Onboarding: Every interaction leaves a lasting impression

Sasha Hanau | 24th March 2017

Effective onboarding programmes help your new hires feel welcome and prime them for success. By providing all the necessary information, introductions and resources – you will ensure they are well-informed and ready to add value.

To maximise time and investment, business leaders should create an onboarding programme that aids development and helps new starters make a positive impact from the offset.

Onboarding is not just for the employees

The first few months of employment are a trial period for both you and the new hire. Onboarding is typically centred around the needs of the employee, but ultimately it is the business that reaps most of the rewards. There is an abundance of research highlighting how well-planned onboarding improves retention, productivity and profit:

  • 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding. (source)
  • It typically takes eight months for a newly hired employee to reach full productivity. (source)
  • Organisations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new hire productivity. (source)
  • Effective onboarding programs can improve employee performance by5%. (source)

Still not convinced? The IDC estimates that employees from the US and UK cost businesses $37 billion annually, as they don’t fully understand their role and duties. Effective onboarding will combat these losses and empower new hires to want to succeed.

Failure to build an effective onboarding programme will inevitably lead to your new hires becoming disappointed and unsettled. This often leads to them finding new employment, which is very costly and frustrating. Research suggests that replacing an employee costs anything from £30,000 to up to 400% of their salary and regardless of cost it has a significant impact on your existing team and workloads.

By ensuring your onboarding programme conveys the culture and vision of the company, sets clear expectations and keeps new hires engaged throughout – you will maximise everyone’s potential and prevent new starters from straying.

Here are my tips to ensure your new hires are sufficiently onboarded and ready to make a positive impact on your business:

Align onboarding with strengthening the employee-employer psychological contract

Work forms a large part of most people’s lives, and being happy in your job is hugely important. If staff are not happy and engaged they will not be productive. The employer-employee psychological contract is all about the beliefs relating to reciprocal obligations between each party. Essentially it is the unwritten set of terms, expectations and promises between you and your new hire. Getting it right is key, as it can massively influence how long they stay loyal to your organisation – often even more so than their salary or job role can.

The legal contract between parties means little without the context of the psychological contract. In its purest form, a new recruit has agreed to do a job on your terms – but to influence how engaged, loyal, and productive they are, you need to create an onboarding plan that strengthens the psychological contract. This includes providing info on how they can get the most from their benefits package or what the career progression opportunities look like. These shouldn’t just be in a booklet, they should be two way discussions or group training sessions. This will ensure the information is fully absorbed. Reinforcing the reasons they decided to come and work for you is really helpful at this stage.

Ultimately there needs to be an ongoing balance achieved between how the employee is treated and cared for by the company, and what the employee puts into their work. By managing employees’ expectations effectively at the outset, you can bolster the psychological contract for the long term.

Onboarding: Employee-employer psychological contract

Source: Karina Crooks, Vivid Shift: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/psychological-contract-why-employers-need-live-up-promises-crooks

Ensure the first day is personal and welcoming

First days can be very unnerving. To ease the transition, it is key to prepare in advance – ensuring nothing is rushed or skipped and there is a personal touch throughout. Designate some time to meet and greet all new hires – you can even lead a tour of the premises. This will immediately bridge gaps and provide a (typically) rare opportunity to spend time with a business leader. It also highlights how happy you are to welcome this new addition to your company.

Limit making the first day all about admin; so less paperwork and passwords and more introductions and activities. Focus on relationship-building with senior leaders and fellow co-workers. This will provide a broad view of expectations, rules of engagement and company culture.

Educate new hires on culture and vision

As a business leader, one of your most important onboarding challenges will be to ensure that all new hires align with the company culture, mission and values.

There are many ways to achieve this: Create a welcoming video highlighting the organisations personality and include personal accounts from workers and business leaders. Distribute branded welcome kits including a staff guidebook that clearly lists the company mission and values to be used as reference points. Build a section on the intranet site, which is updated in real-time.

Ensure new hires know what is expected from them and the preferred rules of engagement to fulfil their duties. This will allow them to acclimatise quickly and ensure their behaviours and practices are well-received.

Create open lines of communication

New starters will likely have lots of questions and concerns. Failure to establish strong lines of communication for everyone can result in a frustrated workforce and disappointed new starters. This can negatively affect productivity and ultimately profit.

By adopting pulse surveys that provide instant intelligence on your workforce, you can build action plans off the back of everyone’s feedback – allowing you to gauge how your new hires are feeling and adapt your onboarding process in real-time. Pulse surveys also provide a platform for everyone to share innovations with you that could eventually develop into profitable business plans.

Appoint onboarding mentors

It can be intimidating for some new hires to address all questions to line managers – even more so if they are personal. An onboarding mentor will ease this transition and be a fountain of knowledge for the business, cultural and social sides of the organisation. On top of this, the onboarding mentor will position themselves as a social-hook to ensure their mentee is kept in the loop and integrated into the social side of your business.

An onboarding mentor will allow new hires to align their expectations with the realities of their role. Well-matched, enthusiastic mentors can paint a realistic picture of the new starters’ duties and advise how they can make a big impact and work in a way that caters to a specific line-manager’s tastes.

This opportunity will benefit both the new hire and the onboarding mentor. Effective mentorship incorporates a lot of managerial skills: communication, leadership, influence, relationship-building and brand advocacy. This scheme will provide you with a good opportunity to locate potential leaders and further develop their skills.

Onboarding goes beyond the first day or week… get social

Onbaording, workplace happiness social investment

To ensure your new starters feel like an integrated part of the team quickly – it is important to organise an event that gets them socialising with their new colleagues outside of the office. This will ease apprehensions and create opportunities to build relationships. This is especially important for people who are from a different city or country.

Co-workers will naturally inspire and motivate others to want to follow in their footsteps and succeed. By incorporating social events into your onboarding programme, you will generate opportunities for new starters to forge a strong network of contacts – aiding their ability to work collaboratively with people from different departments in future.

Summary of my top tips for successful onboarding

  • Send a welcome card: This should be sent to their personal address in advance of their first day – get it signed by their new team, manager and senior leadership team.
  • Include new hires in all usual company communications early: This will allow him/her get familiar with company goings-on before their first day.
  • Share the first day agenda in advance: Provide them with a training or onboarding schedule for their convenience and to help them get prepared.
  • Organise their work station: Ensure their desk is clean and well-stocked. Set up their computer and email – ensuring all accounts are ready. Provide a welcome pack with helpful info and ideally some treats too: plants, sweets, vouchers – or anything that you think best reflects your employer brand.
  • Pick the best people for the job: Choose your trainers and onboarding team well. They are the first line of your employer brand and will set the tone for the new hire’s view of the leadership. Ensure they ask questions and have a personal approach.
  • Be prepared: Book training rooms, organise meetings and prep everyone and get all the paperwork out of the way before they arrive.
  • Ensure a warm welcome: Make sure everyone is expecting them on their first day and someone shows them to their desk. A company announcement, including a photo of the new hire is a good strategy to make things more seamless for everyone.
  • Provide a tour of the facilities: Take them on a tour of the premises and schedule in the necessary introductions and H&S talks.
  • Make key introductions early: Schedule in meetings with senior management as early as possible. It’s a good point of escalation and can help embed a sense of alignment and personal accountability – it may also open dialogue for future innovations.
  • Introduce them to the role and responsibilities of other departments: This helps integrate their role as part of a much bigger picture.
  • Keep sessions varied, lively and participatory: This will ensure the programme doesn’t overwhelm or bore anyone.
  • Ask for feedback: Find out how they are settling in and their thoughts on the onboarding and training programmes. This will help you to improve and develop your systems.

Effective onboarding doesn’t have to be complex or burdensome. Assuming it is structured, interactive and personal, it will positively affect performance and increase retention rates. This will ensure you maximise your investment and improve business.