Onboarding: how to avoid instantly losing your new hire

HR expert discusses common onboarding mistakes, and how to make the process fun and engaging

Onboarding: how to avoid instantly losing your new hire

When a new hire joins your company, the first six months will be vital for setting the tone of their stay. If they are given a stack of paperwork and left to stare blankly at their screen, they’ll likely be using their new laptop to hit the job boards.

With employers still battling a talent shortage, the importance of a good onboarding process can’t be overstated. Within the first six months, most employees will have decided whether or not they’re going to stay at a new job, and so onboarding should be a positive, welcoming experience designed to affirm what a great choice your candidate has made in deciding to work for you.

According to HR consultant Sophia Bernard, onboarding starts as soon as you identify a successful applicant - but you shouldn’t just focus on bombarding them with information. It’s important to split the process into clear stages, make it easy for the new hire to find the information they need, and to give them the knowledge and confidence to speak to the right people.

“We're in a hybrid world now, so you may never meet the people you’re working with physically - but all of the same core elements are there,” she says.

“That’s everything from providing details about the role and the company culture, to getting them the equipment they need and connecting them with the key contacts.”

For an employer, there are three key areas where they can go wrong - lack of preparation, lack of a clear process, and lack of communication. Not having your equipment and IT systems ready can mean lots of phone calls and confusion, and a chaotic process with no clear source of support will create frustration for the new employee very quickly.

“A common mistake is just bombarding people with way too much information in the wrong order, and with no context,” Bernard says.

“If you give a new person data they don’t understand how to use, they’re just going to park it to the side and say “I’ll get to it later.” Organisations can really run before they walk in terms of throwing people into the deep end of processes, and not allowing for that human connection.”

Bernard notes that for a new hire, ‘social’ onboarding is often just as important as knowing how to file for a sick day. For line managers, there’s no such thing as over-communication - whether it’s via a Teams call or a hallway coffee catch up to find out how the new hire is doing, regular check-ins will provide a sense of clarity and welcome.

“Relationships are becoming a lot more important upfront, prior to the hard processes around equipment and documents,” Bernard says.

“The social onboarding is all about knowing who's who in the zoo. It’s knowing your line manager, who sets clarity around what your work remit and priorities are, who your peers and go-to people are, who the subject matter experts are, etc.

“That social piece is also important for diversity and inclusion,” she adds. “It allows the new hire to know where the different representative groups are, and to meet all the key social contacts.”

Bernard recently partnered with The Access Group, which has released an e-book on the importance of onboarding. The e-book discusses the impact of a good onboarding process, and offers a series of tips including the ‘welcome email’, the buddy system, and how to make use of digital platforms to cut down on paperwork.

“Technology can play a real role in making the navigation of new information easy,” Bernard says.

“If your new employee is looking for someone, make it easy to find them with a photo. If they need information or training around compliance, make it very obvious where they can find that. Don’t make them work for it. All of this will help your onboarding process significantly.”

Find out more by downloading The Access Group's e-book on Onboarding Best Practices. Click here.

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