Successful onboarding leads to faster, more enduring results

A strong onboarding process will improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%, according to a study by Brandon Hall Group/Glassdoor (“The True Cost of a Bad Hire”). The study also shows that companies with weak onboarding programmes are twice as likely to lose new employees within the first year. Current circumstances, with social distancing and employees working from home, are putting even greater demands on you as an employer to successfully retain your hires and get as much as possible out of the investment you made in recruiting them.

Once the recruitment is done and the contract signed, most everyone breathes a sign of relief. Now all you have to do is wait for the new employee to start, right? These days, as much as six months can go by between the date the contract is signed and the first day on the job. A lot can happen in the intervening time, both to you as the employer and to the candidate. Onboarding really does have to start at once. To avoid the risk of your new employee being swayed by “counter-offers” from their current employer, it is vital to act immediately to ensure the new hire continues to feel good about going to work for you. Stay in regular contact, inform them of events in the workplace and invite them to attend any social activities you arrange. By doing this, you will facilitate the actual onboarding. You will have already begun building the relationship and your new colleague will be included in the flow of information before they actually start. The person who has decided to switch jobs is probably thrilled and will want to tell others about their new position. The more information and knowledge they have about you, combined with  good first impression, the more this will strengthen your brand as an employer.

Lay a solid foundation with a formal plan that you use consistently with all hires. The plan can be relatively detailed and cover the first 100 days. This should go beyond the practical: it is important to think about what you want to convey in terms of culture and what you expect from each other and in terms of performance. If possible, set 30, 60 and 90-day targets and key milestones such as deliverables, internal training/education and, if possible, expected outcomes. This makes what you are offering – and what you expect – clear to the new employee.

Apart from this, you must of course make sure all the practical details have been taken care of before the first day. The employee must have access to their computer, phone, accounts and the access privileges they need to do their job. All of this is essential for them to feel really welcome. If everything is in order and you have been in regular contact, you can count on your new employee feeling inspired to immediately begin contributing to their new workplace.

Day One – Instead of spending time reviewing and signing piles of formal documents, make sure you can easily manage this digitally and, to the greatest extent possible, before the first day. It is better to spend the time introducing your new colleague at the workplace, giving them a live or virtual tour of the office, setting up an initial meeting with the team, giving a simple presentation over coffee, on-site or virtually. Go over the onboarding plan so the new hire understands what the early days will involve. The goal here is for the new employee to leave at the end of their first day feeling welcomed, appreciated and eager to come back the next day.

How should you arrange that?

Keep a simple division of the process, 70-20-10, in the back of your mind. The line manager and other members of the team should spend 70% of the time sharing the right knowledge with their new colleague. The new employee can spend 20% of the time getting their bearings, building networks and getting to know the company culture. It is a great idea to appoint a mentor who can help with all of this. So many things cannot be learned by reading, they have to be experienced, which is why it is so important that the culture is communicated in action, for example. A small chunk, about 10% of the time, should be devoted to the formal aspects, such as learning systems and procedures.

All of this shows that onboarding is not only an HR matter. HR can provide the formal plan and the process, but whether your new colleague will feel truly welcomed and actually be able to contribute to the business as soon as possible is up to the line manager and the efforts of the team.

A few more points to consider… There are lots of good ways to inform everyone that the workplace family is growing – via your intranet, digital bulletin boards, and so on. It is also a brilliant idea to draw  attention to the new colleague by inviting others to a “get-acquainted get-together” where they can introduce themselves while you all enjoy coffee or tea and pastries.

Many of us are working from home under the current circumstances, which puts new demands on us when it comes to delivering a strong onboarding process. Instead of the obligatory meet-and-greet at the office, this will have to be done virtually. Perhaps you could record a video from the office in which your CEO introduces themselves and welcomes the new employee? Instead of the traditional first-day lunch together, could you order food for home delivery to the new employee and then lunch together virtually?

We can do much of our work remotely these days, and often actually use our working hours more efficiently. But we should remember that we are social beings and we need relationships and to be able to interact socially with others. For that reason, you should make sure you can meet virtually and that the new employee can easily get in touch with their line manager or mentor in the early days. When you are new on the job, it would be unfortunate indeed to sit there at home with no sense of belonging and fellowship!

Follow-up is another key component of the onboarding process. The line manager needs to devote time to following up progress and identifying any needs for support. This is also a good point to take stock of the targets set at the beginning and, of course, talk about the conditions that you, as the employer, have provided. There is valuable input to gather here for improving the process – especially if it is being carried out remotely!

Wrapping up… Social distancing is an aspect of fighting the pandemic. Most employers have had to switch over  to remote working, wherever possible, and this will probably become part of the “new normal”. It has also meant that some of the people who have changed jobs during this period have neither been to the physical office nor even met their new boss or colleagues “in real life”. A structured onboarding plan makes it possible to also carry this out using digital technology. By focusing as much, or more, on culture and the social interplay as on the tasks themselves, you will gain a colleague who is happy and at home with the team, delivers in their role and stays with you longer.

If you would like help preparing a structured onboarding process or a “First 100 Days Plan” for your future executives and employees, our INAC network is at your service!

By Cecilia Ahlqvist – INAC Sweden

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