Simple guidelines for successful onboarding
First, let’s think about why we bother on board people. We want new starters to
- Feel welcomed and wanted on their first day
- Be up-to-date on company policies and cultures
- Understand the structures of the organisation
- Have a clear road ahead for their probationary period
- Learn about benefits and career progression
But why do we do that? Well, it’s because we want our new starter to understand how they fit in, and to help them to imagine themselves moving forwards with us.
Our responsibility as HR teams is to make sure that the systems are in place that give managers the tools and insights they need to support new starters in their first few days and weeks.
But how long should onboarding last?
Onboarding is an evolving journey
Think back to when a candidate is chosen during the interview process; you didn’t choose that one candidate over all the others because they had an extra year’s experience, they went to a fancy university or they felt familiar to you.
Surely they were hired because of how they saw their skills, experiences and aptitudes as benefiting the company? You and the manager should, if the right questions were asked, have a sense of the imagination, potential and foresight into actions and deliverables that the new-starter wants to bring to your organisation.
Thinking about onboarding as an evolving journey removes a dull workload of box-ticking, replacing it with a collaboration between candidates, managers and HR to help the new-starter use the potential that you saw when you hired them.
Three Pillars to collaborative onboarding
Whippy see onboarding as a structured, evolving journey. Their three pillars to structure a successful, cost-effective onboarding are:
- Clear purpose
- Link to organisational needs
- Measurable impacts
By framing onboarding as having specific, strategic goals, HR teams can more easily collaborate with managers and employees to uncover insights such as:
- What are the employees' ambitions and goals?
- How do they see their role within the company?
- What ideas did they bring to their interview? Can these be effected? how?
These specific, targeted questions help managers to have actions that help them to action changes. And when we get specific, we are more likely to be cost-effective. With the projected increase in employee turnover, maintaining ROI is imperative; so how can recruiters track if their onboarding process is adding value?
The Onboarding Honeymoon period
Though many employees leave within 45 days, the lifecycle tends to start with high enthusiasm and motivation in the first 6 - 12 months. However, the reality can be much more complex - maybe a manager has personal circumstances that naturally make the home/work balance more complicated, or there are last-minute restructurings.
There should be structures around the onboarding journey that can take unplanned and normal variations of life into account.
To create an overview of how well onboarding is working, and to spot dips in the honeymoon period and engagement, Whippy suggests a tactical mindset, such as:
- measuring employer NPS at 3, 6 and 12 months
- assessing if managers feel that new hires are supported to get up to speed effectively
- installing a buddy system to guide the first 3 months
If you’re seeing considerable dips, think about your recruitment process: before you even advertise the position, are you projecting what success will look like in the role? If you are, use these insights to inform your onboarding process. What are the timelines you need to see in engineering? Campaign metrics from marketing?
If you don’t know what success looks like from an organisational point of view, it will be hard to understand whether or not a new-joiner is engaged.
Is the new joiner thriving? Are they phoning it in? Do they need additional targeted support to reach their potential? None of this is easy to measure if you don't know what success looks like before the joiner starts.
Understanding Staff Development from Day One
75% of Millennials expect managers to act as coaches, and engaged employees are 2.9 times more engaged. Today’s top talent sees personal learning and development as key to their satisfaction at work; onboarding should help the manager to understand what the employees' development goals are and how those can be supported within what’s possible.
Onboarding, in this case, can mean managing expectations around training budgets and timings.
With employer branding increasingly important, clear communication around personal development will affect staff view your employer brand.
Personal development goals might not be certifiable qualifications; they could be soft skills or leadership goals. What is important to understand is what they are and how those work.
Onboarding and Psychological Safety
Psychological Safety, in brief, is a way of making sure that people feel safe to ask questions, make mistakes and where accountability is about resolving issues, not blame.
Even in teams that have healthy and well-balanced dynamics, the introduction of a new person can create tension around responsibilities, promotions and relationships. Helping managers to understand the ripples of change around new hires empowers them to manage shifting dynamics.
In today’s post-Covid workplaces, where anxiety around the workplace is high, onboarding should clearly explain your organisation’s policies on hybrid working, working from home or the office. Make it clear *how* changes are communicated, and what people can expect.
A modern onboarding system will likely be a delivery system that mixes up written documentation, online portals, short videos and workshops.
Onboarding for tomorrow
Structured and dynamic onboarding can feel like an additional task; but by structuring your process you can measure where your systems are delivering and where you need to concentrate your efforts.
If you start measuring what comprises success from the day you write the job ad, digitise process to increase efficiency and measurability, and work with managers to empower them to fully support their new hires, your onboarding process can become one of more most effective retention tools.