Traditional approaches to onboarding have tended to be very HR focused. This was because many businesses saw onboarding as primarily an administrative process involving contractual paperwork, personal data, compliance, health & safety and early stage learning – all of which were under HR’s remit. New employees often waited until the first day to have meaningful contact with their new managers and team colleagues.
Increasingly, this administrative based approach has proved problematical. Organisations want give their new hires a proper onboarding – to be effective and productive quickly, and new employees want to get up and running straight away, making a positive first impression. The paperwork can get in the way.
New hires tend to decide quickly whether they have made the right move and if they see a long-term future with their new employer. If the role isn’t what they expected, or they don’t get on well with their manager and colleagues, they are likely to either leave quickly or fail to fully integrate.
This suggests we need a more dynamic and immersive approach to onboarding. Induction, orientation and assimilation need to cover the operational and cultural aspects of the business, helping build a more cohesive bond between the new starter and their team. Such an approach will need input and involvement from a wider range of people than the HR team – it’s time for managers and business leaders to get involved.
And here are 4 ways they can start:
Build the relationship early
The key dynamic for a new employee will be the working relationship with their manager, so there is much to lose by leaving it until the first day. The strongest bonds are built early and the perfect time to start can be during the interview phase – after all, one of the interviewees is going to be your new employee. Giving them a positive experience, offering the chance to showcase their skills and capabilities, sends out a clear message that your new employee is being hired to succeed, and give reassurance they will be supported. Make sure they fully understand the role they are being hired for and be available to communicate during the period before they start. Read more about this in our blog 10 tips from managers to realise a successful working relationship with new hires!
Set clear expectations
As well as understanding their responsibilities and exactly what the role involves, each new hire will want to know what success looks like. In other words, the deliverables and expectations, all explained with clear time frames and milestones. The modern employee also likes to know how they are performing in real time, so they can make adjustments, and not wait 3 months to find out if they have performed as expected. Managers need to be prepared to catch up with their employees on a regular basis, be it weekly or fortnightly, to find out how they are settling in and to give constructive feedback in how they are shaping up.
Show how the values are lived
Business leaders also have a key role to play in onboarding. Early interactions with them can help new employees to settle quickly and reinforce that those at the top of the organisation have a true vision and passion for helping each worker achieve their full potential. Most new starters have bought in to the culture and values of the business and expect leaders to show how they are lived. One way that companies are bringing this to life is by having a lunch, or breakfast, during the first few days with leaders and directors. This can humanise the senior management and reassure new employees that the leadership are willing to invest in the wellbeing of their employees.
Smart use of technology
The way that people learn and interact is being shaped by technology. The recruitment process will almost certainly have been conducted digitally, and the job they have been hired to do will contain elements of technology. So, there is no point in having an onboarding process that is manual and relies on paperwork. All necessary documents can be scanned and signed digitally, and the early stage learning can be done through a portal or an app. Vary the communication; use video for to showcase the business history and legacy, and maybe give new starters a virtual tour of the office. And let new hires connect socially with their colleagues.
The key to successful onboarding, and therefore to better retention and engagement, is to make sure from the start that each new hire feels a part of the business they are joining, understands what they are being hired to do, and believes that they will be supported to achieve their best work. This will work best when they are given an experience that aligns with their day to day expectations, and feel that those responsible for their commercial success – managers and leaders – are fully invested in their development.