Employee onboarding: What to do and what not to do

By Robert Half on 1st March 2018

The first days in a new job are critical. Often the spotlight is on the new recruit, as companies and managers eagerly anticipate the new employee settling in with ease. However, the need to make a good first impression works both ways. Companies need to consider the impression that they are giving to their new employee and the support they are providing to ensure their ongoing success in the role.

As a busy manager, it’s easy to skip a comprehensive employee onboarding process for the new hire, especially as work has most likely been piling up while the position has been vacant. However, there are inherent risks involved with this. Here are the four biggest risks to your business if an optimal onboarding process is overlooked:

  1. Loss of productivity. The new employee could flounder, and take many more months than expected to work effectively.
  2. Impact to the company’s reputation. Negative word-of-mouth can impact on your ability to secure top talent in the future.
  3. Loss of the new recruit. When an employee isn't supported and continually sold on the role, even within the first few months, you could be at risk of losing them. According to Aberdeen Group Research, 90% of companies believe their new hires make the decision to stay with a company long-term within their first year of employment. However, this is a very different pciture in reality. Research by ERE Media found that 90% of new hires decide to stay or leave a job within the first six month.
  4. Impact to company culture. Consider the emotional impact to your team if a staff member leaves too soon. A report by CIPD found that over 70% of employers believe employees’ departure from the organisation has a minor, or serious, negative effect on business performance.

With the above factors at play, manager's can't afford to not set aside time to conduct a thorough onboarding process with new employees.

Employee onboarding checklist

It’s crucial that your new employee is set up for long-term success with a comprehensive onboarding process. Investing the time up front will help ensure your new employee not only gets onboard, but soars to new heights which will only benefit the company. The checklist below will help with your management of the employee onboarding process, however shouldn't be relied on as the only steps required. This will only form a starting point for you to create a more comprehensive onboarding plan:

Before the new employee starts: The prep work

  • Reach out. Contact your new employee before they start and share important information to help them feel prepared and excited for their first day – this information can include what time they need to arrive on their first day, who they should ask for at reception, dress code, parking instructions, and any other details.
  • Connect the tech. Reach out to HR and IT to set up the new email account, voicemail and computer equipment. Have all the login information, company ID and security key cards ready so your new employee can enter the building and get started.
  • Prepare the workspace. Make sure the new workspace has the essential tools such as a phone, computer, chair and stationery. To make your new employee feel more welcomed, you can also include a nameplate on their workspace. This will also allow for easier introductions when colleagues pass by.

Day one: Allay first-day fears

  • Make introductions: Ensure the receptionist, or the chosen existing employee knows to welcome the new recruit. Make personal introductions to key departments and colleagues and gather the team for lunch or coffee for bonding in a social setting. Send out a welcome email to the team, key stakeholders and/or the business in the morning. In this email, provide some background about the new employee and potentially some interesting facts that could prompt conversations with colleagues in the kitchen or around the office. 
  • Give an orientation: Give the new employee an orientation – from where to find stationary and how to book meeting rooms, to where to find the best coffee.

Employee onboarding week one: Give the blueprint to success

  • Revisit goals and responsibilities. You will have touched on this during the hiring process, but now is the opportunity to go into more detail about key assignments and expectations. This is a key aspect of effective talent management, so also take the time to discuss the evaluation process and schedule a performance review.
  • Give a business induction. Your business may have a formal induction but if not, create one. Provide an overview of the company’s vision and mission, values, products and services, organisational chart and functions of various departments.
  • Schedule training. As part of the onboarding process, engage with your new employee which new skills he or she feels they may need training on. Explore and book in relevant internal training, conferences and webinars. Establishing employee training as a priority for the business can not only help you secure the candidate, but retain them too.

Month one and beyond:

  • Remember that successfully onboarding a new employee takes several months. Check in often, and schedule regular catch-ups to give new hires the opportunity to air any concerns. Take the time to observe them and ask questions. For example, do they understand the business and their role? Facilitate any additional training on systems or processes, and be prepared to give extra feedback.  
  • Your management style and expectations. The first few months is a good time to assess the best way you and your new employee will interact on a day-to-day level. The relationship that you develop with them in the early stages can set the expectations of the type of management input they require to feel supported and how you might need to adjust your management style.
  • Recognition: Keep the employee motivated and engaged by celebrating success. It could be as simple as noting the new employee’s achievements in a team meeting, or you could establish an awards program to acknowledge and celebrate high-performing staff.

Onboarding new employees: What no to do

While no one formula works for everyone and every company and new employee is different, there are some ways, that can often be quite unproductive during the employee onboarding process.

1. Osmosis

No formal orientation or adjustment process exists for new employees. You leave each employee alone to learn the ropes simply by observing and asking questions on a spontaneous, as-needed basis. Your thinking is: if employees are smart enough to get hired, they can probably figure out for themselves what they need to know about the job, the company, and the facilities.

​​Why this method doesn't work: Relying on osmosis fails to take into account how difficult it is for new employees to grasp the nuances of a company and simultaneously learn what's expected in a new job. Worse yet, this method conveys a general attitude of indifference that can very easily carry over into employee performance. Another problem is that new employees are often shy about asking questions, which means that they don't get the answers or guidance they need until after they begin to make potentially costly mistakes. Effective onboarding should mean that employees are guided through what is expected of them in their new role, while being given the information they need about the company in the first instance.

2. "Just follow Sam around"

"Sam" can be "Jill," "Frank," "Melanie" or anybody who has been with your company for more than a few years. The idea is to pair the newly hired employee with one of your tenured staff members – but without giving the experienced employee specific instructions on how to manage the process.

Why this method doesn't work: Sam and the newcomer may have nothing whatsoever in common, making communication strained. Another problem is that Sam's idea of communicating may be for the newcomer simply to watch as Sam does his job. Sam may have little or no insight into the new hire's role or the expectations of their manager. In addition, the newcomer may pick up more than just Sam's skills – for example, any negative feelings or opinions Sam may have toward the company. Without clear instructions and careful selection of which person the new hire follows around, you may unwittingly be undermining your efforts.

3. Watch the video

Your company has a slick video that tells new employees everything they need to know about the business in a 12- to 15-minute session. The program consists of seating new employees in front of a monitor and having them watch the presentation. Or worse yet, you e-mail new employees the link to the video on your intranet, telling them to watch it on their computers whenever they have the time.

Why this method doesn't workVideos, no matter how cutting edge the presentation, can't answer questions. You have no guarantee that the newcomer is actually paying attention and not daydreaming. Nor do videos offer concrete insights into that specific individual's job. By simply using technology with little or no input from you and other managers, you also run the risk of employees assuming that you're too busy to help them adjust to their new role. 

The onboarding process dovetails with talent management

Of all the roles managers play in an organisation, talent management is one of the most pivotal-particularly in the current candidate-driven market. The general expectation that candidates need to "wow" you isn't always the best solution when it comes to attracting and retaining employees today. Throughout the hiring process, you have enticed a candidate to accept your job offer,  and now they are part of your organisation, that doesn't mean your talent management plans come to a halt. Take the time to ensure your recruiting, hiring and onboarding processes are as smooth and efficient as possible, and you’ll go a long way toward retaining the professionals you worked so hard to land.

Let the experts help

Effective onboarding is just the start of talent management. Contact us to discuss recruitment services, employee onboarding and talent retention with our expert team.

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