Creating an exceptional onboarding experience


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Recruiting top talent doesn’t end with an offer letter. Often the critical stage of onboarding candidates is overlooked. Onboarding is a key step and can be considered ‘phase two’ of the recruitment process. It involves much more than where the new employee sits and learning the ropes of their new job. It’s about laying the foundations for a strong and productive working relationship and preparing your new employee to succeed in their new position.

As recruiters and managers, we invest considerable time and money in finding the right person. Therefore, we want to give our new employees the best start possible, so those first few weeks and months of them starting are crucial.

According to Gallup analytics, one in five employees either reports that their most recent onboarding experience was poor, or that they received no onboarding at all.

When onboarding goes wrong, you’re leaving your business at risk, both financially and competitively, and it puts both performance and the new employee’s retention at risk.

Gallup notes, 70% of employees who had exceptional onboarding experiences say they have the best job. These employees are also 2.6 times more likely to be extremely satisfied with their workplace and consequently, far more likely to stay. Therefore, it’s critical for employers to create a thorough onboarding process to help new starters embed into the culture and equip them for success.

To help create an exceptional onboarding experience, we have identified some key recommendations to assist with creating a valuable and engaging journey for your new employee.

Meaningful relationships

Onboarding is all about connection. For many employees, the people element is the most valuable aspect of their onboarding experience. Being introduced to new people, forming social ties, learning from other colleagues, being shown around the workplace, and having the organisational structure explained are all practical examples of relationship development.
New employees want to create relationships that make them feel supported, included, and respected. This area of the onboarding experience is all about meeting lots of people, asking lots of questions and receiving mentoring from colleagues who genuinely care.

You can consider incorporating a social gathering into the onboarding plan during a new recruit’s first week. This will provide an opportunity to help them understand the motivations of the team and its culture and establish a relationship building environment.

Another way to do this is by connecting your new person with a mentor and creating a ‘buddy system’. The buddy can be anyone in the organisation who serves as their key go-to person and points them in the right direction.

Understanding contribution to the organisation

When the new starter joins your business, they will crave answers and learning experiences that will help them reach their full potential. They will join with a range of questions so giving them the understanding of how they can contribute personally to the success of your organisation is key.

Gallup research shows that valuable learning experiences offer far more than role-specific training. Thorough onboarding programs should discuss the history, culture, and origins of the company and most importantly how the new employees’ position and efforts link to the greater mission and purpose of the organisation. When employees understand why and how their job fits into the bigger picture, they can start contributing to the business success.

A good onboarding experience can boost overall employee experience, especially if training is provided from the beginning, welcome videos from team members are shared and courses or modules on company fundamentals are offered. These can all help new employees feel connected, empowered, and confident.

Clear expectations and processes

One of the most common mistakes employers make is confusing training and onboarding. ‘Training’ is defined as systems, and terms of business, and is given on the businesses’ products and service, whereas ‘onboarding’ should focus on the building blocks of the company – the vision, values, culture, and relationships. These are two very different concepts.

For many employees, the most valuable aspect of an onboarding journey is how it is organised and delivered. Create an onboarding journey that is comprehensive and understandable, but not too complex, otherwise it can become overwhelming. Employees want clear expectations for training and orientation, a well-defined onboarding structure, and a pace of learning that makes them feel well-prepared. However, when it comes to exceptional onboarding, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It is recommended to tailor your onboarding program to suit the demands of the role and the new employees’ needs.

Investing time and energy

Onboarding isn’t a quick tick box exercise and is not complete within a day. A thorough process begins the moment the new employee signs their employment agreement and continues for at least 3–6 months into their employment. Small details can go a long way.
For example, making a quick phone call, or sending a welcome email the week before the new employee starts, to go over the basics such as where to park on their first day, what time to arrive and what to wear, can settle new job nerves and let them know you value their arrival to your workplace. Often job seekers have other opportunities in the pipeline when they accept a role. So, if you don’t take the time to ensure they’re welcomed appropriately, settled-in and excited to be part of your organisation, you could find they’re lured away by another job opportunity.

Managers’ involvement

Onboarding creates the perfect opportunity for relationship building and Gallup research shows that when managers take an active role in onboarding, employees are 3.4 times more likely to feel like the process was successful. Clarifying job expectations, regular check-ins and talking to new employees about career development plans are all imperative and show you are investing in them as a person and their career journey with your organisation.

First impressions

Research shows that employers have 44 days on average to “make or break” a new employee. Onboarding and personal relationships play a key role in making a good impression.

Therefore, making sure your new team member has a space, a workstation and equipment they need to do their job is an obvious step, but it’s often overlooked. Little things matter – i.e. making sure their PPE clothing or uniform is ready, that they have the required tools, stationery and technology needed, that meetings or introductions with key contacts are organised etc. All these details make their first impression and the welcome for your new employee professional and reflect well on your organisation.

Put importance on onboarding, ensure you differentiate it from training, and give it the time and attention it needs as such an important and impactful part of your new employee’s journey. Make sure to cover the basics and include a people element to create a true sense of welcome and connection.

Related: Attracting Talent with Recruitment Marketing

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Kellie Hamlett
Kellie Hamlett
Director, Recruitment & HR Specialist, Talent ID Recruitment Ltd. She can be contacted on kellie@talentid.co.nz or 027 227 7736. Talent ID are Recruitment Specialists and can support you through your recruitment process.

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