are there to be profitable, few would knowingly put that cost we mentioned in the previous paragraph above an employee’s wellbeing.
WHAT DOES A GOOD ONBOARDING PROCESS LOOK LIKE?
Just like any other new situation, someone joining your business is facing a stressful situation because of the fear of the unknown. Fear sets us in fight or flight mode and creates more stress. A good onboarding process should therefore address and alleviate those anxieties as well as dealing with all the requirements of a new starter. As these anxieties are based in a fear of the unknown, a new employee will benefit from being welcomed with the right balance of information without overwhelming them with data.
An important part of successfully introducing a new team member will be making sure they understand your culture. From before the new employee starts, you have a great opportunity to reinforce your expectations of them in terms of company values. Onboarding is, therefore, also part of the continuing development of the employee relationship with your brand.
FIVE KEY ONBOARDING PROCESSES, THEIR USES, AND THEIR PITFALLS:
Start from the beginning.
If you begin the process of introducing the company in terms of expectations and values from first contact onwards, you will have a much better overall response from the applicants. Tell the candidates who you are and what you stand for so they can align with you. Once the job offer is made, the content of your onboarding should switch to a welcoming, inclusive tone to reflect the candidate is now an employee.
Introduce the line management and team as early as possible
Getting to know the people around them, and crucially where the management line is, will be very important to the settling-in process. But remember, people can only retain so much at one time, so avoid the ‘cocktail party’ introductions and go for longer sessions to allow relationships to develop.
Space out the paperwork
You need to do all your due diligence and introduction paperwork but try not do it all at once. Do the important stuff first and then pace the rest to give the poor employee some relief from form filling.
Focus on your expectations early and put them in context
When an employee starts a new role, one of the biggest questions they have is one of expectation. What will the role require? Try to put the job role in context rather than just description. Contextualising helps the new employee have perspective. Beware of a long list of tasks and expectations that can be daunting and even overwhelming.
Continue beyond the initial introduction
Onboarding often works best when it fades away rather than ends. The end of training and induction is only the start of becoming part of the team for the employee, so the onboarding should be the same. Regular follow-ups, options to feed back, and wellbeing checks will all enhance the process. However, again, balance is required, and at some point, the employee needs to know they have the trust to get on with it. There is a real danger in providing training and cutting the new team member loose, though. A gradual reduction to a light touch approach will likely work best.
IS IT REALLY WORTH ONBOARDING, THOUGH?
When it comes down to it, the statistics and the research show that good onboarding is vital to early engagement and long-term job satisfaction. As usual, the numbers vary, but usually, they will tell you that the effects of a good early experience are phenomenal. Bad onboarding leads to employees who are at least twice as likely to look for a new job in a relatively short space of time. With the overall cost of hire often being reported at £50k+, onboarding seems a small price to pay for an engaged and loyal employee. We are also seeing a lot of people reviewing their onboarding in relation to diversity and inclusivity to enhance their employer brand with a wider pool of candidates. In the current employment climate, it is probably best to let retention have the final say, though. A good onboarding process will result in an 80%+ increase in retention. I think that speaks volumes.
As always, we are happy to help with your recruitment needs, so contact us and let’s chat.